When Hermes handed over to Apollo his finest invention, the lyre, in exchange for promotion to the status of messenger of the gods, he relinquished the creativity that gave life to his words.
The trade-off proved frustrating: Hermes chafed under the obligation to deliver the ideas and words of others and resorted to all manner of ruses in order to assert his presence in the messages he transmitted. His theorizing descendants, too, allow their pretentions to creatorship to interfere with the actual business of reinventing originals in another language.
Just as the Hermes of old delighted in leading the traveller astray, so his descendants lead their acolytes, through thickets of jargon, into labyrinths of eloquence without substance.
Charles Le Blanc possesses the philosophical tools to dismantle this empty eloquence: he exposes the inconsistencies, internal contradictions, misreadings, and misunderstandings rife in so much of the current academic discourse en translation, and traces the failings of this discourse back to its roots in the anguish of having traded authentic creativity for mere status.
Charles Le Blanc is Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa School of Translation and Interpretation. Trained in the philosophy of Kierkegaard, he is a recognized expert on German Romanticism and the principal specialist of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg in the French-speaking world. In addition to a work on Kierkegaard’s thought, he has published translations of several key German romantics, including Schlegel and Wackenroder, as well as the definitive French critical edition of Lichtenberg.
Barbara Folkart studied medieval linguistics, literature and philology at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Sorbonne) and the Université de Montréal. Her hands-on experience in working with medieval manuscripts, establishing manuscript genealogies and preparing scientific critical editions of medieval texts has given her a strong sense of how texts get corrupted when they are transcribed and transmitted, and has very definitely influenced her views on the transmission of information and esthetic values during the process of translation.
A rich and provocative book, and one that brings great rewards to the reader. The Hermes Complex features interesting and challenging ideas about translation theory, and it advances a practical approach to thinking about translation that should be of interest to philosophers and translators alike.
Translation and Literature. Volume 23, Page 155-159 DOI 10.3366/tal.2014.0145, ISSN 0968-1361, Available Online.