"'Übersetzung ist eine Form.' Walter Benjamin and the Aesthetics of Translation

Gys-Walt Van Egdom, Winibert Segers, Henri Bloemen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


In spite of indefatigable efforts of towering translation theorist to dismiss Walter Benjamin as a crank, his seminal text, “Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers”, continues to be avidly read and remains required reading in undergraduate translation programs throughout the world. However, both the unabashed admirer and the vociferous critic struggles to come to grips with the density of information and the structural complexity of the text.
To us, the fact that the German philosopher walks a fine line between brilliance and sheer incomprehensibility seems to be the predominant reason why so few commentators have dared to venture into the unknowns of Benjamins translation aesthetics. In the present paper, we will explore this relatively uncharted theme by letting the third paragraph of his Vorwort chime once more. In this paragraph, Benjamin contends that (literary) translation is a “form” and that it is so by reason of the translatability of an original work of art. Reinvigorated attention to this puzzling passage, in which Romantic thought on art, literature and translation finally seems to have reached full fruition, is required as long as we aspire to gain mastery over the text. It is needless to state that the aim of this paper is somewhat modest in scope: we only hope to attain firmer ground for understanding the form proper of translation (as presented by Benjamin) and to ensure an accurate measurement of its distance to other aesthetic forms (as conceived by the German philosopher).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLiterarische Form
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015
EventLiterarische Form. Geschichte und Kultur ästhetischer Modellbildung - Münster, Germany
Duration: 5 Oct 20157 Oct 2015


ConferenceLiterarische Form. Geschichte und Kultur ästhetischer Modellbildung


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