ON TRANSLATABILITY AND INTRANSLATABILITY IN WALTER BENJAMIN
Abstract The Vocabulaire européen des philosophies. Dictionnaire des intraduisibles defines intranslatability as “what one does not cease to (not) translate”. A paradigmatic example of a text continuously translated since the second half of the twentieth century, is the foundational essay of modern translation theory, “The translator’s task” by Walter Benjamin. Starting with a brief overview of 27 Ibero-Romance, Italian, English and French translations since 1962, with special emphasis on the Brazilian case, this paper will offer a reflection on the issues of translatability and intranslatability in Walter Benjamin. Some of “The tranlator’s Task”’s more complex passages will be analyzed to illustrate how Benjamin’s theory attempts to reframe the idea of the original through the notion of translation as a “continuum of transformations.” It will be argued that the concept of “pure language” can be understood as a strategic essentialism, a discursive tool for negotiating between the translatable and the untranslatable.