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The Hermes Complex

The Hermes Complex: Philosophical Reflections on Translation

Charles Le Blanc
Translated by Barbara Folkart
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 170
  • Book Info
    The Hermes Complex
    Book Description:

    When Hermes handed over to Apollo his finest invention, the lyre, in exchange for promotion to the status of messenger of the gods, he relinquished the creativity that gave life to his words.The trade-off proved frustrating: Hermes chafed under the obligation to deliver the ideas and words of others and resorted to all manner of ruses in order to assert his presence in the messages he transmitted. His theorizing descendants, too, allow their pretentions to creatorship to interfere with the actual business of reinventing originals in another language.Just as the Hermes of old delighted in leading the traveller astray, so his descendants lead their acolytes, through thickets of jargon, into labyrinths of eloquence without substance.Charles Le Blanc possesses the philosophical tools to dismantle this empty eloquence: he exposes the inconsistencies, internal contradictions, misreadings, and misunderstandings rife in so much of the current academic discourse en translation, and traces the failings of this discourse back to its roots in the anguish of having traded authentic creativity for mere status.

    eISBN: 978-0-7766-2028-2
    Subjects: Philosophy, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    Barbara Folkart

    In this remarkable book, Charles Le Blanc subjects the received wisdom of academic translation studies to the scrutiny made possible by a formidable philosophical culture. Engaging with his elegant, rigorous and unflinchingly polemical argumentation has been for me, as I hope it will for the reader of this translation, an immensely stimulating experience. It has also provided validation of a position I have long been defending in my own writings: if the translator is unable to make the original hers, she will fail to bring it to life in the target-language. At every turn of the phrase, then, I have...

    (pp. IX-XVI)

    Sing, O Muse, of Hermes, King of Cyllene and of Arcadia with its abundant flocks, sing of Hermes, the benevolent messenger of the gods, born of the august and comely Maia after Zeus had lain with her.

    In a shadowy cave, far from the fortunate gods dwelled Maia. Under cover of darkness, as sleep smoothed the countenance of the majestuous Hera and the eyes of both men and Immortals spilled over with dreams, Zeus lay with the young nymph. The comeliest of the Pleiades gave birth to the eloquent and guileful Hermes, master of dreams, guardian of closed doors, vigilant...

    (pp. 1-146)

    The abuse of language has spawned innumerable errors, and the pronouncements of celebrated philosophers are all too often the product of verbal incontinence. Systematic recourse to inflated language is invariably detrimental to the ideas to be conveyed. The speaker or writer who uses the word “sincerity” at the drop of a hat is likely to be suspected of being less than sincere: the indiscriminate use of words dulls their edge. Words are cheapened through overuse; like everything else that is beautiful and rare, they gain value when held in reserve. The wise man hoards his words, rather than spending them...

  5. Back Matter
    (pp. 147-148)