The post-Babel condition: Paul Ricoeur’s translator’s task

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Paul Ricoeur’s ethics of translation has recently inspired a number ofauthors in Translation Studies. In this article, I argue that the entirescope and potential impact of Ricoeur’s thought on translationtheory and practice can only be fully grasped when consideringhis critical dialogue with previous traditions of thought. Thisdialogue manifests itself in two rereadings that Ricoeur performsthroughout On Translation: Firstly, of the myth of Babel andsecondly, of Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘The translator’s task.’ In thefirst part of this article, I retrace how Ricoeur rejects thetraditional idea of Babel as a catastrophic event and insteadargues for an understanding of multiplicity as a gift, the ‘humancondition’ as it ought to be. In the second part, I explore howRicoeur, based on this rereading of the Babel narrative, engageswith Walter Benjamin’s essay. I argue that it is essentially througha reinterpretation of Antoine Berman’s reading of Benjamin thatRicoeur rearticulates the translator’s task in ethical terms. Whilethis particular constellation between Benjamin and Berman hasreceived little attention, my claim is that it is actually essential forRicoeur’s idea of translation as ‘linguistic hospitality’ and itspotential relevance for Translation Studies.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalPerspectives: Studies in Translation Theory and Practice
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 May 2024


  • Ethics of translation
  • Paul Ricoeur
  • Walter Benjamin
  • Antoine Berman
  • Linguistic hospitality
  • Babel


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