Carlin Romano

  • Anglo Attitudes

    Why do they hate us? Why do they love us? Why do they love us and then hate us? Why do they hate us and then love us? (OK, a little wishful thinking.)

    No, not the terrorists; I’m talking about all those damn foreigners writing books about America. It’s been an international obsession since the United States began. The French incline downward from Tocqueville to Bernard-Henri Lévy to Baudrillard, and the Italians punch out lighthearted takes on their own tours in the New World, from Luigi Barzini’s O America, When You and I Were Young to Beppe Severgnini’s Ciao, America!

    But the


    Absorbing Chinese philosophy through the dispositif of French philosophy can strike one as retranslation at its most unwelcome, like channeling Ismail Kadare from Albanian through French to English or playing the childhood game of Telephone in high-cultural mode. We all prefer nonstop flights to connections, original-language films to the hopelessly dubbed. For the non-French reader, it’s only sensible to approach François Jullien, the magisterial French ponderer of Chinese thought and language, with caution.

    Even Paula Varsano, translator of In Praise of Blandness (2004), one of the several