The absence of translation

Roeber, Christoph (2019). The absence of translation AL-MUKHATABAT المخاطبات(29), pp. 43-51.

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Conceding that a text can take more and other shapes than the one the author initially gave it challenges the theoretical implications of what we usually refer to as the text: a text not only consists of the signs present (“the original”), but also of the yet-absent signs of its possible translations. Reading an English text is therefore also a not-reading of its potential French, Chinese, or Tagalog versions. Paying attention to the text’s different possible shapes destabilizes the original’s seemingly unchallengeable status, questioning the supposedly incontrovertible truth of its signs which often serve to legitimize the translator’s choice. Thus, even before undergoing its actual transformation into a translation, a text presents itself to the attentive reader as multiple, unstable and already modified. Since the very words ‘original’ and ‘translation’ only make sense in their mutual presupposition, paradoxically, translation can be understood as the operation by which a text is turned into an original while making its so-far-absent signs present. It thereby creates a linguistic relationship which both relates and separates the two texts. From this perspective, translation does not appear as an inevitably unsuccessful attempt to faithfully reproduce a text but rather as a form of writing that distances a text from itself through the creation of a linguistic relationship.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


Bern Academy of the Arts
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Practices and Theories in the Arts


Roeber, Christoph


P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)




Christoph Roeber

Date Deposited:

05 Feb 2021 11:49

Last Modified:

05 Feb 2021 11:49

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Un texte, signes présents, signes absents, original, traduction, relation linguistique. Text, present signs, absent signs, original, translation, linguistic relationship.




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