The Book of Yelps and Growls is Apocrypha
It is largely due to the work of Kurt Leipzfeld
that students in Enlightenment literature
have increasingly accepted the translation work of Florian von Banier
as a canonical text for literature of this period. As the user above (clever name, Jacques
) writes, this opinion was also supposedly expressed by the famous Yale scholar Paul de Man
on several occasions, though he never expressed his admiration for von Banier in writing. Though Leipzfeld's books on von Banier are certainly well-writen and worth the read, their historical accuracy
is far from substantiated in my mind.
More recent studies, particularly by a Nova Scotian professor by the name of Larry MacDonald
, have revealed a different picture of von Banier's literary genius. In my own work on von Banier (see my Ph.D. thesis
under MacDonald at Acadia University
entitled "Apocrypha und Aufklarung"), I have come to a distrust of some of Leipzfeld's more central conclusions. Though von Banier was certainly a literary genius and a profound influence on English-writing novelists such as Dickens
, it is by no means certain that von Banier himself inluenced the Brothers Grimm
or the fairy tale genre at all. Von Banier's profound work in The Art of Writing Translations
is a rhetorical tour de force
in which he handily and convincingly deals with the question of literary originality by means of a profound reading of Plato
and more popular fiction from his own time (this book is certainly one of the causes of de Man's interest in von Banier owing to its proximity to Derrida
's work in Dissemenations
). However, it is far from clear, in fact it is downright questionable, that The Book of Yelps and Growls
is a work which von Banier translated. In fact, my researches have shown that this book could not possibly be a translation at all. Furthermore, it is extremely questionable whether or not von Banier had any hand in their penning.
Leipzfeld's chief evidence for attributing the translation of this book to von Banier is a note found in the apocryphal collection The Collected Works of Florian von Banier
that were supposedly found on him at the time of his death. However, that these works are authored by von Banier himself is highly doubtful. A close reading of von Banier's book on translation reveals, furthermore, that he often used TBYG as a demonstration of the points outlined in The Art of Writing Translations
, though nowhere states knowledge of either the original work, or its original translation. In fact, certain clues have been found which show that von Banier in fact questioned the status of any such 'original' (and it is certainly a concept he had difficulty with on a more theoretical level). Evidence shows that von Banier reproduced The Book of Yelps and Growls
as an appendix to some editions of his The Art of Writing Translations
(particularly editions he had published in Japan towards the very end of his life). In a rare copy of a text unearthed in the archives at Berlin University
we can read this 2nd preface
to the Japanese Edition
of the book published by a certain printing house named Kegiboshi
"My wide readership in your fine country, which I have made my home for the past weeks, justifies the translation of this text into the Japanese. I hope that my work will lead to fine translations of many German and English texts into the Japanese language, a language of such profound and destructive simplicity that I almost stumble with each spoken breath when I sit in the afternoon's and enjoy long and casual conversations with my friends. Your language is as beautiful as your country. It brings me such pleasure to hear it, as it does to witness the beauty of your oceans, trees, and tea ceremonies...
I have also had printed here as an appendix The Book of Yelps and Growls, which is widely available throughout Europe though only the most careful scholars of your land have procurred their own copies. As the text is not gaurded by any copyright laws I am here making it widely available to those interested here. As you will read in the text below, I find this work an excellent demonstration of certain techniques of translation, though the question of its original translation is of course much unsettled, owing to the lack of availability of any text we may wish to call 'the original'. I refer to this book many times in the book printed below as demonstrations of the different sorts of translational difficulties and tropes I outline, and as such any reader of my book deserves adequate access to a copy of The Book of Yelps and Growls." (note: emphasis mine, -GM)
This preface, unavailable to Leipzfeld in his day, surely settles the question of the apocryphal nature of The Book of Yelps and Growls
. In deference to briefness, I will here give end to this exposition referring the interested reader both to my thesis named above and chapters 5 through 7 of MacDonald's Apocrypha and the Enlightenment
(forthcoming from New Directions in Canada).