MINIMA MORALIA: Reflections from the damaged life. By THEODOR ADORNO

PART TWO: 1945. Aphorism #78: Over the mountains.

Translated by Dennis Redmond


Over the mountains. – Snow White expresses, more perfectly than any other fairy-tale, the idea of melancholy. Its pure picture is the queen, who gazes into the snow through the window and wishes for her daughter in terms of the lifeless, animated beauty of the snow-flakes, the black sorrow of the window-frame, the stab of bleeding; and then dying in childbirth. The happy ending takes away nothing from this. As the wished-for granting is really death, the salvation remains appearance [Schein]. For the deeper perception does not believe that she, who lies like someone sleeping in a glass coffin, was awakened. Isn’t the poison bite of apple, dislodged from her throat by the bumpiness of the journey, rather than a means of murder, the remainder of the unrealized, exiled life, from which only now she recovers, since no deceiving emissaries lure her any more? And how frail sounds the happy end: “Then Snow White found him good and went with him.” How it is repealed by the wicked triumph over wickedness. Thus when we hope for salvation, a voice says to us, that hope is in vain, and yet it is above all this hope, powerless, alone, which permits us to draw another breath. All contemplation can do no more, than patiently delineate the ambiguity of melancholy in ever new figures and approaches. The truth is not to be separated from the delusion that one day, out of the figures of appearance [Schein], there would nonetheless be salvation.

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One Response to MINIMA MORALIA, No. 78

  1. peterln says:

    Another valiant attempt at translating Adorno. In the last three sentences perhaps some German comma usage has crept into the English from the orginal making understanding a little more more difficult.

    The third last sentence could perhaps read:

    ‘Thus when we hope for salvation, a voice says to us that hope is in vain, and yet it is alone hope, that powerless thing, which allows us to breathe.’

    In the next sentence the comma after ‘no more’ is superfluous and confuses meaning.

    In the last sentence the verb ‘hervortrete’ has been replaced with the less active and weaker ‘be’ which also does not seem to be possible as a follow-on from ‘out of’. ‘Scheinlos’ has not been translated at all. The sentence could perhaps be translated as:

    ‘Truth cannot be separated from the delusion that one day from the figures of appearance salvation, without dissemblance, shall yet appear.’


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