Frank Schalow on issues from translating the Beiträge
The controversy over how to translate “Ereignis,” as well as other key terms in Beiträge, should serve as a counterchallenge for the staunchest critics of Contributions to Philosophy, and, most of all, for future generations who herald the other onset of thinking. Indeed, we immediately confront this challenge upon pondering the enigma of how to translate the “essential heading” or parenthetical title, “Vom Ereignis.” Not only must we consider the meaning of the word “Ereignis,” but must also yield to the enactment of its thinking (by and from the gifting-refusal of being). To be sure, one alternative rendering of this subtitle as simply “of the Event” may resonate with some readers, even while the significance of the “of” (as conveying the nuance of the word “vom”) remains unquestioned in its role in the overall attempt to express the dynamic of “Ereignis.” As we will examine in a subsequent section of this “Introduction,” the substitution of “event” for “Ereignis” (and, by the same token, rendering of the subtitle as “of the Event”), which some readers may welcome due to its simplicity, illustrates both how immeasurably nuanced and extremely difficult these “translation decisions” are. As a result, the world of “academic reviews” may cross an entire spectrum of perspectives in evaluating the English translation of Beiträge. But the extremes may also tell us something, whether in characterizing this task as a “hard nut to crack” or as a “hermeneutic labor,” on the one hand, or, on the other, pointing to a kind of juggernaut in the attempt to translate key terms that appear so idiosyncratic as to seem almost “untranslatable.” Indeed, however one sorts out this debate (as will be the aim of one of the papers in this volume), the negativity of the “Angst” over it only reinforces the importance of the translation, and, reciprocally, how monumental the publication of Beiträge zur Philosophie has proven to be. In this regard, the ongoing controversy serves as a reminder of how profound the “impact” of the publication of Contributions to Philosophy has been. While a so-called “politician,” rather than a philosopher, might be tempted to tally votes “pro” and “con,” Heidegger cautions against such tactics: a so-called “consensus” may be as much a barometer of falsehood as of truth.