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‘Flight from the Programme of National Socialism’? Translation in Nazi Germany

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Abstract

If, as translation scholar André Lefevere has said, translation is a ‘visible sign of the openness of a literary system’ (1985: 237), it makes sense to assume that a closed and xenophobic regime like Nazi Germany would be wary of it. Translation as a commercial practice threatened to breach economic autarky by opening trade between German and foreign publishers; equally importantly, as a cultural practice it threatened to undermine the precept that German cultural production was sufficient to itself, the alien inferior and perhaps even an existential threat. There is, as well, an extent to which the very fact of translatedness — literature as a mixed product of more than one language tradition — ran counter to the crucial tenet of racialized purity that underlay Nazi cultural policy. And indeed, National Socialism’s official discourse on translation was marked by suspicion, often portraying translated literature as an insidious channel of dangerous ideas or a failure of patriotism on the part of German readers. In the worst case, as outlined by Hanns Johst, president of the Reichsschrifttumskammer (Reich Chamber of Writers, hereafter RSK), in 1939, the public’s interest in translated fiction might even be interpreted as a ‘flight from the programme of National Socialism’.1 If this suggests Nazi cultural policymakers intervened decisively and successfully to remove translations, however, that was actually far from being the case.

Keywords

  • Source Language
  • Book Trade
  • German Literature
  • Nazi Regime
  • Reading Public

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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  • DOI: 10.1057/9780230292444_3
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© 2010 Kate Sturge

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Sturge, K. (2010). ‘Flight from the Programme of National Socialism’? Translation in Nazi Germany. In: Rundle, C., Sturge, K. (eds) Translation Under Fascism. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230292444_3

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