“Mein Kampf” in Germany/”Mein Kampf” in Deutschland

There have been some reports on prizes for literary translators recently. As one of my commenters said elsewhere, it’s time we had a prize for non-literary translators! I know literary translators do a great job, but I sometimes have a reprehensible feeling of ‘How can X have the nerve to be a full-time literary translator when it doesn’t pay the rent?’ Of course if that were followed, we would probably have no authors either, so it needs rethinking.

Anyway, the Times Online reports in Found in Translation on the TLS translation prizes. It also mentions Ralph Manheim’s translation of Mein Kampf:

Ralph Manheim, an American, was commissioned to translate Mein Kampf in the early years of the Second World War. It has remained the definitive, scholarly edition of a volume that has long been banned in Germany. Its peculiar skill lies in replicating the ranting, incoherent and prolix tone of the original.

(For another early English translation, see the end of this blog entry)

That ‘banned in Germany’ is not exactly true, as has been mentioned here in comments before. The copyright is owned by the Land of Bavaria and has been relinqished for the English, Swedish and Dutch editions: I quote Wikipedia (English and German):

The government of Bavaria, in agreement with the federal government of Germany, refuses to allow any copying or printing of the book in Germany, and opposes it also in other countries but with less success. Owning and buying the book is legal. Trading in old copies is legal as well, unless it is done in such a fashion as to “promote hatred or war,” which is generally illegal under anti-revisionist laws.

The German article reports that the Munich Institut für Zeitgeschichte has begun to prepare a critical edition. Work began in 2009 and is expected to take about 5 years. (The copyright runs out in 2015).

The English article reports that there was a defective official translation into English, discovered in 2008:

A previously unknown English translation was discovered in 2008 which was produced by the official Nazi printing office, Franz Eher Verlag. The Nazi propaganda ministry hired James Murphy to create an English version of Mein Kampf they hoped to use to promote Nazi goals in English speaking countries. While Murphy was in Germany, he became less enchanted with Nazi ideology and made some statements the Propaganda Ministry disliked. As a result, they asked him to leave Germany immediately. He was not able to take any of his notes but later sent his wife back to obtain his partial translation.[5] These notes were later used to create the Murphy translation. The Nazi government did not abandon their English translation efforts. They used their own people to finish the translation and it was published in very small numbers in Germany. At least one copy found its way to a British/American Prisoner of War camp. This version is filled with errors including punctuation and grammar mistakes. It is however an interesting effort because it was the only official English translation produced by the Nazi government and printed on Nazi printing presses. This translation has been re-published and is available as a new printed book.

This translation is available at Project Gutenberg.

LATER NOTE: I see that a James Murphy translation appeared in the USA in 2003, so the above is not quite correct. But anyone who is interested can pursue it further! James Murphy apparently died in 1946.

EVEN LATER NOTE: A FAZ article on James Murphy can be found in the Deutsch-Österreichisches Informationsjournal (scroll down to ‘Wie die NS-Propaganda um die Gunst des englischen Publikums warb’). There is some detail about Murphy’s life in Germany.

(Thanks to Sarah for original Times link)

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