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August 21 , 2009

The Hermes Complex

Philosophical Reflections on Translation


When Hermes handed over to Apollo his finest invention, the lyre, in exchange for promotion to the status of messenger of the gods, he relinquished the creativity that gave life to his words.
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The trade-off proved frustrating: Hermes chafed under the obligation to deliver the ideas and words of others and resorted to all manner of ruses in order to assert his presence in the messages he transmitted. His theorizing descendants, too, allow their pretentions to creatorship to interfere with the actual business of reinventing originals in another language.

Just as the Hermes of old delighted in leading the traveller astray, so his descendants lead their acolytes, through thickets of jargon, into labyrinths of eloquence without substance.

Charles Le Blanc possesses the philosophical tools to dismantle this empty eloquence: he exposes the inconsistencies, internal contradictions, misreadings, and misunderstandings rife in so much of the current academic discourse en translation, and traces the failings of this discourse back to its roots in the anguish of having traded authentic creativity for mere status.

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