[xmca] Continued Discussion of bees, words, and thoughts

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at gmail.com>
Date: Wed Jun 13 2007 - 10:26:57 PDT

Below is a new entry into this discussion, mediated by Vladimir Zinchenko.
It is in response to an earlier post of David K's. I
have asked Bella if she would like to join XMCA.

Dear David Kellogg, shalom!

Professor V.P. Zinchenko invited me to join you and M. Cole discussion on
the meaning of LSV- Mandelshtam. I am not a great expert in the subjects you
are discussing. Perhaps the reason for V.P. was that I recently finished
scientific editing of the Hebrew translation of "Language and Thought".
After the translator finished her job, I had to work with a literary editor
who did not know Russian. She found an English version and when she could
like Hebrew wording she looked at English and then formulated it anew in
Hebrew and asked me if I agree, if the meaning of Russian text is preserved.
And English was not always helpful. It was a hard and very enriching work
for me. 15 years ago I did not know a word in Hebrew (and now I am teaching
psychology in Hebrew).

Recently together with my husband Ted Friedgut we submitted for publication
(in Russian, Hebrew and in English) a paper analyzing the influence of the
Jewish factor in Vygotsky's worldview.

As you write in your artistic cite: When you lack language, your eyes are
sharpened. I can say when you learn several languages, your linguistic
sensitivity is sharpened.

So I can see that most of the questions you raise stem from problems of
translation and in a context where every shade of meaning is discussed it is
important to know the source. Let us start from the beginning of your letter
I do not have English translation handy, so I'll use citations from your

But wait--Mandelstam was a Jew too. And that luminous image is certainly
reflected in the very last sentence of Thinking and Speech. Better read on!

  "We've surrounded it with a wall
With the narrow borders of this world
And like bees in a deserted hive
The dead words rot and stink."

I do not find in the original text any mention of the word "wall" and the
context of the citation is as follows:

..."We have seen that relation of thought to the word is a natural (alive,
verbatim) process of realization (delivery) of thought through (in) the
word. The word deprived of thought is, first and foremost a dead word. As a
poet say:

And like bees in a deserted hive

The dead words smell not nicely

"smell not nicely" is not only much mild but also in Russian "durno pachnet"
is an idiom which is used to describe something suspicious as to values or
morality, something not nice. The words rot and stink have Russian
equivalents, but they are absent here.

These are not the last lines in the book, the discussion about "what was at
the beginning" follows. This is not a new issue because in Hebrew, the
source, the word "davar" depending on a context may mean: word (from
ledaber- to speak), object and even an issue. When the God said let there be
light and the light was! Which means that at the beginning there was no
difference between word and deed. May be that is why from the very beginning
there was so much freedom for translations which were really

If my thoughts are of any interest I can try to continue.

 Sincerely yours Bella Kotik-Friedgut

P.S. As you I am teaching teachers of languages Hebrew and English and I
developed a workshop for psychological help for language learners.
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Received on Wed Jun 13 10:28 PDT 2007

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