Saturday, July 19, 2008

In the current Lettre International: Der Andere Fluss

Indianer – ein Tupfen Kartographie zwischen lauter weißen Flecken.

An excerpt from the opening bits of my contribution to a breathtakingly gorgeous and ambitious 250-page edition of Lettre Internationale, with Slavoj Zizek, Martin Rees, Shirin Neshat, Elizabeth Rubin, Philip Rantzer, Michail Ryklin, Rafael Sanchez Ferlosio, and a whole whack more big-forehead types from around the globe in whose mere company I am honoured to the point of being intimidated, being not so big-foreheaded myself.

ES gibt den Fluß, den wir kennen, und noch einen anderen Fluß.

Das wurde mir schon als kleiner Junge klar, als ich am Unterlauf des Fraser River zwischen den Sägemühlen und den Fischerhütten aufwuchs, unter den Brücken und in den Hinterhöfen von Burnaby, einem im Herzen von Greater Vancouver, an Kanadas Westküste gelegenen Ort. Diese Erkenntnis ist etwas, was mich in letzter Zeit stark beschäftigt.


Sie fällt mir jedes Mal ein, wenn ich die Frontberichte von jenem notwendigen Krieg gegen den Obskurantismus und die tödliche Irrationalität des Gottesglaubens lese, den Leute wie Richard Dawkins und Christopher Hitchens führen. Auch kommt sie mir in den Sinn, wenn ich mich mit den Philosophen Charles Taylor und Elliott Sober und mit dem Werk von E. O. Wilson, dem berühmten Erforscher der Evolutionsbiologie, befasse.


Vor mehr als einem Jahrzehnt schrieb Wilson: „Der Kampf um die Seelen der Menschen wird sich im nächsten Jahrhundert auf die Entscheidung zwischen Transzendentalismus und Empirismus fokussieren.“ Obwohl dieses Jahrhundert erst wenige Jahre alt ist, läßt sich feststellen, daß wir bereits knietief in diesem blutigen Kampf stecken.

Which is to say:

'There is the river we know, and there is also another river.

'This is something I came to understand when I was a boy, growing up among the sawmills and net lofts along the Lower Fraser River, and under the bridges and in the backstreets of Burnaby, which lies in the middle of Greater Vancouver, on Canada's west coast. It's something I've been thinking about quite a bit lately.

'It comes up whenever I read the dispatches from the front lines of that necessary war against obscurantism and the lethal irrationality of God-belief, from the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. It also comes up when I read the philosophers Charles Taylor and Eliott Sober, and when I read the work of that great explorer in the science of evolutionary biology, E. O. Wilson.

'More than a decade ago, Wilson wrote: "The choice between transcendentalism and empiricism will be the coming century's version of the struggle for men's souls." We are only a few years into that century, and you could say we are already kneedeep in that bloody struggle. . .'

On it goes like that for a few thousand words and it all may find a home in an English-language publication sometime in the next few months. It's memoirish, but an "essay" in the old-fashioned meaning of the term - an attempt, a try. Writing it all down helps me sort out my ideas about these things.

I get a kick out of the way that for different reasons, the excerpt italicizes rather than translates certain English-language words and terms - Labour Temple, The Red Flag, Army of the Common Good, lulus, Jubilee Pool Hall - and in so doing, allows non-German speakers a tiny clue about the flavour of the piece.

At your better newstands now!

UPDATE: Why wait? It's up at Dooney's Cafe.

5 Comments:

Blogger Craig said...

Terry - any chance you could post an English version. My German is a little rusty!
Craig

6:27 PM  
Blogger richard said...

Congrats, Terry - this publication is seriously big time. I haven't bumped against sprechen die Deutsch since German 149 in 1988-89, but I can read the names of your fellow authors!

9:59 PM  
Blogger bp said...

Very cool. Nice to see Canada well-represented.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Nice of you lands to notice.

Didn't take long to find a home. Dooney's picked up the English version:

http://tinyurl.com/5k4lny

11:01 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Er, I meant "lads."

11:20 PM  

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