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Web Letters | The Nation

The Good European: On Jürgen Habermas

Lost in translation

An excellent article, but with an unfortunate omission: the title of Habermas’s book. In German, it is Die Verfassung Europas. The English-language version is titled The Crisis of the European Union. The word Verfassung means “constitution” in German, in the sense of political constitution, as well as state of health or mind. But the word verfassen is also the verb to write, and der Verfasser translates as “the author.” Thus there is a nice ambiguity in the original title that is completely lost in the English-language version: who is, or was, the author of Europe? What is the state of health of Europe? To borrow a thought from Will Hutton, the book might just as well have been translated as The State of Europe.

Robin Prior

San Diego, CA

Jul 20 2012 - 2:41pm

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