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ISSN 0869-5377
Author: Gillespie Susan

Gillespie Susan

Vice President for Special Global Initiatives, Bard College, P.O. Box 270, Rosendale, NY 12472, USA.


On the Translatability of Walter Benjamin’s The Moscow Dairy: A Critical View From the 21st Century / Logos. 2018. № 1 (122). P. 179-200
annotation:  Walter Benjamin’s theory of translatability, in The Task of The Translator, argues that the “fame” of great works reveals itself only gradually, in the meanings ascribed to the works by future generations in their new translations. In this way, the works live and “gesture toward eternity.” The contemporary “fame” of The Moscow Diary is found to be linked to a concept that is mentioned only incidentally in the diary, but that was at the center of Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht’s common, failed project of the 1930’s: the journal Crisis and Critique. The aim of the journal was to unify bourgeois intellectuals—confronted, as we are, by war, economic volatility, and political violence—around a common analytical and political project. For Benjamin, the crisis forced a decision (ultimately negative) about whether to join the Communist Party, and sharpened his awareness of the conflict between the formal and metaphysical aspects in his writing: between form and content. The response to political, intellectual, personal, and aesthetic crisis that is embodied in The Moscow Diary is seen as presaging the fragmentary, montage-based form of the Arcades Project, and as challenging intellectuals in the 21st century, for our part, to respond with a critical reading of events that is necessarily political and must (also) be characterized by opposition and struggle. As a translation of Benjamin’s work into our own era, this response should also consciously leave open a space for the emergence of new, theoretically unforeseeable revolutionary meanings and possibilities.
Keywords:  translatability; crisis; critique; politics; bourgeois intellectuals
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