are words that are almost completely untranslatable from one language
give an idea of their meaning, they may require the mediation of
several metaphors, and an accumulation of approximations. These words
cannot travel easily.
it then wiser to let them marinate in their own juice?
as an example the Sanskrit word tajjalān in this text of
reality Brahman is all this. Whoever is appeased must worship it as
scholars suggest that the word tajjalān can be broken down
into four syllables: tad + ja + la + an
syllable embodies a symbolic meaning, related to a Brahman attribute.
the world is tajja: « That – begotten ». Tajja
is formed by the assimilation of tad « that » and ja
which is related to the root JAN « to be born, to produce ».
the world is also talla: « That – attached and dissolved »
[tad + la = talla], where the root of la
is LĪ, as used in words like liyate, « attach »
« dissolve ».
and tajja are then two opposing processes, of « birth »
and « dissolution ».
the world is tadana: « That which breathes and lives in
it »[tad + an + a],
where an has as its root AN « to breathe, to live ».
word tajjalān thus describes in a dense, concentrated way,
the world as having three states (engendering, dissolution,
life/breathing), identified with the essence of Brahman.
the ambivalence of the root LĪ, the word also evokes the world’s
attachment to Brahman, excluding any idea of separation.
word, four ideas.
we tried to give a kind of equivalent of tajjalān in English,
we could perhaps propose a concatenated series of words like
« That-born-dissolved-linked-alive »…
certain essential words of a particular civilization have no
plausible equivalents in another culture, one could conclude that the
world of ideas, religions and cultures is fundamentally fragmented,
divided into more or less autistic provinces, keeping before them
their idiosyncrasies, secret gardens, intimate grammars, gods and
this would be an argument to highlight the difficulty of a unified
conception of humanity.
the hypothesis of the looming Balkanization of ideas
and cultures does not necessarily exclude other possibilities, such
as the idea that man can be defined by a unique ‘essence’.
example, the Aristotelian idea that « man is a rational animal »
could be entirely compatible with the reality of a Balkanized
and reality would only be juxtaposed, circulating in two orbits of
meaning not intended to meet, and able to ignore each other royally,
for a long time to come.
does the idea of an « essence » of man mean that humanity
does not conceal, in its thicknesses, in its depths, in its past or
in its future, immense and impenetrable areas of darkness, which no
« essence » can define.
is quite possible that Plato’s Ideas, or Aristotle’s reason, may
coexist with a world deprived of meaning and internal cohesion, even
if in theory this seems to be incompatible, or contradictory.
is possible that, if translated otherwise, into a language that
perhaps does not yet exist, or will never exist, these ideas would
then no longer be contradictory, but would appear obviously
compatible, and even necessary.
this stage, it can already be argued that the hypothesis of a
humanity less one than divided, less transparent than obscure, less
communicative than hostile is completely compatible with the exactly
opposite hypothesis, because it is obvious that so much everything is
already mobile, diverse, evolving in a world that is both one and
lets us know of the existence of tribal or religious groups, which
are defined by exclusion. These tribes or groups decree the principle
of their metaphysical separation from the rest of humanity.
may draw a feeling of absolute singularity from a « principle »,
revealed only to them, in their own language, or following a
« decision », communicated only to them, from a « God »
who would only be « their » God.
the very idea of religious or ideological exclusion of entire
segments of humanity is neither new nor reserved for specific
cultures. Paradoxically, it is in fact quite commonplace.
ideas of exclusion, separation, ostracism, seem as constitutive of
the human essence as the opposite ideas, that of union, unity,
are « first » tribes that only call themselves « men »
in their language, implying that all those who are not of their
tribe, all the rest of men, are not really human.
the genius of these languages of exclusion has been able to do,
symbolically, genetic engineering to modify the human genome can do,
really, and on a large scale.
dream of a « trans-humanity », capable of genetically and
neurologically modifying itself, and thus gaining access to a
completely unthinkable mutation of the human race, is no longer a
tangible dream is there to remind us of the burning relevance of a
project of an « exodus » reserved for a privileged subset of
humanity outside human contingencies.
the time being, this « exodus » seems to be only of an
economic, fiscal or political nature, but it could soon become
genetic, neural, anatomical and one day perhaps biological.
Hollywood myth of a planetary « exodus », of a flight of a
few mutants from a polluted Earth, irradiated and deeply scarred by a
world civil war, is in everyone’s mind.
general Balkanization and the bantustans imposed
by all kinds of apartheids will be the first step.
such a case, scholarly debates on words « almost untranslatable »
would then be very derisory, very useless.
who then correctly pronounce the shibboleth of the day will be
able to board the interstellar shuttle or take part in the
meta-genetic adventure of trans-humanity.
the others will be condemned to remain in the earthly hell.
waiting for this perspective, closer than we may want to believe, we
must affirm that words count, that they are semaphores.
is really worth studying the « untranslatable » words,
because they are like symptoms, verbal clues to the global
separation, the progressive cultural and religious dislocation, in
it is worth trying to translate these « untranslatable »
words, if we do not want a global civil war to happen some day.
A. Degrâces. 2014, p.128