Translation and Marxism

Authored by: Rocco Lacorte

The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Politics

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138657564
eBook ISBN: 9781315621289
Adobe ISBN:


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Translation is not frequently seen as a central element for Marxist thought. However, the Italian Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) explicitly claimed in his famous Prison Notebooks – written between 1929 and 1935, while he was imprisoned by the Fascist dictatorship – that the concept of ‘translation’, although implicit or less theoretically developed, was already present in the work of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Lenin and paramount to understand its implications. In this chapter, I will show how Gramsci – while relying on his predecessors, whom he names the ‘founders of the philosophy of praxis’ –theorizes on translation in a peculiar and innovative way that goes beyond the traditional idea of ‘translation’ as a mere process of transfer between languages, in a narrow sense. Indeed, here, the elements that enter the translation process are (human historical) activities (Q11§64 and Q11§65, 1492) – i.e. praxis – or elements that tend to be such, languages included (to the extent that have a practical/political effectiveness). The Prison Writings will be quoted following the traditional referencing system, e.g. Q11§65, 1492: Q=Notebook; 11=Notebook’s number; §65=paragraph’s number; 1492=page number. When necessary, the letter, A, B or C will follow, respectively indicating: first, unique or second draft of a note. Thus, as I shall synthesize further below, the great achievement of Marxism is that translation is conceived as a translation between praxes and not merely between linguistic forms, structures and so on (Lacorte 2014).

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