Over the past few weeks, around other things, I’ve been editing a translation of a book for a new press. I’ll post details of the book when the website is available. A lot of the work has been checking the translation to the original, and making alterations in keeping with other translations of this thinker, but also, more importantly, those he is in dialogue with. When all this is done I’ll be writing an introduction. Another part of the role though is important, undervalued and enormously time-consuming. This is the task of updating the references and providing indications of English language versions. This was a book published in the 1960s, based on lectures from the 1950s. One of the key interlocutors was Heidegger. The references to Heidegger are to old editions of his texts. Some are to early editions of collections like Holzwege (Off the Beaten Path) and Vorträge und Aufsätze. Others are to originally separately published texts – the ‘Letter on Humanism’, ‘What is Metaphysics?’, ‘The Essence of Truth’ etc. – that were later gathered into the collection Wegmarken (Pathmarks), or other pieces that ended up in other volumes.
The easiest option, of course, would be to simply keep the original references, perhaps translating the title – that’s what the translator did. The second option would be to indicate the bibliographic details of the English translation of the relevant text but not the specific page number. The third, which is the one I am taking – and did for all the Lefebvre texts I edited or co-edited – is to provide full references. But there is a necessary step in between. Few research libraries continue to shelve the earlier editions of the texts – older ones are put in the store, or worse, if they stock the Gesamtausgabe (collected edition). I only have a few Heidegger texts in German other than this edition. So before I can find the English passage in question, I need to find the German in the Gesamtausgabe. With a very few this is relatively easy – the new editions of Holzwege and Vorträge und Aufsätze have marginal pagination which refers to the old, though these are not always consistent with the references I have. With others there is either no indication of a page at all – all-too-frequent – or the pagination is to a different edition. So quite a lot of hunting around – few Heidegger books have indexes. The internet and digital editions of some texts makes this a little easier, but not that much. The old pirate site of digital editions of the Gesamtausgabe has been closed. It doesn’t help that in more than a few instances the page number in the source text is wrong – the worst and most time-consuming error was p. 56 when it should have been pp. 5-6. With ‘What is Metaphysics?’ the Introduction, main text, and Afterword are provided in sequential order in the standalone text, referenced without distinction,but in chronological order of writing in Wegmarken and Pathmarks – main text, Afterword, Introduction.
Once I’ve located the German in the modern edition, then I find the English translation. Almost all of the texts referenced do exist in an English translation, and I do have most of these. But while some books are translated entire – Holzwege (Off the Beaten Path) and Wegmarken (Pathmarks), for instance – others have their contents scattered through multiple collections – Vorträge und Aufsätze ends up in five or six different English books (a new translation of this is overdue). The English Nietzsche does not include all of the German, but adds a related essay. In long essays with no or few section divisions, finding a specific passage can take a while.
So the majority of the notes in this translation have three references – the original; a modern German version; and a modern English version. That won’t solve things for everyone as there are multiple English translations of some key essays, but I’ve referenced what I think is the best or most recent. But it is a lot more helpful to readers than the alternatives. Once I’m done with the Heidegger, I need to turn to the references to Marx, Hegel, Nietzsche, Jaspers, Heraclitus and Lenin…