Derrida and Des Tours de Babel

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Derrida and Des Tours de Babel

By | May 2012
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A Response to Derrida’s Des Tours de Babel

In Des Tours de Babel, Derrida questions the authority of the translator and the translated text. He questions whether these translations could ever represent the “pure language” they originate from. Ultimately Derrida answers this question and says that a translation can never have exactly the same meaning as the original because it can never be as pure and meaningful as it is in the natural tongue.

Derrida starts by commenting on the word “Babel” and its many different interpretations. First, he examines how the word can be looked at as a proper noun and also as a common noun. Derrida also deconstructs the word to show how “Ba” meant father and “bel” meant god in ancient times. In contrast, we often associate babel today with confusion. It is clear that there are already more than enough translations of this one word. The question is how do we pick the one that is correct? Derrida would suggest that the only truly correct one is the purest form, the original destined meaning of the word.

Derrida’s comments on the translation of laws and the laws of translation raise questions and provide key points in his essay. He mentions expression saying, “Translations are works which are original only by expression” (128). Here he means that every person has different interpretations and associations for certain words. For instance, one might understand associate the word money different than another, a rich man vs. a poor man. Here is where the composition comes into play. Derrida says that the composition of the original work must be respected and cannot be tampered with. By this he means the original form and context. In essence the problem proposed by Derrida is revealed.

The main problem with translation is the choice of words to represent the original by the translator. Often these word choices can be misleading and or even inaccurate. Today there are many slang terms and geographic boundaries...

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