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What's in a Translation?

By Didier Fassin Published 2018

The five versions of the same volume presented here in French, English, German, Italian, and Spanish, could serve as a pretext for a reflection on the work of translation—not only of words, but also of ideas, contexts, and images.

 

The French title (literally: Punishing. A Contemporary Passion) was adopted in Italian and Spanish, but the English one (The Will to Punish) was preferred for the German edition because of its Nietzschean evocation. The French and German books have deliberately sober covers, connoting academic rigor in these national editorial codes, whereas the other three use images, chosen with the author, which represent different dimensions of retributive politics, with El Greco’s Great Inquisitor of Spain, the arm of a statue of Justice in Frankfurt, and the hands of a prisoner on cell bars in an anonymous prison, for the English, Italian, and Spanish versions, respectively. Moreover, each volume includes specific elements, also introduced by the author, which are related to the particular punitive context of the corresponding country so as to better situate the relevance of the text for the readership. Thus, rather than mere transpositions in a different language, such translations are partial re-inventions, involving distinct references, imaginations, and facts. (Christine Pries is the translator for Der Wille zum Strafen; Lorenzo Alunni for Punire; and Antonio Oviedo for Castigar.)

Published in The Institute Letter Fall 2018