Fall 2004 • Vol. XXVI No. 4 NonfictionOctober 1, 2004 |

The Task of the Translator

Unlike a work of literature, translation does not find itself in the center of the language forest, but on the outside facing the wooded ridge; it calls into it without entering, aiming at that single spot where the echo is able to give, in its own language, the reverberation of the work in the alien one. —Walter Benjamin, "The Task of the Translator"   Since the first time I saw it, the landscape of the southwest United States has seemed to me a place that unhinges ordinary response. First, heat and red earth and derelict gas pumps. Then citadels of rock and high adobe villages as old as Chartres—geological and human history, along with the occasional dinosaur track. I am now, as I was then, looking for a way to translate it—to enter its strange silent forest, to call into it from the wooded ridge of the future, as I was then from the isolation of an automobile. Benjamin says that translation expresses a hidden relationship, which is what I am looking for, but the

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Patricia Vigderman
Patricia Vigderman’s most recent book is The Real Life of the Parthenon (Ohio State University Press, 2018). She is the author of Possibility: Essays Against Despair (Sarabande, 2013) and The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner (Sarabande, 2007). She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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