Thursday, February 23, 2012

Number Sixty-Seven

Er läuft den Tatsachen nach wie ein Anfänger im Schlittschuhlaufen, der überdies irgendwo übt, wo es verboten ist.

He runs after facts like a beginner learning to skate, who, furthermore, practices somewhere where it is forbidden. [Kaiser/Wilkins]

He runs after the facts like someone learning to skate, who furthermore practices where it is dangerous and has been forbidden. [Hofmann]


Nothing about danger in the original.

The novice skater travels in a series of headlong plunges or by scooting doggedly along in one direction. He particularly lacks lateral mobility. This suggests a way of moving that consists in identifying a series of points and connecting the dots.

The ice may be forbidden because it is thin and therefore dangerous, but I think this buys us a link to Kafka's famous ice axe at the cost of too patent an explanation of the ban on skating. The problem isn't that the skater might or might not break the ice, but that he has already broken the rules. He might be more like Prometheus, who sees only the gift of fire he will make to humanity, but not the lateral possibilities of discovery and punishment; he is punished because his forethought failed. His foresight failed not because he did not anticipate his future torture, but because he allowed immediately present compassion to prompt his action without a thought for the future.

Maybe the fact skater doesn't realize the facts are not the point or the end.

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