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Ricoeur's translation model as a mutual labour of understandingRicoeur has written about translation as an ethical paradigm. Translation from one language to another, and within one’s own language, provides both a metaphor and a real mechanism for explaining oneself to the other.Attempting and failing to achieve symmetry between two languages is a manifestation of the asymmetry inherent in human relationships. If actively pursued, translation can show us how to forgive other people for being different from us and thus serves as a paradigm for tolerance. In full acceptance that this will be impossible, Ricoeur uses the model of translation as a way of understanding European integration, with three aspects: translation, shared narrative and shared forgiveness of Europe’s history. These models provide a strong statement about tolerance and become even more significant through their conversation with the negativity that suffuses them. He draws on his knowledge of psychoanalysis to explain that the translator suffers through remembering and through mourning the loss of perfection; there must be acknowledgement of deficiency. This acceptance of imperfection and of limits to success is a key element in Ricoeur’s philosophy and is explored from the 1950s onwards in his study of negativity; denied by phenomenology and explored by Hegel. Negation is vital for understanding the world (this word means this, not that), but it can preclude us from access to meaning when it becomes negativity (this word has no meaning because it is different). Translation can provide the bridge to span the tension between the pathology of denial and different interpretations, and projection of evil into others, which I believe is at the heart of the perceived incompatibilities between Islam and the West. There is a political urgency to this enterprise, given the ‘othering’ of the Muslim world that has replaced the Cold War dichotomies between Communist as ‘other’ and the capitalist world. References to the Muslim as the current ‘other’ will be part of my discussion. As well as seeking to understand Ricoeur’s model of translation, we will examine whether his model works in a world where many speak no Arabic, Urdu or Farsi, or indeed whether it has any relevance for people who do not.