‘PIDGIN OR PENTECOST’? ON TRANSLATION AND TRANSFORMATION
AbstractLiterary critic George Steiner closed his controversial but seminal study After Babel with the words ‘It would be ironic if the answer to Babel were pidgin and not Pentecost’. In this paper, Steiner’s argument, leading to this conclusion, is explained. His basic thesis is that all understanding is translation. Even in one’s own language, differences, boundaries, of time and space, make translation inevitable in every act of communication. According to him, ‘Babel’ was ambiguous, at the same time a disaster and a blessing, ‘a rain of starts’. The many languages represent many ways of constructing the world. Together they claim ‘that the world can be other’, can be different. In a sense, every act of translation is therefore both a messianic act, bringing salvation nearer, but also an act of treason. Steiner explains translation as interpretation, understanding, hermeneutics, and argues for a fourfold hermeneutical process with ethical implications. On the basis of this argument, topics for discussion within the field of contextual hermeneutics are suggested.
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