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Additional info for Beckett, Literature, and the Ethics of Alterity

Example text

And then, wherever this alterity is seen, the translator would have not simply to avoid reducing it, not simply to mark it by some form of translationese, but to communicate the imperative: here translation must not take place. To be ethical or unethical, then, translation would have to be securely grounded in an identification of the particular alterity in the original that the translation would then either respect or disrespect. In the following analyses - first of Benjamin's essay on 'The Task of the Translator', then of three influential readings of it (by Blanchot, de Man, and Derrida), and finally of its relation to Benjamin's own practice as a translator of Baudelaire - my aim will be to demonstrate the following: (1) Benjamin's essay, in which he proposes a practice of literal translation, is not only a theory of ethical translation, but one in which nihilism has a hitherto unrecognized, and yet none the less decisive, role to play.

Through a series of readings of works by Beckett and others, my aim will be to suggest that the attempt to establish an ethics of alterity, even an ethics of alterity thought, as it is by Derrida, aporetically, in its 'im-possibility', 10 in relation to these three elements cannot necessarily depend upon Beckett - or at least upon all of Beckett - for support. More generally, I hope to reopen the question of the relation between literature and ethics, a question that, despite the considerable attention paid to it in recent years, has in fact remained closed, which is to say already decided in literature's favour.

If, as Freud suggests, there is always a connection between the foreign and the familiar in the uncanny, then it should perhaps not be all that surprising that Benjamin's inclusion of the threat of nihilism in his theory of literal translation heralds a highly paradoxical turn towards an economy of tragicomic sacrifice. Twice in his essay, Benjamin refers to the threat of literal translation (see Benjamin 1996, 260, 262). Literality of the Hi:ilderlinian kind loosens the attachment of meaning to language to such an extent that it threatens unintelligibility, alterity, madness, meaning's disappearance.

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