Translating The Disaster of Mourice Blanchot Between Ann Smock and Azzedine Chentouf

Disaster, paradox, absolute impossibility, philosophical translation, obscurity and intended ambiguity


  • Soufiane Laachiri
    Researcher in cultural translation, orientalism and postcolonialism, Abdelmalek Essaàdi University, Morocco
August 31, 2021


The present article attempts to present a succinct and circumspect comparison between two different translations for Mourice Blanchot’s book « L’écriture du désastre ».The first translation was performed by Ann Smock in 1995 and was from French into English, while the other translation was skillfully produced by Azzedine Chentouf from French into Arabic in 2018. The contrast in attitudes and translational fertilization has provided us with ample opportunities to study, reflect on, and rethink the nexus of  Blanchot’s philosophy from different linguistic perspectives. However, in our attempt to formulate our judgments on the English and Arabic versions of the book, we can judge by an escapable logic and with analytical evidence that the English translation entitled « The writing of the disaster » has intensified the hold of a literal translation that makes the chances of being close to the original meaning of the source text depressingly small. Chentouf’s translation, on the other hand, remains profoundly meaningful; it is capable of going down into the marrow of  Blanchot’s thought to assert understanding of his intellectual complexities. In brief, despite the triviality of the advanced examples, we are certain that Azzedine Chentouf, through his Arabic translation, knows the hard philosophical portrait of Mourice Blanchot in its inclusiveness. Therefore, it is no surprise that every choice he makes in this translation explains his tremendous efforts as a philosopher first before being ranked as a translator.