Title covers of the monthly colonialist youth magazine "Jambo", volume 6 (1930), issues 1, 8, and 5. - (Personal Collection)

Imagined Hegenomies: Colonialist Literature for German Youth during the Weimar Republic

Gastbeitrag von Prof. Luke Springman, Bloomsburg University

A “flood” of popular literature about Africa swept the book market in Germany after it had irretrievably forfeited all its colonial possessions at the end of World War I. From 1884 to 1914, Germany had become the world’s third or fourth largest colonial power (depending whether one referred to land mass or to population); in Africa, Germany had claimed territory in what is today Togo, Cameroon, Tanzania, and Namibia. Overseas possessions, however, affected the German economy and culture little in comparison with the impact colonies had on England and France. Nevertheless, a dedicated minority of influential Germans devoted serious and sustained efforts after 1918 to keep alive the desire for empire in Germany. Their influence precipitated a surge of colonialist literature in the mid-1920s that maintained a strong presence in popular culture well after the end of the Weimar Republic (1918-1933), despite the indifference the general public held toward reclaiming colonies. At the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, I have studied colonialist African literature for young people by over thirty authors, and that represents only a selection.

Karl Angebauer, Afrikanische Siedlergeschichten, 1929. (Aus weiter Welt ; 5). - (Personal Collection)

Josef Viera (1890-1970) was one of the most prolific authors of colonialist literature. Viera served in the German defense force in German East Africa during World War I. Starting in 1925, he also edited a popular series of collected stories “Aus weiter Welt” (From the Wide World) for the prominent publisher of young people’s literature Enßlin & Laiblin. See: – Vol. 5: Karl Angebauer, Afrikanische Siedlergeschichten, 1929. – (Personal Collection)


Else Morstatt (1880-1930), Hinter dem großen See. Eine Erzählung aus Deutsch-Ostafrika.

Else Morstatt (1880-1930), Hinter dem großen See. Eine Erzählung aus Deutsch-Ostafrika. (Beyond the Great Lake. A Story out of German East Africa) Stuttgart: Thienemann, 1927. Frontispiece. Many of the authors of colonialist literature, such as Morstatt, had actually lived in German colonies. – Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. Signatur: B VIII, 13218



In the 1920s, young people’s literature relating to the former German colonies represented a significant part of a larger output of propaganda that was produced to cultivate “den kolonialen Gedanken” (the colonial thought, that is, the colonialist mindset) and preserve the memory of imperial claims abroad. “Der koloniale Gedanke” and “die Erinnerung an die deutschen Kolonien” (remembering the German colonies) comprised two pivotal concepts in colonialist rhetoric that aspired to integrate hegemony as a component of German national identity for the younger generation of Germans. German colonialist societies under the umbrella organization Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft (DKG, German Colonial Society) gained significantly in membership and influence during the Weimar period, establishing themselves as the bastion of Weimar revanchism. Under the auspices of the DKG, the monthly magazine for young people Jambo appeared from 1924 to 1942, which served as the organ for the colonialist youth movement. Besides the colonial societies, a wave of Africa books and films propagated the memory of former colonies and cultivated the ideals for an imperialist future for Germany. Or at least those were the aspirations. Ultimately, the Weimar colonialist movement failed to imprint Africa on German collective national identity, and few works of colonialist literature are remembered.

Yet precisely in the failure of such an enormous enterprise lies a rich opportunity to investigate mechanisms of cultural memory, as understood in cultural memory studies of recent decades. Accordingly, collective memory and group mind-sets represent socially constructed orderings of past events that guide perceptions of and attitudes toward the present, while also shaping projections of the future. Africa, that is “German” Africa, in no small way appeared in fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, films, advertising, school curricula, youth organizations, exhibitions, colonial fairs, and monuments, but still could not overcome the power of forgetting.

Two salient features of colonialist youth literature serve as points of departure for the present investigations, which one may formulate as “context” and “text”. Context refers to the broad social and historical environment in which a work appears and which illuminates the significance of the work. For example, the film Zum Schneegipfel Afrikas (To the Snowy Peak of Africa, 1925) must be understood in relation to the expulsion of all Germans from “German East Africa” after World War I and the subsequent lifting of the ban in 1925. The film and its companion book were therefore not merely travel documentaries, but rather powerful propaganda designed to entice Germans to settle in the British mandate Tanganyika, an initiative that the Colonial Department in the German Foreign Office was secretly funding. Moreover, this Lehrfilm (educational film) was shown in schools and to youth groups. Context provides insights into the ways colonialist literature contributed to the construction of collective memory.

On the other hand, for the present study, “text” concerns the interplay of words and images. Most of the colonial books for young readers were illustrated and many of them richly so. Some of the authors were also artists and photographers who illustrated their own books. A number of the books also, as with Zum Schneegipfel Afrikas, appeared as companion texts for films. Images do not merely give a visual depiction of the written words, but can also interpret, expand on, even contradict what the author writes. Photographs, drawings, painting, maps, and cinematic sequences also augment emotional responses to the narrative.

Atlas für die Hamburger Schulen. Braunschweig: Verlag Georg Westermann, 1930. Signatur: 4° Kart. B 2262/13<1930>

Atlas für die Hamburger Schulen. Braunschweig: Verlag Georg Westermann, 1930. Every map of Africa in German school atlases showed Togo, Cameroon, Southwest Africa (Namibia), and Tanganyika as the former German “protectorates” with their former names, such as Deutsch-Ostafrika (German East Africa). – Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. Signatur: 4° Kart. B 2262/13<1930>

As a case in point for the interplay between images and words, Colin Ross, the most famous German world traveler during the Weimar period, published a travelogue for young readers titled Mit Kamera, Kind und Kegel durch Afrika (With Camera, Kith, and Kin through Africa, 1926), one of a series of his “kith and kin” books about traveling with his wife, daughter and son to exotic lands. Ross also created a film for young people from the large amount of footage from this trip that he did not use for his documentary film Die erwachende Sphinx (The Awaking Sphinx, 1927). The film Als Dreijähriger durch Afrika (As a Three-Year-Old through Africa, 1928) actually parodies the clichéd narratives by intrepid explorers: Ross’ son plays the role of the intrepid adventurer on his journey from South Africa to Egypt, depicted as a romp through a fairy-tale landscape. Although the film is loosely related to the book, and seems innocuous at first blush, the written narrative, film, and photographs taken together express at once exotic allure, eroticism, and uncanny fear. For example, the encounter with a Kavirondo tribe is a significant episode in both the film and the travelogue. The innocent play between the little white boy and warriors in ceremonial costumes belies the subliminal dread and disgust Ross harbored for these people. In the children’s book, as he sets up his camera, he describes in harsh terms — excessive for a children’s book — Kavirondo women as naked and repulsive old hags in drunken stupors, closing in around him and thrusting their breasts at him in a threatening manner. As a further contradiction, a photograph in the book of Ross’ daughter in seemingly pleasant company with Kavirondo women is at odds with the menace that the author portrays.

The task is not only to point out the blatant racism in this case, but rather to derive meaning from the combinations of texts and images as they both complement and contradict each other, then to place that meaning in a broader context of history and culture. Deeper analysis here, however, would exceed the intentions of the present account.

The black ladies trump the most daring evening fashion of their white sisters. - From: Signatur Us 2178/60

“The black ladies trump the most daring evening fashion of their white sisters.” – From: Colin Ross, Mit Kamera, Kind und Kegel durch Afrika. Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1926: 96. – Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. Signatur: Us 2178/60

"Als Dreijähriger durch Afrika". Illustrierter Film-Kurier. Vol. 10 (1928), Number 945: cover. From: Deutsche Kinemathek. Copyright: Verlag für Filmschriften, Christian Unucka

“Als Dreijähriger durch Afrika”. Illustrierter Film-Kurier. Vol. 10 (1928), Number 945: cover. From: Die Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen. Copyright: Verlag für Filmschriften, Christian Unucka (




Herr Prof. Luke Springman, Bloomsburg University, war im Rahmen des Stipendienprogramms der Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz im Jahr 2018 als Stipendiat an der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. Forschungsprojekt: “Colonial Memory in the Youth Culture of the Weimar Republic”

Im Kindergarten. Von Otto Piltz. - In: Daheim : ein deutsches Familienblatt mit Illustrationen ; 1906/2(1906)34. - S. 7. - Signatur in HAB: ZA 4° 27 ; CD B 24

Social Reform in the Conservative 1850s : The Central-Verein in Preußen für das Wohl der Arbeitenden Klassen and the Kindergarten

Gastbeitrag von Nisrine Rahal, University of Toronto

The kindergarten, founded in June 1840 by Friedrich Fröbel in Bad Blankenburg, was imagined as a “garden of children” from which a new humanity would evolve. Fröbel’s educational method focused on independent play motivated by toys and set activities. These activities, Fröbel believed, would allow children to learn their place in the world as well as develop their skills and individuality. The gardener, epitomized in the figure of the female kindergarten teacher, provided the maternal love and supervision that would assist the development of children.

Photo Source: Bildarchiv Friedrich-Fröbel-Museum Bad Blankenburg

“Kindergarten”, Titelblatt (F639). – Source: Bildarchiv Friedrich-Fröbel-Museum Bad Blankenburg

The kindergarten, to activists, was a revolutionary institution. In Fröbelian newspapers, such as Friedrich Fröbel’s Wochenschrift. Ein Einigungsblatt für alle Freunde der Menschenbildung, activists wrote countless articles on the necessity of the kindergarten to construct a new society. Here, they found not only space to share pedagogical innovations, but also to discuss political and social change and protest. The kindergarten provided an alternative route to challenge the traditional authority of the state and the church. The democratic movement, workers’ associations, teachers’ unions, Christian dissenters, and women’s associations all promoted the kindergarten within their platforms as a route to change society.

For this reason, the kindergarten was targeted as a political and dangerous institution tied to the democratic movement. Berlin Polizeipräsident von Hinckeldey defined a circle of “democratic notables” who utilized the kindergarten to spread revolutionary ideas. Both Hinckeldey and Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV labeled the kindergarten a “nursery of destruction.” In August 1851, the kindergarten was banned as a “socialist” and “atheistic” institution.

So how does one study the kindergarten during the reactionary 1850s when a system of suppression was put in place against revolutionary activism? The Central-Verein in Preußen für das Wohl der Arbeitenden Klassen provides us with one answer to this question. The Central-Verein was founded in 1844 as a middle-class response to the social unrest among workers and weavers in Silesia. The organizers of the association sought to address the social question (meaning the question of poverty, social misery, and inequality) by means of cultivating community support and educating workers. Not only did they promote education as a vital element for social change, but they also helped spread public libraries, banks, and new forms of insurance.  While many members of the association were under police surveillance and labeled dangerous revolutionaries, the Central-Verein continued its activism for social change during and after the conservative 1850s.

For the Central-Verein, early children’s education within pre-school institutions was part of a larger belief in uplifting the working class and promoting social reform. Members and pedagogues did not trust working class parents to provide young children with valuable early education in the household. Young children, they noted, were curious and learned through exploring. Appropriate educational institutions, such as the kindergarten, the Central-Verein believed, allowed to cultivate children’s natural curiosity, utilizing that as a pedagogical method for the proper mental, physical, and spiritual development of individuals.

Leopold Besser’s 1859 article “Ueber das Wohl der Arbeiterkinder in Klein-Kinder-Bewahr-Anstalten und Kindergärten” in the association’s newspaper, Zeitschrift des Central-Vereins in Preussen für das Wohl der arbeitenden Klassen, and Friedrich Ravoth’s April 19 1859 lecture, “Ueber den Geist der Fröbel’schen Kinderspiele und die Bedeutsamkeit der Kindergärten”, provide us with a window to examine how the kindergarten was mobilized within this liberal welfare movement. Both pieces not only seeked to challenge the state’s discrimination against the Fröbelian method, but also placed children’s education as a platform to discuss social reform.

In his article directed to middle-class reformers, Leopold Besser laid the groundwork for a re-examination of education in early childhood. He emphasized that one key issue plaguing the working class is poverty. Poverty prevented the mental and physical uplift of a vast majority of individuals. One area that would help stop the spread of this social disease would be public education. But how could this help those who were not old enough to go to school? These children, Besser wrote, would be at risk of being damaged in a key developmental phase of their lives. The kindergarten, and Fröbel’s method in particular, allowed for not only a more scientific approach to early child development, but also assisted parents through teaching them how to be better guardians.

Ravoth’s lecture illuminated a different setting of activism for the Central-Verein. In front of an audience of middle-class women and pedagogues, Ravoth discussed the developmental benefits of a system of play and the Fröbelian method. The period of childhood is connected with specific developmental goals. Toys and play, according to both Fröbel and Ravoth, allow children to develop mental and physical abilities to become perfect and productive individuals in society. Toys and carefully crafted activities wake children’s natural abilities largely to benefit all of society, not just the individual.

For both Besser and Ravoth, Fröbel’s pedagogical method was not simply educational, but also maintained a social hygienist value. Not only did the kindergarten battle poverty, but it also provided for the proper growth of human society. As Ravoth stated to his audience, “medicine…takes a special interest in all social aspirations and, according to one of its most important teachers and representatives (Virchow), it feels called upon to raise a crucial and important voice wherever it comes to social reforms.” (Ravoth, p. 2) Both Besser and Ravoth highlighted a clear change in kindergarten activism. Not only was there an attempt to bring the kindergarten back into social welfare activism, but also, as a new approach, the language of medicine was emphasized. The social hygienist approach to children’s play informed both discussions.

Both Besser and Ravoth demonstrated how liberal reform movements, such as the Central-Verein, were able to move beyond state-suppression. Here, the issue of social reform focused on educational uplift. Middle class women were idealized as key agents for this social change, however the notions of emancipation and revolution were left out. While by no means endorsed by the state, the Central-Verein (still suspect in the eyes of conservatives as it was) nonetheless continued to mobilize an ideal of society that challenged traditional authority. It exemplifies a continuation of activism for social change from the revolutionary 1840s through to the 1880s.

The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin allowed me as a historian of the kindergarten movement to follow the ways activism continued and was transformed during the conservative 1850s. The Central-Verein illuminates a continuation of revolutionary social reform that did not simply disappear. Rather there was a change in language and approach.

Our two sources provide us with a preview of a whole larger discussion that included petitions to governments, responses to state suppression through published pamphlets, and continuous meetings of social reformist teachers.


Frau Nisrine Rahal, University of Toronto, war im Rahmen des Stipendienprogramms der Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz im Jahr 2018 als Stipendiatin an der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. Forschungsprojekt: “A Garden of Children and the Education of Citizens: The German Kindergarten Movement from 1837 – 1880”

Two valuable volumes from a Benedictine Monastery in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

Gastbeitrag von Radosław Franczak

In the Kingdom of Prussia, the dissolution of monasteries took place at the beginning of the XIX century. During this time, Greater Poland was under Prussian rule in partitioned Poland, and in the thirties of the XIX century many Polish monasteries were closed. After secularization some early printed books and incunabula from monasteries in Greater Poland came to the Royal and the Academic Libraries in Berlin. Part of the mentioned books that are still in the Berlin State Library (former Royal Library) had belonged to the following monasteries: Benedictines (Lubiń), Cistercians (Bledzew, Wągrowiec, Przemęt), Dominicans (Poznań), Franciscans (Gniezno, Poznań, Woźniki) and Bernardines (Kobylin).

About 350 volumes were sent to Berlin from one of the oldest monasteries on Polish territory, Benedictine Monastery in Lubiń, in 1838. Among these there are books of great importance. Two of them, which are in the Berlin State Library, shall be described in more detail.

The first contains a print authored by Denis the Carthusian, published by Johann Soter and Melchior von Neuß in Cologne in 1533 (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, 4° Bg 2233). The binding consist of brown leather and wastepaper which is from a very rare Directorium for the Diocese of Gniezno from the year 1535 printed by Florian Ungler in Cracow. On both covers there are two spaced frames, separated by strips. On the upper cover the outer frame contains a roll with scenes from the Old and New Testament: crucifixion of Jesus, resurrection of Jesus, tree of life and bronze serpent (ill. 1).  In the second frame there is a roll with heads and characters (ill. 2). Next in the center panel the date “1528” is pressed on a roll together with depictions of: original sin, crucifixion of Jesus and bronze serpent (ill. 3). The strips are decorated by tools with triple leaf and lily flower. On the lower cover these same rolls are used, but in a different sequence: the outer frame contains the roll with heads and characters; the inner frame, the roll with date “1528” and scenes from the Old and New Testament; the roll with scenes from the Holy Bible is pressed in the center.

Rolls used by Bookbinder ML, copy from Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, 4° Bg 2233 ; redraw by Michał Muraszko

The tools used on the binding allow to recognize the workshop as “Bookbinder ML”. In the middle of the 1530s and into the 1540s, a bookbinder was working probably in Poznań who is named after a roll with the initials ML. Very often in the bindings he used wastepaper from Cracow publishers, which means that he had extensive contacts to this old capital of Poland.

Inside the book there are to be found interesting Polish glosses. They were written by the prior to Lubiń Monastery, Thomas from Zbrudzewo, who died in the year 1567. He probably came from a peasant family and was a well-educated monk. Thomas from Zbrudzewo is known as one of the first translators of the Bible into the Polish language. Admittedly, he never published his translation.


The second absorbing volume is Opusculorum Theologicorum Tomus Primus of Saint Bonaventure, published by Hieronymus Scotus in Venice in the year 1572 (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, 4° Be 308-1). The binding is made from brown leather and cardboard. The decoration of the covers was tooled in gold.

Hinterer Einband von 4° Be 308-1. - Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-PK - Lizenz: CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0

Hinterer Einband von 4° Be 308-1. – Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-PK – Lizenz: CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0

On both covers there is one frame with a baluster ornament, and a second frame of single lines with few pairs of half circles, turned inwards and partly overlapping. Flowers decorate the second frame and the half circles, while the inner corners of the center panel are decorated with triangular mauresque. In the center of the upper cover there is a large mauresque, and above and below there is placed the title of the print. On the lower cover the decoration of the center is different: there is pressed a supralibros with Polish arms “Ogończyk”, mitre and crosier. Above and below the supralibros there are placed the initials “L K” and the date “1575”.

Admittedly, the place where the binding of this volume was made is not known, but the date on the lower cover suggests that it was in the year 1575. The decoration was made by an anonymous bookbinder in a specific style known in Poland as “Aldus-Grolier style”, which is represented by a frame with half circles. The name of this style was taken from bindings for the French bibliophile Jean Grolier and bindings from workshops related with the Italian publisher Aldus Manutius.

On the title page there are painted arms “Ogończyk” with the same initials “L K”, and a few notes are to be found inside.

Titelblatt von 4° Be 308-1. - Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-PK - Lizenz: CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0

Titelblatt von 4° Be 308-1. – Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-PK – Lizenz: CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0

These inscriptions and ownership marks provide information that the present volume belonged to Lucas Kościelecki (1539-1597), abbot of Lubiń Monastery and bishop of Poznań. After his death this book came to Stanislaus from Krzywiń, canon of Poznań, who was a patron of Kościelecki. In 1626 the volume passed into the possession of Lubiń Monastery.

These two volumes are very interesting examples from monastery libraries of Greater Poland in terms of binding, owners, glosses and printing. They are only a small part of the grand collection of books from Polish monasteries, which is still waiting to be deeply explored.


Herr Radosław Franczak, Adam-Mickiewicz-Universität Poznań, war im Rahmen des Stipendienprogramms der Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz im Jahr 2018 als Stipendiat an der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. Forschungsprojekt: “The Library of Benedictine Monastery in Lubiń”


Ausschnitt Kriegskarte von Schlesien - Christian Friedrich von Werde | 2° Kart. N 15060-2, SBB-PK, CC bY-NC-SA 3.0

Tracing the past intra et extra muros. Werkstattgespräch am 16.11.

Tracing the past intra et extra muros. Transformations of historic towns in Silesia from the Frederician period to WWII. Werkstattgespräch am 16.11.

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Werkstattgespräch in englischer Sprache mit Monika E. Adamska (Opole University of Technology)
2017 Stipendiatin im Stipendienprogramm der SPK

Silesia is a region of Central Europe with a complex and multicultural history. Its borders and national affiliation have changed repeatedly over the centuries. In the Middle Ages Silesia was incorporated into the early Polish state, then divided into independent duchies. Subsequently the region became a part of the Bohemian Crown Lands, then of the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy. Most of Silesia was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1742, later becoming part of the German Empire and staying under German administration untill the end of WWII. Since 1945 Silesia has been located mostly in Poland, with small parts in the Czech Republic and Germany.

Most of Silesian towns were founded in the Middle Ages, mainly on the basis of German law, creating a regular system of the settlement network in the entire region. This unique process was a part of dynamic urbanization of the entire Europe. At that time about 120 new towns were chartered in Silesia. Basic features of their historic urban structures are: a plan determined by geometry, a checkered grid of streets, regular blocks of development and a centrally located market square. Churches, monasteries, castles and town halls along with the elements of city walls have made up the old towns’ unique skylines for centuries. Every Silesian historic town, despite certain repeatability, has a unique and individual character.

For the next centuries Silesian historic towns rather lasted undergoing changes, than simply developed, being experienced by fires, epidemics and wars. Their image first underwent complex changes in the Frederician period, special attention was then paid to modernization of fortified towns. At the beginning of the 19th century the towns, remaining so far within their city walls and fortification systems, started to evolve extra muros. The industrial revolution connected most of the towns to railway network, which fostered the development of local industry. The urban landscape of Silesian towns was enriched by new streets and squares designated, public buildings erected and parks set up.  The interwar period, closing the scope of analysis,  was characterized by intensive development of housing to meet the needs of growing urban population.

This lecture is based on the research conducted during a grant of Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation at the Map Department of the Berlin State Library in July 2017.

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Translating Self-Translation (The Case of Nabokov). Werkstattgespräch am 12.11.

…doves and lilies, and velvet… Translating Self-Translation with Remarks on Synaesthesia and Bilingualism (The Case of Nabokov)

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Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977) in Rome to work on the film screenplay of his most famous book, ‚Lolita‘. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images) | Britannica ImageQuest © Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty Images / Universal Images Group

Werkstattgespräch mit Prof. Dr. Zsuzsa Hetényi, University ELTE, Budapest
2018 Stipendiatin im Stipendienprogramm der SPK

From the point of view of translation studies Nabokov’s case is very apt to shed light on some new aspects of practical and theoretical problems of literary translation. First of them is that the fact of self-translation result two original versions representing a double authenticity.
The lecture will also challenge the notion of the minimal and maximal unity and a number of practical problems that translating Nabokov to a third language raises.

I argue that in Nabokov’s poetic prose-texts letters can generate sense by their graphic exponents and obtain an independent sense developed into leitmotifs as discrete letters become bearers of sense, isolated from the words, in their independent visual appearance alone. Nabokov’s texts demand a duplex, two-way strategy of reading with a special, now gliding, now stopping eye-movement: the sense is given not (only) by the consecutive line of words, but in very “flesh of the text”. This statement will be demonstrated on some letter-motives of Nabokov’s oeuvre. I will also discuss Nabokov’s synaesthetism as linked to the perception of letters as images. “[…] the color sensation seems to be produced by the very act of my orally forming a given letter while I imagine its outline…”—writes Nabokov in his Speak, Memory.

The interference of sense of taste and the visual activity of mind, originated in Nabokov’s synesthetic capacities developed due to his multilingualism, and complemented by many biographical circumstances merge in Nabokov’s special concept or philosophy of the language. This unique complex has a close correlation both with Russian Symbolist and Avant-garde experiments in language otherwise usually regarded in opposition.