Negative Hermeneutics and Translation: The Unworkable Poetry of Wisława Szymborska
Situated at the fissure between translation and hermeneutics, my essay looks at two poems by Polish Nobel laureate Wisława Szymborska in an attempt to explicate my notion of negative hermeneutics, which stems from Maurice Blanchot’s philosophy. Blanchot understands that the material of language exposes us to a two-fold dimension. On the one hand, the text bears witness to certain historical and biographical information; on the other hand, the grammatological nature of the text exposes readers and translators alike to the rupture of radical diff erence and distance, thus revealing nothing about its author or its contexts. To what extent does a work have anything relevant to say about its author? To what extent does a work authentically speak of the historical circumstances in which it came about? Can a work from the past speak to us today? Can it ever be more than a mere artifact or historical curiosity to us?