By Shane Weller (auth.)
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Extra resources for Beckett, Literature, and the Ethics of Alterity
They all characterize what Benjamin terms bad (schlecht) translation as an attempt to efface the differences between languages, to reduce and even to abolish the otherness of the other tongue. For each of them, this negation of difference is precisely what the translator ought to avoid, even if it proves impossible to do so. And even if both de Man and Derrida argue that purely ethical translation is strictly speaking impossible, this does not mean that they themselves are not intent upon translating Benjamin's theory of translation ethically.
Indeed, is Benjamin not simply the naive (at once nostalgic and utopian) thinker of totalization and transcendence, dreaming of the broken vessel's reconstruction, the pre-Holocaust theorist whose notion of reconciliation through the negation of difference will be subjected to severe revision by an Adorno who has witnessed the horrific consequences of identity-thinking and the unchecked rhetoric of the pure? In fact, things are far from being so simple. However, in order to grasp the crucial role of foreignness and difference in Benjamin's theory of translation, one has to turn to his remarks upon a case of what he considers to be exemplary translation: Hi:ilderlin as a translator of Sophocles.
In the early phase of Beckett's career, alterity is repeatedly figured as the feminine, securely alterior to the male protagonist, whose attitude to the feminine other is none the less radically ambiguous, dividing the male subject from himself. Murphy, for instance, cannot help himself both loving and hating Celia Kelly. However, when the other is not so securely alterior - when it bears an uncanny resemblance to the self the ambiguities of love and hate are resolved into murderous violence. In part II of Molloy (1951), for instance, Moran recounts the murder of a stranger whose face, he believes, 'vaguely resembled my own, less the refinement of course, same little abortive moustache, same little ferrety eyes, same paraphimosis of the nose, and a thin red mouth that looked as if it was raw from trying to shit its tongue' (Beckett 1959, 151).
Beckett, Literature, and the Ethics of Alterity by Shane Weller (auth.)