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Translation as destruction: Kezilahabi's adaptation of Heidegger's “Being”

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 November 2018

Alena Rettová*
Affiliation:
SOAS University of London

Abstract

Tanzanian novelist and philosopher Euphrase Kezilahabi strives to “dismantle the resemblance of language to the world” (1985: 216) through challenging the fundamental philosophical dichotomy of subject and object. The result of this dismantling will be a new “language whose foundation is Being” (Kezilahabi 1991: 69; lugha ambayo msingi wake ni kuwako). This is an expression of a new relationship between humanity and Being built on a holistic epistemology of experience and embodiment. Through “kuwako”, Kezilahabi expresses in Swahili the Heideggerian concept of Sein (Being). His adherence to Heidegger, however, puts him at risk of compromising the very foundation of his own philosophy: his continued critique of essentialism. This article argues that Kezilahabi salvages his concept of “kuwako” from these essentialist pitfalls precisely through his declared “destructive rather than deconstructive stand vis-à-vis the Western philosophy of value and representation” (Kezilahabi 1985: 4). The destruction is implemented on the thematic level: a phase of “vurumai” (chaos) which destroys previous traditions of philosophy is staged in Nagona. However, translation is an even more powerful device to carry out this destruction: “kuwako” is not an innocent reiteration but a radical reformulation of Heidegger's central philosophical concept, decisively informed by Kezilahabi's lifelong propensity for existentialism.

Type
Article
Copyright
Copyright © SOAS, University of London 2018 

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