[OPE-L:2060] Re: Translator's lot is not a happy one

riccardo bellofiore (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Thu, 2 May 1996 09:27:40 -0700

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At 14:22 1-05-1996 -0700, akliman@acl.nyit.edu wrote:

I'm embarassed, Andrew.

Let me state where I was before your letter:

(i) Marx wrote in German, hence, even with a good translation, we must have
a look at the original (I take as a bit extremist Alan's suggestion to go
on quoting in German; what in fact we should do is not to take as granted
that the English, or Italian, etc. translation is a fair rendition of the

(ii) Capital vol. 1 in Penguin (NOT vol 2 and 3, ONLY vol 1) is definitely
not a good translation. I take as granted that a good translation is better
than a bad translation. Now, it is certain that in the Peguin, vol. 1 there
are serious errors. This was ascertained by myself and others before this
series of post. I quote here only two examples: Arbeitkraft and
Arbeitproduktivitaat are both translated as labour 'productivity', while
the former is productive power (forza produttiva del lavoro, force
productive du travail); the distinction between the verbs 'schein' and
'erschein' is lost, etc.

(iii) the case I put on the agenda was resolved as a minor one: the 'and'
was there by chance - i.e. it should NOT be there; but the meaning here was
clear to all

(iv) we must thanks in any case the translator for their hard work, with low pay

(v) I would have surely produced a far worst translation

Here you come with your post

>I posted briefly on this issue, but it probably is lost. One
> thing I pointed out is that the word "and" in the Fowkes edition is
> ambiguous, but it is NOT improper English--partly because the clauses
> joined look at the same thing from different angles.

There are two things is: (i) it is not improper English. This confirms what
I had understood, and I fully grant that I'm not the right person for chech
if English is written properly or improperly. That's why I asked to the
list for help

(ii) 'the clauses joined look at the same thing from different angles'.
Here I am lost. I took "the daily cost of maitaining labour power" as posed
as the explanattion of "labour embodied in the labour power", and "the
daily expenditure in work" as "the living labour". As, for example, if I
say: the earth and the moon, the planet where we live and its satellite".
You write that there are here different angles: different, in what sense?
Please, expand

>The other, more general, and more important, is this: The definitive
> version of CAPITAL--the last one, checked, edited, corrected, revised,
> from the author himself--is the FRENCH edition. So it is as misleading
> to say "Marx wrote in German" as to say "Volume I assumes prices =
> values." The author notes that the French possesses a scientific value
> independent of the original, and should be consulted even by German
> speakers.
>None of the English translations of CAPITAL are translations from the
> original French. Fowkes' is based on the 4th German, which varies from
> the French.
>Non-viva la differance.

You are quite right. In fact, Marx revised the SECOND German edition on the
basis of the alterations made in the French edition (though this was
printed later). Nevertheless, as Engels said in the 3rd edition, he wanted
to make other alterations, also with reference to the French edition -
which, as Marx said, "possesses a scientific value independent of the
original and should be consulted even by readers familiar with German".

There is something puzzling about the English edition, it seems to retain
at least the summary of the third edition (it's a guess), from which it was
originally translated: certainly more than the fourth, which has been taken
into account in further editions. In fact, the sequence of the chapters is
different in the English from the Italian; and the Italian edition was
surely translated from the 4th edition (I discovered it because I have
always to check the references all of you do in OPE-L, because they do not
fit with the summary of Das Kapital I have in mind


Riccardo Bellofiore e-mail: bellofio@cisi.unito.it
Department of Economics Tel: (39) -35- 277505 (direct)
University of Bergamo (39) -35- 277501 (dept.)
Piazza Rosate, 2 (39) -11- 5819619 (home)
I-24129 Bergamo Fax: (39) -35- 249975