a better very, very bad translation of Grass’s poem + some bonus research

A certain internet video artist who shall remain nameless for now (don’t much want to turn up on certain searches) has done a translation of Grass’s poem that strikes me as better than the more respectable ones that I’ve seen.  Unfortunately, a bit of research reveals this translator to be a death-metallic anti-semitic zombie-apocalyptic lunatic…

…the sortafeller quoted approvingly at sites where it is taken as established that the Mossad was behind 9/11, and where Israeli sponsorship of the Japanese tsunami – maybe not the whole thing, but at least the worst problems concerning the Fukushima reactor – is chewed over quasi-thoughtfully.

I hadn’t run across that one before.

In the interests of Wissenschaft, I’ll add that the speculation combines some supposed Israeli engineering firm, the STUXNET computer virus and the Mossad again… not sure I figured out the supposed Israeli motivation, unless it’s considered an accident or collateral damage.  Maybe it’s just world-running conspiratorial business as usual…

Anyway, back to the poem… Gilad Atzmon (!) loved this version – so even if that doesn’t tell me the exact same things that it tells Jeffrey Goldberg, it tells me some overlapping things…

…not, however, in my opinion, that Grass’s poem is “anti-semitic” or needs to be burned… nor does it prove it’s a good poem… by any means… (I have avoided making any such claim in any of my three posts on the subject.)

…and it’s worth pointing out that, though free in some respects, the translation does not skate on Grass’s acknowledgment of the indelible “stain” of the Holocaust on German history…

I’m treating the whole phenomenon, text in its context, as evidence for my longer standing argument that there is no sanity about this “region occupied by madness,” this region that is precisely as much a state of being as a place, and that any penetration of that state of being is a plunge into madness, with no tolerable integrated mental one-state solution known to exist on the other side, assuming there is another side.

While I was noticing that Atzmon had the video, I also noticed another ‘tube at his site, this one on Gandhi’s letters to Orwell and Hitler during World War II, that offered more striking evidence for my theory, so I’m I’m appending it as well.  Scott might find the Gandhi video especially interesting, but not for a “poetry slam.”  I’m not sure that Scott will like knowing about it, but I think he’ll at least want the opportunity to split away from it – assuming Scott’s not in fact already completely familiar with the whole story backwards and forwards.

Without further ado – our double feature:




7 comments on “a better very, very bad translation of Grass’s poem + some bonus research

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  1. I am stunned by the Gandhi video. If that video isn’t a manipulated piece of propaganda, it’s just devastating to me. I have attended conferences at UCR where East Indians who opposed Gandhi’s pacifism spoke out against him aggressively. Nothing they ever said about him even touched on what is in this video. Given what a piece of ammo the letter to H would be if it’s documented as this video shows, and given how many East Indians want people like me to see Gandhi in a different light, I can’t help but question its authenticity. But, as always, I am prepared for the most difficult types of facing facts–which in this case will mean accepting that he wrote that. It’s still possible that the video was manipulated. Naturally, I am open to it being real. One has to be open to the possibility that even our most trusted historical figures were nothing like their reputations. But this one really is painful. Please take it easy on me as I look into this. I will write again about it either way, depending on what I find.

  2. I must go teach now, but a quick survey of the web does lead me to believe that despite having taken college courses (which were not spiritually biased as my other studies were) solely dedicated to Gandhi, I somehow never new about the letters or the suicide quote. As I have pointed out, I attended gatherings where G was criticized mightily, but somehow I still never heard about the letters. Anyway, I have read one letter in its entirety. I must read the other letter that is mentioned but not documented anywhere that I found in my quick search. And then there’s the part about Jews committing collective suicide. That is the most devastating thing if true. Naturally, I hope that it was never really said. I still hold out hope on that one but we’ll see.

    • A few months ago the correspondence with Hitler was brought up somewhere, something in the manner of a new revelation, though it may have been known to some scholars all along. The Orwell letter was new to me.

      Not to suggest it’s anything other than madness, as I’ve been saying, it is not beyond understanding at least in the manner of dialectical comprehension and theodicy/anti-theodicy – the same “justification of the ways of God to humanity” and “justification of the ways of human beings to God/themselves” that can’t be attempted in light of history without entrapping the justifier in seemingly irresolvable contradictions. Gandhi’s “collective suicide/collective re-birth” theory seems insane, like a justification of the Holocaust, but consciously deciding to reject it morally and intellectually doesn’t extricate us from the moral-intellectual and historical implications: Because we can’t seem to live without justification, merely refusing to engage in it on those terms leads us to seek it in other ones that turn out to be equivalent, until our new system of repression of the truth about ourselves, our sane definition of sanity, is revealed as another version of the same madness.

      • Part of my earlier despair came from sensing what would come next. It did. Through you, the manner of dialectical comprehension seized the moment. But no matter what Gandhi said or didn’t say, I do reject the madness and I reject it as something solvable. There’s no contradiction. Violence begets violence and peace has been sustained at different places and times on this planet because it’s possible. Sane definitions of sanity are not madness. Madness is madness. Madness is an expression of the shadow. Everyone has one, yes, but we can relate sanely to the shadow and be peaceful. Living in violent cultures as we do, the peace advocacy can’t be passive. Gandhi was not a pacifist. And because Gandhi’s public declarations stand in direct refutation of your dialectical misapprehension, I will provide you with a quote credited to Gandhi from 1938 that I see as representative of Gandhi’s complete view on this issue. Whether or not he said or wrote that Jews should commit mass suicide I don’t know. My continued sense is that (not you, but…) people unwilling to recognize the violence in their own hearts are determined to find it in Gandhi’s. If they were able to find it, and it was there, then I will live with that. I will have to change the way I teach the practices of ahimsa and saucha. But at this point, the supposed facts are inconclusive, and while I don’t agree with Gandhi’s every word, what is written here is at least consistent with what he promoted in India for “his own people” and I so far hold to it being what he was really trying to communicate in the letters and quotes in question…

        “Palestine belongs to Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France belongs to the French. It is wrong and in-human to impose the Jews on the Arabs…Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.”
        Several letters have been received by me asking me to declare my views about the Arab-Jew question in Palestine and the persecution of the Jews in Germany. It is not without hesitation that I venture to offer my views on this very difficult question.
        My sympathies are all with the Jews. I have known them intimately in South Africa. Some of them became life-long companions.

        Through these friends I came to learn much of their age-long persecution. They have been the untouchables of Christianity. The parallel between their treatment by Christians and the treatment untouchables by Hindus is very close. Religious sanction has been invokes in both cases for the justification of the inhuman treatment meted out to them. Apart from the friendships, therefore, there is the more common universal reason for my sympathy for the Jews.

        But my sympathy does not blind me to the requirements of justice. The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make such appeal to me. The sanction for it is sought in the Bible and the tenacity with which the Jews have hankered after return to Palestine.

        Why should they not, like other peoples of the Earth make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood? Palestine belongs to Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France belongs to the French. It is wrong and in human to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. The mandates have no sanction but that of the last war. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.

        The nobler course would be to insist on a just treatment of the Jews wherever they are born and bred. The Jews born in France are French in precisely the same sense that Christians born in France are French. If the Jews have no home but Palestine, will they relish the idea of being forced to leave the other parts of the world in which they are settled? Or do they want a double home where they can remain at will? This cry for the national home affords a colourable justification for the German expulsion of the Jews.
        But the German persecution of the Jews seems to have no parallel in history. The tyrants of old never went so mad as Hitler seems to have gone. And he is doing it with religious zeal. For he is propounding a new religion of exclusive and militant nationalism in the name of which any inhumanity becomes an act of humanity to be rewarded here and hereafter. The crime of an obviously mad but intrepid youth is being visited upon his whole race with unbelievable ferocity. If there ever could be justifiable war in the name of and for humanity, a war against Germany, to prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race would be completely justified. But I do not believe in any war. A discussion of the pros and cons of such a war is therefore outside my horizon or province.

        But if there can be no war against Germany, even for such a crime as is being committed against the Jews, surely there can be no alliance with Germany. How can there be alliance between a nation, which claims to stand for justice and democracy and one which is the declared enemy of both? Or is England drifting towards armed dictatorship and all it means?

        Germany is showing to the world how efficiently violence can be worked when any hypocrisy or weakness masquerading as humanitarianism does not hamper it. It is also showing how hideous, terrible and terrifying it looks in its nakedness. Can the Jews resist this organised and shameless persecution? is there a way to preserve their self respect, and not to feel helpless, neglected and forlorn? I submit there is. No person who has faith in a living God need feel helpless and forlorn.

        Jehovah of the Jews is a God more personal than the God of the Christians, the Mussalmans or the Hindus, though, as a matter as fact in essence, he is common to all and one without a second and beyond description. But as the Jews attribute personality to God and believe that he rules every action of theirs, they ought not to feel helpless. If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest gentile German may and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon. I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this, I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance but would have confidence that in the end the rest are bound to follow my example. if one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them and inner strength and joy, which no number of resolutions of sympathy passed in the world outside Germany can. Indeed, even of Britain, France and America were to declare hostilities against Germany; they can bring no inner joy, no inner strength. The calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by the way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the God fearing, death has no terror. It is a joyful sleep to be followed by a waking that would be all the more refreshing for the long sleep.
        It is hardly necessary for me to pint out that it is easier for the Jews than for the Czechs to follow my prescription and they have in the Indian satyagraha campaign in South Africa an exact parallel. There the Indians occupied precisely the same place that the Jews occupy in Germany. The persecution had also a religious tinge. President Kruger used to say that the white Christians were the chosen of God and the Indians were inferior beings created to serve the whites. A fundamental clause in the Transvaal constitution was that there should be no equality between the whites and coloured races including Asiatics. There too the Indians were consigned to ghettos described as locations.
        The other disabilities were almost of the same type as those of the Jews in Germany. The Indians, a mere handful, resorted to satyagraha without any backing from the world outside or the Indian Government. Indeed the British officials tried to dissuade the satyagrahis from their contemplated step. World opinion and the Indian Government came to their aid after eight years of fighting. And that too was by way of diplomatic pressure not of a threat of war.

        But the Jews of Germany can offer satyagraha under infinitely better auspices than the Indians of South Africa. And they have organised world opinion behind them. I am convinced that if someone with courage and vision can arise among them to lead them in non-violent action the winter of their despair could be in the twinkling of an eye could be turned into the summer of hope. And what has today become a degrading man-hunt can be turned into a calm and determined stand offered by unarmed men and women possessing the strength of suffering given to them by Jehovah. It will be then a truly religious resistance offered against the Godless fury of dehumanised man. The German Jews will score a lasting victory over the German Gentiles in the sense that they will have converted the latter to an appreciation of human dignity. They will have rendered service to fellow-Germans as against those who are today dragging, however unknowingly the German name in to the mine.

        And now a word to the Jews in Palestine. I have no doubt that they are going about it the wrong way. The Palestine of the biblical conception is not a geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or, the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs.

        They should seek to convert the Arab heart. The same God rules the Arab heart who rules the Jewish heart. They can offer satyagraha in front of the Arabs and offer themselves to be shot or thrown into the Dead Sea without raising a little finger against them. They will find the world opinion in their favour in their religious aspiration. There are hundreds of ways of reasoning with the Arabs, if they will only discard the help of the British bayonet. As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them.

        I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non- violence in resisting what they rightly regarded as an unwarrantable of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds.
        Let the Jews who claim to be chosen race prove their title by choosing the way of non- violence for vindicating their position on earth. Every country is their home including Palestine not by aggression but by loving service. A Jewish friend has sent me a book called The Jewish Contribution to Civilisation by Cecil Roth. It gives a record of what the Jews have done to enrich the world? etc. Given the will, the Jew can refuse to be treated as the outcaste of the West, to be despised or

        They can add to their many contributions the surpassing contribution of non-violent action.

        Mahatma Ghandi November 20th 1938

  3. Thr Ghandi statements are regretably true, as an anticolonialist, he might have thought the Commonwealth was the greater evil,, like Turrtledove posits in his short story, he wouldn’t have fared nearly as well as Model.

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