Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon

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Gordon One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for "[W]hat may be the weirdest book the twenty-first century has so far produced Many of the entries are illuminating, but what is most fascinating about the book is its partial vision of a fragment of European culture, through the dissection of its philosophical vocabulary. And when one has grasped the explanation, one has acquired the concept. One great lesson, nevertheless, which can be distilled from this one it can be gathered in the masterworks of the entries 'Traduire' ['Translate'] and 'Langues et traditions' ['Languages and traditions'] , is that no language is born a philosophical one.

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It becomes philosophical, as it engages in exchanges with other languages. Philosophical language is impure language, and a national philosophy cannot, therefore, exist. This conviction can perhaps be one of the meanings of the unity of Europe, to which the Vocabulaire renders homage, and service. The Dictionary of Untranslatables is a wonderful addition to my language library For anyone interested in language, in words, and the scope of meaning that a word can encompass, I recommend the Dictionary of Untranslatables.

By preserving the specificity of words in their source languages, but then proceeding though so many near-synonyms in other tongues, the Dictionary bridges this ideological divide, providing a different way of understanding what it is to be in, and between, languages. You could probably, and profitably, spend your life reading this book The volume offers a detailed and up-to-date map of abstract thinking, from the classical age to now.

An year project involving some contributors and comprising more than entries, the Dictionary suggests comparison with Volume XI of the First Encyclopedia of Tlon, described by Borges as 'a vast and systemic fragment of the entire history of an unknown planet. What language teachers call 'false friends' are everywhere, inspiring a constant alertness to nuance Scrupulous and difficult, it's everything that the Internet, which wants everything to talk 'frictionlessly' with everything else, is not.

No dreams of universal translation here--enjoy the friction.

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Use it for bibliomancy, the lost art of divination by book with scripture or Virgil or Homer or Hafiz. This fascinating book belongs to the interesting-in-itself side. It has already provided me with several pleasurable evenings of educational reading adventures, and promises many more for the future. A superb gift for English-speaking writers, linguists, verbivores and linguaphiles. As the Dictionary of Untranslatables amply documents, the academy's effects on language are every bit as far-reaching as those of colonialism, trade, and pop culture.

The etymologies here are at once precise and profligate, proliferating across terms like Abstraction and Acedia, Drive and Disegno, Erscheinung and Essence, Melancholy and Mimesis, Praxis and Pravda The struggle for clarity appears nowhere in ideal form but is always a thing unfolding in the world, a compound of ideology, politics, oppression, fear, desire--of all that is lost, and found, in translation.

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The translation of European 'philosophy' into American 'theory' has probably been the most consequential event in American intellectual life in the last fifty years, but it has entailed a great deal of 'mistranslation. The Dictionary of Untranslatables, in addition to its other pleasures, has a great deal to teach American scholars of the humanities about the depth and complexity of the languages and discourses we've picked up only recently--and a few powerful suggestions about what we may find waiting when we choose to turn back to our own.

Very few will ever read it cover to cover, but anyone who dips into it with a little background in the philosophical tradition, and a desire to learn more about what life is actually about, will be rewarded many times over for the effort. But the Dictionary of Untranslatables is one of the most remarkably discursive works of reference I have encountered Underhill, Translation Studies "This is an essential volume for every university library.

Rating details. Book ratings by Goodreads. On the face of it a Dictionary of Untranslatables looks like a contradiction in terms, either self-imploding from the word go, or, if pursued, headed fast down a cul-de-sac in which it is doomed to end by putting itself out of the business of dictionary-making. In fact, it is the opposite.


The French and English differ in certain important respects concerning both the choice of terms and the word order. The French is the more troublesome. Other philosophical cultures along with other European languages are represented, but more as minor walk-on parts a sprinkling of Danish and a touch of Kierkegaard, for instance. The dominant trajectory is likely to raise an eyebrow or two this side of the Channel. But there is a straw man here.

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There is one history of modern philosophy that takes the form of a bifurcation post-Kant. Foucault described it as a crossroads at which one path leads out of the first Critique centred on concepts, perceptions, logic and epistemology , the other out of What Is Enlightenment? In any case, the distributions of emphasis call for comment. One is the space and attention given to German. Kant as both a terminus and a point of departure goes a long way towards explaining this, but by no means the whole way.

A simple checklist yields some remarkable results.

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Dichtung , for example, gets a lot more space than either causa or eidos , and one reason for that is Heidegger in a sub-entry on Sein und Zeit. Heidegger ties with Plato at It is dazzling. Praise for the French edition:"[A] comparatist's bonanza. Convert currency. Add to Basket.

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Book Description Princeton University Press, Hard Cover. Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New.