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The Buzz Remains Mere Buzzing - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
cbertsch
cbertsch
The Buzz Remains Mere Buzzing
Sitting in my office just now, The Question Concerning Technology caught my eye. I pulled it from the shelf and started paging through it, flush with the conviction that today might be the perfect day to clamber over my Heidegger hurdle. But then I started getting bogged down in the near-randomness of the translator's decisions, which no quantity of explanatory footnotes can compensate for. So I walked over to the shelf on which I presently have several volumes in his complete works that I not-so-recently checked out of the library and began looking through them, on the assumption that my mood might be sustained in the absence of English. One after another I coursed through the books, my frustration mounting. While better in German than in English, the aspects of Heidegger's prose that annoy me most are still readily apparent in the original. And then there are the antiquated spellings with which he makes Heu, such as Seyn for Sein: they bother me almost as much as English coinings like "enframing."
Ten minutes later, then, I'm sitting here composing this entry, my momentary enthusiasm for Mr. Schwarzwald once more extinguished. I'm starting to wonder, despite my fondness for some of his devotees, especially Giorgio Agamben, and the parallels I've been discerning between the sensibility of Tanizaki's The Makioka Sisters and the nostalgia for rustic German life that informs Heidegger's writings on modern technology, whether I will ever experience that, "A-ha!," moment in which I finally feel -- rather than contemplate -- what makes so many thinkers think highly of him. Indeed, I have a sneaking suspicion that I could achieve the same insights I derive from dabbling in his work by going over to the Goodwill on First and poring over the overpriced Hummels they have for sale in the display case by the cash register. If I'm lucky, I might even see one that continues to lip honey after being sliced in half.

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Comments
pissang From: pissang Date: June 7th, 2007 11:31 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I just read that essay myself. I don't really have anything else to say...I just had a strange compulsion to share that with you.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 8th, 2007 11:51 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
What did you think? I actually returned to the essay after posting the entry and came up with the idea of going through it paragraph by paragraph, in German, to really give it its due. I might, though it would be time-consuming.
pissang From: pissang Date: June 9th, 2007 03:54 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Hard to answer succinctly. And I shouldn't give you a long answer since I'm putting off working on my seminar papers right now. I think there are some important ideas in the essay though. I'm most taken, like Agamben, by the concept of the "open" (or being open) which I believe Heidegger comes to over and over in his work. As someone who is new to Heidegger, I have not fallen in love with his writing. All of his linguistic self-consciousness--the understanding of which I depended on the translator's lengthy footnotes for, annoying as they may have been--feels very utilitarian. There is little of the playfulness or stylistic flair common to the writing of many of H's continental brethren. That is ironic considering that he ends with a meditation on the importance of art and poetry. Of course it's possible that translation deflates the prose of the original.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 9th, 2007 04:24 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I do like the ideas in that essay more than in many of his better-known works. The translation I have is poor at conveying his -- it's not playfulness, exactly, but verges on becoming that at times -- plays on words. His German is so full of assonance and consonance that it resists capture in English, which is burdened with both Germanic and Latin parentage. Jeesh, I'm defending Heidegger! Let's resume this after your seminar papers, on which I wish you much luck.
elf_owl From: elf_owl Date: June 8th, 2007 12:43 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

I hope I'm spelling all of these names right.

"Heidegger Hiedegger was a boozy beggar who could think you under the table, David Hume could out consume both Schoppenhauer and Hegel, and Wittgenstein was a beery swine who was just as sloshed as Schlegel!"
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 8th, 2007 11:52 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: I hope I'm spelling all of these names right.

Nice! Though I doubt whether Wittgenstein was an entertaining drunk. . . :-)

In other news, your new LJ icon disturbs me. I get anxious watching repetitive motion.
elf_owl From: elf_owl Date: June 9th, 2007 12:26 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: I hope I'm spelling all of these names right.

"Sloshed" does not necessarily indicate "entertaining". Anyway, tell it to the Monty Python boys. I guess it was probably Eric Idle who wrote it.

Here is a less spastic icon for you.

(Comment deleted and re-posted due to Virgo-tastic need to capitalize Idle. Reasoning explained for your amusement.)
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 9th, 2007 12:39 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: I hope I'm spelling all of these names right.

Ha!
From: jsterne Date: June 8th, 2007 08:56 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

oh, Martin

I would never say that Heidegger was "overrated" as his importance to so many thinkers we like is indisputable, but I also can't really "get into" him. In grad school I had a prof who read Heidegger as the last word in humanism rather than the first word in antihumanism, so that was at least a softer introduction to him. And occasionally Heideggerian ideas make it into my prose. But every time I read him, I have Doug Henwood's typographical voice nagging in the back of my mind saying "that Nazi gasbag."
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 8th, 2007 11:56 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: oh, Martin

I wouldn't say he's "overrated" either, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. I wonder about thinkers like him, who inspire devotion -- of time if not desire -- by going their own way with language. Lacan is another one, obviously. My latest take on Heidegger is that he gets credit for discovering a "New World" that had already been inhabited by Eastern religions for centuries. He recognized the affinity between his thought and the Zen philosophy of D.T. Suzuki. But I'm not sure he was attuned to the possibility that he was already in the thrall of that metaphoric East long before recognizing the connection. I'm going to give him another go, some day. I may even try to go slow through a few of the famous essays over the summer, so I don't feel too guilty for likening him to a Hummel!
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