Translating Havel: Three key words (domov, svědomí, and klid)
This study sketches a semantic analysis of three Czech words - domov (home), svedomi (conscience), and klid (rest, quiet, calm) - in comparison with their English translation equivalents. It is argued that they are key words in Havel's thought in that they represent recurring concepts in his writing that cut across both time periods (the pre- and post-1989 Havel) as well as genres. The import of these concepts also cuts across socio-historical -isms: these words not only tell us something about human identity within a totalitarian context, but ought to tell us, who live outside of that context, something about ourselves. While each of these words refers to a more or less distinct realm of human experience, their collective resonance in Czech evokes a similar feel: all have an air of the philosophical or transcendent about them. It is this element of their conventional meanings in Czech that provides fertile ground - a ground that does not exist in quite the same way in English - for Havel's cultivation of them into key components in his understanding of human identity in the modern world.
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