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Berner, W. (1995). Translating Freud. Edited by Darius Gray Ornston. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1992, 274 pp., $30.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:580-583.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:580-583

Translating Freud. Edited by Darius Gray Ornston. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1992, 274 pp., $30.00.

Review by:
Wolfgang Berner

This book focuses on the English, Spanish, and French translation of Freud's works. It opens with an extensive critique of James Strachey's “Standard Edition” translation of Freud by the authors Darius Gray Ornston, Patrick J. Mahony, Helmut Junker, and Alex Holder, who review more than fifty examples of controversial terms and passages. This is followed by Inga Villareal's concise evaluation of the two existing Spanish editions: that of Lopez-Ballesteros and Rosenthal (1922-1934, 1956) and that of Etcheverry (1978-1982). A long chapter on the French translation (Oeuvres complètes), which is an excerpt from “Traduire Freud,” by Jean Laplanche et al., concludes the discussion on translation with another range of examples.

This is not simply a book on general problems of translating from one language into another. Rather, it is a book which, through extensive examples, yields a special insight into the influence of language structure on thinking, particularly of German linguistic structure on the construction of the psychoanalytic concepts developed by Freud.

Patrick Mahony starts his article with a citation of Benjamin Lee Whorf, the noted American linguist who held that our conception of the world is entirely determined by the structure of our mother tongue. Mahony later departs from this standpoint, arguing that people's ideas of the world differ much less than do their languages. Whorf's argument stands in diametric opposition to a statement by Laplanche and his colleagues: at the end of their decade-long project of translating Freud into French, they insist that what is latent in the work of a genius can be discovered only by an alien; only its translation into a foreign language can “carry through” the development and destiny of the work.

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