Review: John Sallis, On translation

John Sallis. On translation. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana
University Press, 2002. xiv + 127 pp. ISBN 1–800–842–6796. $19.95.
[Studies in continental thought.]
Reviewed by Dinda L. Gorlée (The Hague)
“Translation goes astray” aptly characterizes — in the first sentence of this
book — how the author, philosopher John Sallis, views the purpose of a literary
translation (Preface: pp. xi–xii). This pejorative aphorism about the absence
of “sameness of meaning” (p. xi, Sallis’s emphasis) in literary translation is, to
a translator, a familiar phenomenon. The rule of translation between text and
meaning, as it happens to crystallize itself, is never finished and never perfect.
On translation offers philosophically enlightening dialogues about translation
as an act and as a product of this act. The title is reminiscent of Brower’s classical
volume On translation (1959), as well as Bellow’s article “On translation”
(1924), included in his 1931 book of the same title. These sources are unmentioned
by Sallis, although he follows the works by Jakobson and probably others,
published in Brower 1959.

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