Publication Date



Cardozo Law Review


This essay, in a symposium celebrating the publication 25 years ago of Jacques Derrida's "Force of Law: The 'Mystical Foundation of Authority,'" traces the themes of that work through the struggle between Derrida and his translator, Mary Quaintance, for authority over the translation. In the end, neither wins the struggle: Authorship of the translation - authority - must be ceded to a third. Derrida reacts to this loss of authority by signing the translation, taking responsibility for the translation even when it is the product of forces beyond his control and of decisions he only imperfectly understands. He thus enacts in his relationship with Quaintance what he characterizes in "Force of Law" as the condition of justice: taking responsibility for words and deeds for which one cannot be wholly responsible. The essay closes with reflections upon the significance of Derrida's refusal to sign the part of the translation that discusses Walter Benjamin and the Holocaust.



First Page



Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law


Jacques Derrida, translation, justice, responsibility, Holocaust, Walter Benjamin



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