Richard Polt reviews the new translation of Heidegger’s Beiträge

Richard Polt reviews the new translation of Heidegger’s Beiträge zur Philosophie Contributions to Philosophy – at NDPR. Polt is the author of what I think is the best book on the Beiträge. He pulls no punches in his assessment of the earlier translation:

The translation too often plays fast and loose with the grammar of Heidegger’s German, obscures its meaning, is inconsistent, or is painfully awkward. Its style is a strange idiom where definite articles are often missing and the prose is riddled with archaic, legalistic, and contrived jargon: “charming-moving-unto,” “inabiding,” “hitherto” and “heretofore” misused as adjectives, and much more. Heidegger’s idiolect is often experimental and sometimes takes the form of incomplete sentences, but it does not feel as precious and stilted as Emad and Maly’s version.

He works through a number of examples of words and phrases and how they are translated in CP1 and CP2 – as he calls the two translations we now have in English. His final assessment:

In general, where CP1 introduces a strange or misleading turn of phrase, CP2 is usually sober and consistent, and is easily recognizable to a reader familiar with the original. Despite the occasional lapse, which one can find in any translation, the new Contributions to Philosophy is an impressive achievement. The vast majority of passages are no more opaque than the original, most of the translators’ choices are very defensible, and the helpful appendices include German, Greek, and Latin glossaries as well as a bibliography of other writings by Heidegger to which he refers in this text. Above all, Rojcewicz and Vallega-Neu’s more modest understanding of their responsibilities is a refreshing contrast to the first translation. Defenders of Emad and Maly will point to Heidegger’s own bold and unconventional translations of Greek. But Heidegger intends his strongly interpretive translations for an audience that is already familiar with the Greek originals and their conventional renderings. In contrast, translators of Heidegger’s books into English have the humbler task of providing a reliable approximation of the German for those who cannot read the original on its own. The job certainly requires care, time, and philosophical understanding, but the translator should try to avoid imposing an interpretation through contrivances and constructions that are not there in the German.

The translating is done. Let the reading begin.

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1 Response to Richard Polt reviews the new translation of Heidegger’s Beiträge

  1. Cate says:

    For years, I thought I was a philistine for having such a hard time with the Emad and Maly version. Nice to know that it’s not just in my head. I’m a big fan of Rojcewicz’s past work, so this is good news! Big fan of your blog as well.

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