Translating Walter Benjamin


In 1923 Walter Benjamin published The Task of the Translator, a seminal essay in which he considers what is obscured and what is elucidated through the process of literary translation.

The translators of his short stories approached the task beautifully, and their talents and insights mustn’t go uncelebrated!

“In translating Walter Benjamin’s stories, it was important to capture rhythms, cadences, the lilt of a storyteller in the market square passing on lessons for life or unfathomable mysteries that will become the talk of the town” — Esther Leslie on the task of the translator.

“If the original text defies definitive interpretation, the translator's task has to be one principally of deferral – the transferal of the task to the reader. To bring an incomprehensible text into the realm of comprehensibility is to kill it." — Sam Dolbear on the anxiety of the translator.

"Benjamin introduces a distinction between “what is meant” by a text and its distinctive “way of meaning it”, a relation of disjunction between what and how." — Sebastian Truskolaski on the labours of translation.