Between Homage and Critique: Coetzee, Translation, and the Classic
Since J. M. Coetzee's writing often concerns itself with both classic texts and the problematics of translation, the question as to his view of the relation between translation and the classic arises. This chapter argues that this relation, for Coetzee, entails a view of translation as both homage to and critique of the classic text. The argument commences with a consideration of the essay ‘What Is a Classic?’. After defining the classic relationally rather than essentially, Coetzee concludes by positing criticism of the classic as a prerequisite of its survival. Thus, the relation of translation — itself a form of criticism (Benjamin) — to the classic is marked by what Derrida terms ‘hostpitality’: hostility-as-hospitality. The chapter concludes with a discussion of Coetzee's practice as translator (of a sonnet sequence by Achterberg) that points to the intricate identification of self-aware critique and homage in the relation between translation and the classic.
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