62
Greek Interpretation of Human Beings [75-76]

can mean. given that we are asking about the essential realm named in the word. A "wordbook" can give pointers as to how to understand a word, but it is never an absolute authority to which one is bound in advance, Appealing to a dictionary always remains only an appeal to one interpre­tation of a language. an interpretation that. in terms of its procedure and its limits, usually cannot be clearly grasped at all. Certainly, as soon as we regard language merely as a vehicle, then a dictionary that is tailored to the technique of communication and exchange is "in order" and is binding "without further ado." Viewed with regard to the historical spirit of a language as a whole, on the other hand, every dictionary lacks any immediate or binding standards of measure.

This is certainly true for every translation, because every translation must necessarily accomplish the transition from the spirit of one language into that of another. There is no such thing as translation if we mean that a word from one language could, or even should, be made to substitute as the equivalent of a word from another language. This impossibility should not, however, mislead one into devaluing translation as though it were a mere failure. On the contrary: translation can even bring to light connec­tions that indeed lie in the translated language but are not explicitly set forth in it. From this we can recognize that all translating must be an interpreting. Yet at the same time, the reverse is also true: every interpretation, and everything that stands in its service, is a translating. In that case, translating does not only move between two different languages, but there is a translating within one and the same language. The interpretation of Hölderlin's hymns is a translating within our German language. The same holds true for an interpretation that has as its theme, for example; Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, or Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. In the knowledge that we are here necessarily concerned with a translating, there lies the acknowledgment that such "works" are, in accordance with their essence. in need of translation. Such need is not a lack, however, but rather the inner privilege of such works. In other words: It pertains to the essence of the language of a historical people to extend like a mountain range into the lowlands and flatlands and at the same time to have its occasional peaks towering above into an otherwise inaccessible altitude. In between are the "lower altitudes" and "levels. " As translating. interpreting indeed makes something understandable-yet certainly not in the sense that common understanding conceives it. Staying with our image: The peak of a poetic or thoughtful work of language must not be worn down through translation, nor the entire mountain range leveled out into the flatlands of superficiality. The converse is the case: Translation must set us upon the path of ascent toward the peak. Making something understandable should never mean assimilating a poetic or thoughtful work to just any opinion


Hölderlin’s Hymn “The Ister” (GA 53) by Martin Heidegger