Sergey Fokin. Hölderlin, Lacoue-Labarthe and carpenter Zimmer. Vol. 1. No. 2

Publication Details

Hölderlin, Lacoue-Labarthe and carpenter Zimmer
Title in the language of publication: Гёльдерлин, Лаку-Лабарт и столяр Циммер
Sergey Fokin
Doctor of Philology, Head of the Department of Romance Languages and Translation of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, Professor of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences of St. Petersburg State University.
Address: 21 Sadovaya street, St. Petersburg 191023, Russia.
P. 53–64.
Language: Russian
Document type: Research Article (introdaction)


The article addresses an original conception of translation discovered in Friedrich Hölderlin’s (1770–1843) reflection on the essence of translation contained in his “Commentaries to Oedipus” created with a view to commenting his own translation into German (1804) of Sophocles’ “Oedipus the King” and in the interpretation of this twofold, poetical and reflexive, endeavor on the part of Hölderlin suggested in the works of the French philosopher, German scholar and translator Ph. Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007), in particular in his conception of translation as metaphrasis consistently expounded in his book “Metaphrasis” (1998). In this conception translation, on the one hand, is perceived to be close to metaphysics, on the other hand it is associated with a theatrical and existential experiment of sorts, with tragedy as such. In such a practice the poet-translator is so much immersed into the linguistic endeavor that poetry ends up menacing with madness and silence: he no longer imitates, following the letter of the original, like “modern” poets, but performs, plays; he gets absorbed in playing and overplays like Oedipus whose guilt is defined, among others, by his reinterpreting, paraphrasing, replaying and even playing out the oracle’s word instead of following it literally. At the same time, the tragicalness of this play also consists in the fact that in such an act of translation or language overturn the poet unavoidably addresses the political issues of his own time and homeland, tending to give priority to the latter. The poet takes up translation in order to transfer foreign laws, whose principal merit is being firm and historical, into the yards of his sacred native land, the land of his fathers, which, if it were not for these translations, risks remaining not only bereft of the poet but also in the absolute past, the past time of ancestors, angels and yards lacking in clear guidelines.

A translation of Hölderlin’s “Commentaries to Oedipus” is attached to the article. This endeavor of translating-interpreting one of the most obscure of his philosophical-poetological fragments is due, first of all, to an attempt at clarifying the role of “the other’s word” and “otherness” in general in the poetic thought and in the very existence of the greatest German poet who came to the front at the dawn of the nineteenth century due to his sharpest awareness of Germanness or, rather, that of the tradition of the fathers’ land. It is of importance for us to perceive the author of “Germany” and “Rhine” not only as an ultramodern “poet of the poets” (M. Heidegger) coated with a veil of romanticism and nationalism, but rather as the very personification of an extremely “inopportune” poet-thinker who pursued the task of thinking-risking-himself against his own time.


Hölderlin, Lacoue-Labarthe, philosophy of translation, policy of poetry, Greek tragedy, poetical method, Greek culture in the making of German identity.


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© Sergey Fokin, 2016

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