Marx-Engels Correspondence 1852
Source: MECW Volume 39, p. 20;
First published: in full in Marx and Engels, Works, 2d Russian Edition, 1962.
The day before yesterday I sent you the translation [of the first chapter of Marx's 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte] and a post office order for a pound. A few more pounds will follow at the beginning of October — i.e. in 9-10 days. I should like to send you more at a time because, then even though the total amount is the same in the end, it has the advantage of enabling you to plan your expenditure more methodically, but my own pecuniary circumstances are in such a muddle just now that I never know exactly how much I shall need for the month, and hence pounds only become available singly, so it seems best to send them to you straight away. Next month I shall put things on a business-like footing, after which I shall soon be able to make some rough estimates.
From the enclosed memorandum you will see that Pieper has made a number of fairly bad howlers — I haven’t, of course, enumerated his transgressions against grammar and Donatus, cela n'aurait jamais fini. You may give it to him if you think it would do any good; otherwise, if it might lead him to abandon the translation, you had better keep it. Should he grumble over this or that correction, you can always use it as an opportunity to point out his imperfections.
Individual bits are, by the way, almost untranslatable.
Incidentally, it might also be advisable for the bookseller to see the last chapter in particular; he would then be vastly more impressed; I suggest that Pieper might translate it and you send it straight on to me; having already looked at it with this in mind, I am not wholly unprepared and progress would therefore be rapid. Even if it can’t be published now, the translation must be completed; the chap will soon become Emperor, and that would provide another splendid opportunity for adding a postscript.
I am going straight home to finish the article for the Tribune so that it catches the 2nd post and you can send it off by tomorrow’s steamer. What prospect is there of a new English article for Dana?
I trust the brandy has set your wife on her feet again — warm regards to her and your children, also Dronke and Lupus.
Massol’s letter with the article for Dana by the 2nd post — I haven’t got it here.
Did you see the statistics from Horner, the factory inspector, on the growth of the cotton industry in yesterday’s Times and day-before-yesterday’s Daily News?
Oct. 1850-Oct. 1851 —
2,300 horsepower in newly built factories
1,400 horsepower in extensions to existing factories
3,700 horsepower increase in the Manchester district
and the cotton industry alone. The following particulars reveal that during that period there were factories still under construction which would require some 4,000 horsepower and which will now have been completed. Since that time, work has undoubtedly begun on factories of 3,000-4,000 horsepower, more than half of which might be completed by the end of the year; if we assume that the increase between Jan. 1848 and Oct. 1850, i.e. 2 3/4 years, is no more than 4,000 horsepower, the steam-power of the Lancashire cotton industry will have risen between 1848 and the end of 1852 by 3,700+4,000+1,500+4,000=13,200 horsepower.
In 1842 the total steam-power of the cotton industry in Lancashire amounted to 30,000 and in 1845 (end) to 40,000 horsepower; in 1846/47 there was little installed, hence almost 55,000 horsepower, nearly twice that of 1842, will now be in use.
On top of that there is hydraulic power — about 10,000 horsepower (1842) which has barely increased, hydraulic energy having been fairly well exploited for some time past. From this it may be seen where prosperity’s additional capital has gone. For that matter the crisis cannot be very far off, although here excess over-speculation is almost entirely confined to omnibuses.
Memorandum on the Translation of the 1st Chapter
1. Pieper is evidently more used to writing English spontaneously than to translating. Hence, if he wants for a word, he should guard all the more against having recourse to that worst of all known aids, the dictionary, which, in 99 cases out of 100, will regularly provide him with the most inappropriate word and invariably gives rise to a disastrous jumbling of synonyms, examples of which follow.
2. Pieper should study elementary English grammar, in which he makes a number of mistakes — especially as regards the use of the article. There are also spelling mistakes.
3. Above all Pieper must guard against falling into the Cockney’s petit-bourgeois floridity of style, of which there are some irritating examples.
4. Pieper uses too many words of French derivation, which are, it is true, sometimes convenient because their vaguer, more abstract meaning is often of help in a quandary. But this emasculates the choicest turns of speech and often renders them completely incomprehensible to an Englishman. In almost every case, where vivid, sensuous images occur in the original, there is a no less sensuous, vivid expression of Saxon derivation, which at once makes the thing plain to an Englishman.
5. Where there are difficult bits, it would be better to leave blanks to be filled in, rather than — on the plea of literal translation — put in things which Pieper himself knows full well to be sheer nonsense.
6. The main criticism of the translation, and which sums up 1-5, is gross carelessness. There are passages enough to prove that, if he really tries, Pieper is reasonably capable, but such superficiality, in the first place, makes more work for himself and secondly twice as much for me. Some passages are quite admirable, or could be so, had he tried a little harder.
schuldenbeladene Lieutnants: here the word lieutenant can only mean ‘representative’. In English and French a lieutenant is not, as in German, primarily a figure of fun;
unmittelbar gegebne, vorhandene und überlieferte Umstände: circumstances immediately given and delivered. Pieper himself was very well aware that this translation made nonsense. ‘delivered’ can here only mean ‘delivered of a child’;
sich und die Dinge umzuwälzen: the revolution of their own persons.
This revolution can be nothing other than a somersault;
a new language (eine neue Sprache) means a newly invented language. At most, a language new to them.
Middle class society for bürgerliche Gesellschaft is not strictly grammatical or logically correct; it is as if one were to translate feudale Gesellschaft as nobility society. An educated Englishman would not say this. One would have to say bourgeois society or, depending on circumstances, commercial and industrial society, to which one might append the following note: *By Bourgeois Society, we understand that phase of social development in which the Bourgeoisie, the Middle Class, the class of industrial and commercial Capitalists, is, socially and politically, the ruling class; which is now the case more or less in all the civilized countries of Europe and America. By the expressions: Bourgeois society, and industrial and commercial society, we therefore propose to designate the same stage of social development; the first expression referring, however, more to the fact of the middle class being the ruling class, in opposition either to the class whose rule it superseded (the feudal nobility), or to those classes which it succeeds in keeping under its social and political dominion (the proletariat or industrial working class, the rural population, etc., etc.) — while the designation of commercial and industrial society more particularly bears upon the mode of production and distribution characteristic of this phase of social history.*
To arrive at its own concepts (bei ihrem eignen Inhalt anzukommen) can only mean: to arrive at the contents of its own stomach.
Old society (alte Gesellschaft) won’t do in English and at most means feudal rather than bourgeois society. Owen’s writings have been forgotten; and whenever he mentions old society, it is always accompanied by a plan and elevation (if possible in colour) of the new society, so that there can be no mistake; which is not to be expected now-a-days.
Set in fiery diamonds (in Feuerbrillanten gefasst) is nonsensical in English, since in English usage it is diamonds themselves that are set, and fiery diamonds is in any case something of a hyperbole.
Storm and pressure period does not translate Sturm- und Drangperiode but Sturm- und Drückperiode.
A future that was to come (die Zukunft, die ihnen bevorsteht) is nonsense, as Pieper himself knows (every future being to come), and altogether in the style of Moses & Son, as in an earlier bit where ‘die Geister der Vergangenheit’ is rendered as the spirits of those that have been.
The circle should be increased (erweitert werden p. 4, bottom). Un cercle est élargi, il n'est pas agrandi.
The general index (der allgemeine Inhalt der modernen Revolution) means the general list of contents of modern revolution! Le citoyen Pieper le savait, du reste, aussi bien que moi.
As it could but be, wie es nicht anders sein konnte — lapsus pennae; should read ‘as it could not but be'; otherwise it would mean: wie es kaum sein konnte.
Unwieldiness (p. 5, top in the orig.) is Unbehülflichkeit in the passive sense, ‘inertia’ in physics but, applied to persons, can only mean that they cannot move for fat. Unbeholfenheit used of persons, in the active sense, means clumsiness. This mistake was suggested to Pieper by his dictionary.
Constitutional standard (die Nationalversammlung sollte die Resultate der Revolution auf den bürgerlichen Massstab reduzieren). C'est un peu fort that, in order to evade the difficulty of translating ‘bürgerlich’, Citoyen Pieper should everywhere render it as ‘constitutional’ because ‘konstitutionelle Republik’ and ‘bürgerliche Republik’ are used synonymously. Je demande un peu what does constitutional mean in this context? It becomes even more delectable later on, when bürgerliche Gesellschaft figures sans façon as constitutional society. C'est assommant.
For ever and the duration (für die ganze Dauer des Zyklus). Why not rather for ever and a day, as the saying goes?
Utopian Juggles (utopische Flausen). Juggles means legerdemain, not flights of fancy.
Transported without Judgment means déporté contre le sens commun, transported in defiance of common sense and should read without trial.
To pass as a real event doesn’t mean ‘um überhaupt als ein Ereignis passieren zu können’, but to pass for something that has really happened.
Founded doesn’t mean fondu but fondé. It has nothing to do with the illogical but accepted term confounded for confondu.
All these are things which Pieper, if only he paid a little attention, would know as well as I do but, as already mentioned, it is easier to translate difficult things oneself than to correct a translation that is carelessly thrown together and dodges the difficulties. If he tried a little harder, he could translate quite well.