Modern understanding of translation as a sort of mediation between cultures is coeval with nation-state politics. The Soviet Union, however, never conceived of itself as a nation-state, which led to interesting peculiarities in the theory and practice of literary translation.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, the Romantics, such as Wilhelm von Humboldt, introduced the concept of das Fremde into translation theory. For them, translation was no longer a matter of accurately conveying a presumably universal meaning, but rather a mediation between essentially diverse cultures. This theoretical shift reflected the new political reality, in which nation-states were establishing relations to one another while advocating their respective political and cultural autonomy. The Soviet Union, by contrast, never conceived of itself as a nation-state, but rather as a universalist project capable of embodying a rational element of the history of mankind. From this standpoint, there could be nothing essentially “alien” to the Soviet translator. This led to unusual debates among Soviet translators as well as those in satellite states. The presentation will focus on how these debates influenced the translations of Russian poets, such as Osip Mandelstam and Anna Akhmatova, in the GDR.
Daniil Aronson studied Philosophy at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and wrote his dissertation on Kant’s philosophy of law. Since 2015 he has been a research fellow at the RAS, Institute of Philosophy. His areas of interest lie in the thought of Kant and Hannah Arendt, the history of the modern rule of law, and the history of theories of translation. He is currently IFK_Research Fellow.