Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon by Barbara Cassin (ed) (Translated by Steven Rendall, Christian Hubert, Jeffrey Mehlman, Nathanael Stein & Michael Syrotinski) (Translation edited by Emily Apter, Jacques Lezra & Michael Wood) - review by Michael Tanner

Michael Tanner

Dasein Explained

Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon


Princeton University Press 1,297pp £44.95 order from our bookshop

You might think, before seeing this book, that the title is a joke. And given the ‘ludic’ tendencies of some contemporary European philosophers, up to a point you would be right. But as soon as you actually see – and, more impressively, weigh – the Dictionary of Untranslatables, you will realise that it is quite a heavy joke. It’s a huge volume, around 1,300 pages of double columns and fairly small print. Five people have translated it from the French, though it is largely devoted to words that are untranslatable into French, let alone out of it – Greek and Latin words, Portuguese, Russian, German of course, and even English ones.

The idea is to help people who as, say, native-speaking Englishmen, come across Dasein in Heidegger or goût in French and wonder quite what those terms mean. Although, in the first case, it is virtually impossible

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