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Lev Kreft

Lost in Translation: Heidegger and Ski Jumping in Slovenia

Heidegger developed his non-concept Gelassenheit after World War II. Its meaning remains uncertain and controversial, something different from notions of everyday conversation. In Slovene, however, it has been translated as sproščenost, which is parallel to English ‘relaxedness’, thus producing hybridity between notions of relaxedness, relaxation and releasement, which is, together with letting-go, a proper English translation of Gelassenheit.

This hybridity was (ab)used for political slogans during the 2004 elections, when Heidegger's term was repeated on and on, until it entered popular discourse as well as other domains such as the economy, culture, and media. This phenomenon was examined by Boris Vezjak in The Relaxed Ideology of Slovenes (The Peace Institute, Ljubljana 2007). Relaxedness-releasement entered sport jargon as well, but Vezjak's book did not cover this field. At first abundant, this term more or less disappeared later. With one exception: in ski jumping, where it became one of the main words used to explain what was missing from Slovenian ski jumping during 2004-2009 period. In Slovenia, ski jumping is a national sport, and the absence of excellence during this long period created additional pressures on athletes and the whole ski jumping commonwealth.

To examine the numerous cases where releasement was used to explain what is wrong with ski jumpers, or what they finally achieved in rare examples of success during that period, the only Slovene sport daily, "Ekipa" (The Team), was consulted for research. This study revealed that releasement was indeed lost in translation, appearing in ads as a signifier without any certain signified, and functioning as a je-ne-sais-quoi of sport performance and excellence. Through cases of repeated use of releasement as mystical and at the same time scientific (instead of relaxation) and colloquial notion (which is relaxedness, even carelessness), we get at inoculation of kinesiological mechanicism and psychological technique with philosophical mysticism.