Notes on Translation

Although it is often difficult to convey the remarkable concision of Badiou's prose (to say nothing of the power of his voice), to translate Badiou is not fundamentally problematic. Unlike Heidegger or Derrida, say, he makes no appeal to a mysterious “gift of language.” On the contrary, as a matter of firm principle he insists that “the transmission of thought is indifferent to language, ” as he wrote in “De la Langue française comme évidement.” Most of Badiou's key terms—truth, truth process, generic procedure, void, event, sub ject, being, situation, site, fidelity—can be translated literally, even when (as occasionally with void and fidelity) these translations jar somewhat with normal English usage.

As is well known, the English language cannot easily distinguish the French verb être (to be, or being) from the French noun un étant (a being). When the word être is meant to evoke this verbal dimension more than its substantial dimension (as, for example, in the phrase être-en-tant-qu'être), I occasionally remind readers of the gerundial form by translating it as “be-ing.”

After some indecision I have had recourse to the rather clumsy neologism “evental” to translate Badiou's use of the word événementiel, which has little to do with either the conventional meaning of “factual” or the connotation made famous by Fernand Braudel and the Annales approach to historiography. To my mind the more natural choice of “eventful” by Norman Madarasz

-xvii-

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