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

From: Anton Yasnitsky <the_yasya who-is-at>
Date: Wed Jun 13 2007 - 11:26:08 PDT

Shalom hevre :)

It's really nice to see the reference to texts in Hebrew and, generally,
Jewish cultural context as related to Vygotsky. One suggestion though: I
believe, one should not overestimate Vygotsky's Jewish roots in our
analysis of this text, particularly, the poetical quote discussed.

I just want to underline that the text at stake is that of Gumilev,
Nikolai Stepanovich, but not Mandel'shtam who, indeed, "was a Jew too".
Furhtermore, the original text of Gumilev's poem quoted by LSV (and I
guess LSV meant that HIS reader was familiar with the poem and would
recognize it immediately) did have references to the Old Testament history
(see first verse and passim). However, it did also most explicitely refer
to the New Testament:

But we have lost within the dark oblivion
The lucid truth amidst our earthly lot,
For in the Gospel, that by John was given,
It was stated that the Word was God
(transl. Shaumyan; )

Particularly, I liked Bella's comment about 'davar' being in Hebrew both
"word" and "thing". However, one should keep in mind that this is a direct
reference to the Gospel and reflects, therefore, totally Christian
interpretation of "what was at the beginning". That is, in "In the
beginning was the Word..." rather than "In the beginning God created the
heaven and the earth...", or in the always alive words in dead--and
reborn:)--languages "in arxe en hoLogos", or "bereishit haja haDavar",
rather than "bereishit bara Elohim at haShamajim veet haAretz".

Just a remark.

--- Mike Cole <> wrote:

> 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.
> mike
> --------------------
> 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
> letter:
> 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
> interpretations.
> 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.
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

      Be smarter than spam. See how smart SpamGuard is at giving junk email the boot with the All-new Yahoo! Mail at

xmca mailing list
Received on Wed Jun 13 11:29 PDT 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sun Jul 01 2007 - 00:30:04 PDT