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But whoever watches over this intrinsic spiritual character of language will realize sooner or later that language is not the ab- stract of that concrete which languages are. Languages, each one standing beside the next in space and time and therefore each one distinct from the next , are ways of speaking, not speech: The concrete is language in its own unity, as universality: This fact to return to the topic of this essay leads to two dif- ferent conclusions, which may appear to be opposed but in fact coincide like the two faces of a coin.
The second conclusion is that we are always translating, because language—not the one found in grammar books and dictionaries, but true language resounding within the human spirit—is never the same, not even in two consecutive moments; and it exists only to transform itself, forever restless, alive.
The right of the translator arises here, since translation is truly the condition of every act of thinking and learning. We do not translate, as they say, merely from a foreign language to our own empirically speaking and presupposing different languages: And not just from our language as found in centuries past or in the works of writers we read, but also from our language as we cur- rently use and read and speak it.
A very simple truth, which can sound like a paradox only to the ears of those who remain entangled in totally materialistic representations not of language per se, but of the learning aids or instruments used to learn a language—or rather to know a language as such—in order to use it.
Possiamo noi arrestarci a quello che immediatamente ci si presenta? Non vo- glio metterci nulla di mio. E io posso tornare a ripetere le parole stesse della preghiera che appresi bambino dalla bocca di mia madre. Ma come diversa vedo oggi innanzi a me quella donna santa! The translator passes from one language to the other as if from one part of the same language to another: He who translates begins by thinking in a manner that does not restrain him, but he transforms his way of thinking by continu- ing to develop, to clarify, and to render evermore personal and subjective what he has begun to think.
And in this passage from one moment of his own thought to another, in his one language, that which is empirically considered to be translating takes place, as a passing from one language to another. Does not the same thing happen, perhaps, when we read what others or even ourselves have written in our very own language?
Can we come to a halt at what immediately appears before us? Or must our reading—if it is understanding—rather be a proceeding, and therefore reconstruct and create something new that could be regarded as that very thing that was written: Is there any- thing that immediately presents itself to the spirit that is not also produced by the spirit to which it presents itself? Translation takes place even if it goes on unperceived. I want to add nothing of my own to it.
I do not comment upon it. But will I then repeat those words penned by the poet as they reverber- ated within his spirit, those words that were nothing other than reverberations within his own spirit? Repetition is impossible, not because mortal Dante is dead, and I who read him am not he. In truth, the Dante whom I read is the immortal Dante. He is that very man, the very spirit that I am; but repetition is impossible because this spirit is always the same while constantly changing.
His real- ity is historical reality, which grows out of itself and is therefore always the same in that it is always different.
Ed ecco il diritto del traduttore. Lo svolgimento rettilineo del mio concetto dal Modernismo , p. Vedi ora anche il mio scritto Arte e religione nel Gior.
scrittori - Gavagai's Italian Living Lexicon
How much more venerable is she in my spirit, which has become so much more pensive and so much more profoundly religious! How her voice resounds much higher, more solemn and moving within me! How much more do those same words seem full of the divine, and how differently—absolutely differently—do they rise again from the depths of memory!
Could I not translate them? Yes, surely I can return to that innocent and almost sleeping soul of the child through which I irst listened to them: I cannot hear it speak its language without translating everything it says anew in my present soul, and coloring it with my new life. And here is the right of the translator.
In the end, what is wrong originates solely from the preconception that spiritual reality—a work of art, for example—has a inite existence: The Dante who died in is not the Dante we read and who lures us to live his life, which will be ours. Neither is the Goethe whom we Italians read the German Goethe, born of a nationality that is not ours: Notes 1 It is not precise to say that I added art along with religion to the objec- tive spirit, as my friend Croce expresses in a leeting nod to my esthetic ideas in his Critica from 20 January , p.
And it is not precise to say either, as mentioned also by De Ruggiero La ilosoia contemporanea, II, p. The linear unfolding of my concept from Modernismo , p. See also my work Arte e religione in the Gior. Walter Benjamin defines a work of literature as untranslat- able at the time of its origin.
As a consequence of this, true translation is not simply any rendering of an original text in another language. Translation here has nothing to do with the empirical act that we practice every day. The point of all this is to precisely comprehend literary and, more generally, aesthetic form—aesthetic form which is not, however, to be understood as something added to content in order to grant it existence in the spirit, or in the world that is thinkable for the spirit. And trans- lations are always derivative, secondary to an original that they do not resemble and do not imitate.
And the transfer we are discussing here is metaphor. Metaphor, which is generally understood as that which allows us to access the unknown or the indeterminate by means of the familiar. Yet, in doing so, it crosses to the other lan- guage as it crosses off itself. On the particular question of translation there is no room for dispute, because Gentile recognizes and restates the impossibility of reproducing in another form that which has already had its form; nor is there room for dispute regarding the right, which he vindicates, to carry out what are commonly called translations.
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My negation of the possibility of translation was directed against the inexact theory of that operation, understood as an adjustment of an original which is then often the cause of fallacious judgments made in the examinations of translations, from which in turn one expects the impossible , and not against the fact of translation: Furthermore, in keeping with the Platonic dualism rooted in the system of opposition governing our philo- sophical tradition, one cannot reproduce in another form that which has already had its own form.
Thus, the metaphorical transfer which apparently leads us from station to station—from term inal to term inal —according to Croce might be useful but not really pos- sible. That which is called the father? In this way it would avoid at least equivocation. And, like Joyce, this endeavor would try to make the structural unity of all empirical culture appear in the generalized equivocation of a writing that, no longer translating one language into another on the basis of their common cores of sense, circulates throughout all languages at once, accumulates their energies, actualizes their most secret consonances, discloses their furthermost common horizons, cultivates their associative syntheses instead of avoiding them, and rediscovers the poetic value of passivity.
GAVAGAI LIVING LEXICON
Any normative grammar is the epiphany of such arbitrariness, since the precepts that such a gram- mar prescribes are in fact the true expressions of the spirit of the one who writes them. There is no literary history that is not critical. And on the other hand, grammar cannot be purely preceptive, because that which must be said cannot be anything other than that which is said—or rather, that which is said by he who writes grammar: But from this point, which is the concrete act [the fact—not the pure act], and in which we feel the force of grammar and of aesthetics, it appears that moving to bifurcate itself is a dual configuration of systems of ideas: The one creates fictitious entities verb, mood of the verb, tense, etc.
The first is material: It is the antecedent of that immanent, eternal, spiritual creation that is a speech; but it is not speech. And here is the duality […].
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The illusion thus consists in foreseeing that what is now being analyzed as language is actually yet to be spoken, like an event that is already occurring but has yet to take place. This critical art would lead us through a study of language that is in turn a gram- mar that is not what it pretends to be, but is rather that which is governed by a higher mind, often contrary and superior to the mind s of the grammarians Cf. In this sense, the critical art discussed here partakes of metaphysics: And once thought, far from achieving its form the expression of the spirit becomes a specter that cannot exist, that cannot be.
The duality between the normative and the aesthetic or historical grammar, as well as the duality between form and content, must at least allow for this third element: One can only say what one must say: For Gentile, concealment is this specter that does not live but in the act of its negation, accomplished by thinking: Truth is not of the being that is, but of the being that cancels itself out and that, in canceling itself, truly IS: There is no other form than the one that overflows, that supple- ments the form of life.
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Concrete thought is not, therefore, the thought that is already thought and ready to be repeated, but the thought that cannot be thought until it act ualizes itself in the present by acting out its own destruction. Gentile is aware of the difficulty inherent in this view. And here is the right of the translator whose wrong in the end originates solely from the preconception that spiritual reality—a work of art, for example—has a finite existence: And we, ignoring this element in the understanding of a philosopher, truly make work of abstraction, which cannot be but arbitrary with respect to the object of our interpretation.
That is, with respect to that object which, is presupposed, when one speaks of translation, as an antecedent of the labor to which we then submit it. For Gentile this is an historical problem: In actuality the means and the ends are not distinguish- able one from the other, and one is the other as they both change in order to become that which is ultimately achieved In its exteriority, this form is like a book never read. In its interiority, it is form: Art as form is in actuality this subjectivity, which doubles back on itself and expresses nothing if not itself that is, that same state of mind in which subjectivity consists.
For Gentile, just as for the rhetorical tradition leading back at least to Poliziano, translation is interpretation each and every time that the one who translates is aware of what he is doing.
It stresses the singularly plural aspect of language. The concept of the impossibility of translation is tied to the concept of the spirituality of language, which is not to be understood as fact but rather as act; […] Language as fact is content of the knowledge of the glottologist, or of the grammarian. All languages in their singularity are no more than one language, and all languages are but one language. On the other hand, the language that sounds in the human spirit is never the same, since it is forever changing.
The first case, Gentile says, is why we never translate, while in the sec- ond case it is as if we always translate, with no two moments occur- ring in which we have the same language This paradox stems from the fact that the apparent distinction noted above seem- ingly presents us with two sides of the same argument, strictly linked: Thinking takes place in translation—and not simply in the translation that takes place between two languages, but first and foremost in what is always happening within our very own language.
This very simple truth is widely misunderstood, says Gentile, due to the attention we give to the materialistic aspect of language: Here lies a fur- ther distinction between the instruments of language that we re- quire to learn language, and language as an instrument that we can use. Translation takes place in one language. In particular, this oc- curs when we read: Translation takes place in the very act of reading. The spirit spo- ken of has a historical reality, grown on and out of itself, forever changing. But I am given food for thought by the identification, towards which Gentile seems to incline, of reading with translation: That then this original vibration resonates in a new man, and brings forth feelings and thoughts that are always new, is something that I have never doubted and in which I am in complete agreement with Gentile.
Croce Croce chooses to distinguish here between two moments that are complementary to each other: Gentile had stated instead, as we have already mentioned, that repetition is impossible. For Gentile, these two moments are at the same time not simply different, but inseparable. One must think of them as supplementary to each other. Just as the historical, immortal Dante supplies and supplants us as readers, so do we supply and sup- plant the Dante of the Middle Ages. And in so doing, this Dante displaces us, expands us, make us grow out of ourselves.
Translatability is an essential quality of certain works, which is not to say that it is essential that they be translated; it means rather that a specific significance inherent in the original manifests itself in its translatability. It is plausible that no translation, however good it may be, can have any significance as regards the original. Yet, by virtue of its translatability the original is closely connected with the translation; in fact this connection is all the closer since it is no longer of importance to the original. Just as the manifestations of life are intimately connected with the phenomenon of life without being of importance to it, a translation issues from the original— not so much from its life as from its afterlife.
For a translation comes later than the original, and since the important works of world literature never find their translator at the time of their origin, their translation marks their stage of continued life. The idea of life and afterlife in works of art should be regarded with an entirely unmetaphorical objectivity.
Yet actualism is not reducible to a simple presence: Actualism corresponds to the very life or afterlife of what is always forever becoming actualized: In this way the direction we take is not from Dante to the reader of Dante, such that the reader becomes a metaphor for and of Dante who now makes himself present which is the danger that Croce saw.
In the same way, it is also true that we the readers are not making ourselves present be- fore Dante the writer. This raises more questions about the direc- tion of metaphors. In translation, we are no longer moving between language and its extralinguistic referent, but we are mov- ing sideways, so to speak, from one linguistic entity to another lin- guistic entity.
Related I Poeti Contemporanei 111 (Italian Edition)
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