Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Tras la sombra de babel

Juan Gabriel López Guix


In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, the emergence of translation activity is linked to the foundation of the city of Babylon and the building of its tower. Over the centuries, this edifice has become the negative symbol of linguistic plurality and the irritating need for translation. The present article takes a new look at the tower with a view to carrying out a genealogical and archaeological investigation in search of clues that might point beyond that negative image. We begin by discussing the myth, as incorporated into the Jewish tradition. We then analyze the earlier Babylonic myths which were the basis for the Jewish legend appearing in Genesis 11, as well as the Mesopotamian context from which they sprang. Finally, the rediscovered Mesopotamian “original” is discussed in relation to a number of modern reflections on translation (in particular, that of Walter Benjamin) which, looking beyond the traditional equation between Babel, translation and confusion, make a case for a more positive association between Babel and the activity of translation.

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