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Lost in translation


I’m reading de Certeau’s Walking in the City (a brief summary of which can be found here) for my Travel and Transformation class, and there is an interesting sentence that expresses much of Walking‘s thesis: “The trace left behind is substituted for the practice”. As an elucidation, I’ve written by the side, “The path is substituted for the process of walking”. Yet, even the verb tense in English is misleading because I seem to remember that, in French, just like in Spanish, “the process of walking” (in English using a gerund that in turn implies an on-going process, “I am walking”) would in reality involve an infinitive (“andar” in Spanish, “marcher” in French). Now I’m thinking about this and the psychological impact of those different phrases, rather than reading on “Pedestrian speech acts”. Which language functions best for de Certeau’s purpose, I wonder? Perhaps ultimately both forms work equally well? (If the gerund implies on-going, almost never-ending process, the infinitive possesses an unlimited potential for a process to be acted out throughout time and space… no?)

As to the actual act of reading de Certeau, it’s rather like reading The Cyborg Manifesto for the first time a few years back. There are lots of words, all of which you understand, but there is the sense that to the author they have more meaning than they do to you, meaning which will only become obvious after you’ve read the entire thing. I think I like it (but I won’t be sure until I have read it a second time).


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