Art dies when we lose or ignore the conventions by which it can be read, by which its semantic statement can be carried over into our own idiom-those who have taught us how to reread the Baroque, for example, have extended the backward reach of our senses. In the absence of interpretation, in the manifold but generically unified meaning of the term, there could be no culture, only an inchoate silence at our backs. In short, the existence of art and literature, the reality of felt history in a community, depend on a never-ending, though very often unconscious, act of internal translation. It is no overstatement to say that we possess civilization because we have learnt to translate out of time.

– George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation (1975)

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