Cadava, Eduardo. ‘Translations’ Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History (Chichester: Princeton University Press, 1997) 15-18


The disjunction between a photograph and the photographed corresponds to the caesura between a translation and an original.

[…] in order to be faithful to what is translatable in the original, the translator must depart from it, must seek the realization of his task in something other than the original itself.


The task of translation is not to render a foreign language into one we may call our own, but rather to preserve the foreignness of this language.

If languages remain foreign – to other languages and to themselves – it is because, unfolding in time, and according to heterogeneous and discontinuous paths, they change incessantly.

Like the image that always flits past cognition, language eludes the grasp of the translator.

If an original can only live on in its alteration, it is no longer alive as itself but rather as something other than itself.


[…] like the photograph that names both the dead and the survival of the dead, translation names death’s continued existence. The original lives beyond its own death in translation just as the photographed survives its own mortification in a photograph.

If the task of translation belongs to that of photography, it is because both begin in the death of their subjects, both take place in the realm of ghosts and phantoms.

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