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Wember translates Twain’s “Is Shakespeare Dead?”

New German translation of Twain's "Is Shakespeare Dead?" by Hanno Wember

Hanno Wember’s German translation of “Is Shakespeare Dead?” from My Autobiography by Mark Twain

Hanno Wember of Hamburg, Germany has announced that his translation of “Is Shakespeare Dead?” from My Autobiography by Mark Twain will be published this month as the 2015 yearbook project of the German, Shakespeare-authorship organization, Neue Shake-speare Gesellschaft (New Shakespeare Society). 

The 136-page translation is titled Ist Shakespeare tot? Aus meiner Autobiographieand will be available in hardcopy from publisher Stratosverlag and from Amazon.de at a price of EUR 9,90. No electronic version is available.

Wember also translated an essay titled “Mark Twain and ‘Shake-Speare’: Soul Mates” by James Norwood, PhD, to serve as a foreword. Wember said Norwood’s article — originally published in the SOF journal, Brief Chronicles VI — will provide German-language readers with a comprehensive background explanation of the position of “Is Shakespeare Dead?” within Twain’s work.

The impetus for translating Twain’s monograph came from Claus Bredenbrock, director of the award-winning film, Der Nackte Shakespeare (The Naked Shakespeare) that was  screened at the 2013 Shakespeare-authorship conference in Toronto. Wember said:

He [Bredenbrock] had met Keir Cutler and seen his performance [Mark Twain’s “Is Shakespeare Dead?” with Keir Cutler, PhD] — and partially [used it] in his film — and so became aware of Twain’s essay. So we decided to publish “Is Shakespeare Dead” in German as our [Neue Shake-speare Gesellschaft] yearbook right in time before 2016.]

We hope that the name Mark Twain will bring greater attention to the authorship question . . ..This is probably an advantage for Germany, as the book was not translated so far, and is unknown here, [even though] it was available in the English-speaking world.

Translating Mark Twain into German, however,  is not a task for the faint of heart. Wember said:

Twain’s humor and irony is so wonderful; and just this gave — always — the motivation to go on.

There were parts that were not easy to translate, but thanks to three proofreaders with very good English knowledge, a good solution could be found.

But a very few points we have not translated and keep the original, such as Captain Ealer’s soliloquy at the very beginning. There is no equivalent in German for the orders of a Mississippi-pilot!

All Shakespeare references are cited in German. The book also contains approximately 15 pages of detailed comments and explanations of unfamiliar terms and people, and information about the translation.

Wember also noted that film director Claus Bredenbrock will release a sequel to Der Nackte Shakespeare, titled “Ist Shakespeare tot?” – Ein Film von Claus Bredenbrock, frei nach Mark Twain (“Is Shakespeare dead?“ – A film from Claus Bredenbrock according to Mark Twain) that will be aired on the German/French TV ARTE in 2016.

Hanno Wember, Madison WI, 2014

Hanno Wember, Madison WI, 2014

Hanno Wember is a board member of the German Shakespeare-authorship organization, Neue Shake-speare Gesellschaft (New Shakespeare Society), and is a frequent attendee at authorship conferences in the US, although he will not attend this month’s SOF conference in Ashland, Oregon. Wember may be reached directly by emailing <mailto:wember@gmx.net>.

Is Shakespeare Dead? 100 years later

Interest in Mark Twain’s anti-Stratfordian views is sure to be aroused with the publication of the third and final volume of Twain’s uncensored autobiography next month, October 2015.

From the publisher of Autobiography of Mark Twain, the University of Chicago Press:

Created from March 1907 to December 1909, these dictations present Mark Twain at the end of his life: receiving an honorary degree from Oxford University; railing against Theodore Roosevelt; founding numerous clubs; incredulous at an exhibition of the Holy Grail; credulous about the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays; relaxing in Bermuda; observing (and investing in) new technologies. . . .

Fitfully published in fragments at intervals throughout the twentieth century, Autobiography of Mark Twain has now been critically reconstructed and made available as it was intended to be read. Fully annotated by the editors of the Mark Twain Project, the complete Autobiography emerges as a landmark publication in American literature.

Emphasis ours.

The untranslatable soliloquy of Capt. Ealer from “Is Shakespeare Dead” by Mark Twain: “What man dare, I dare! Approach thou what are you laying in the leads for? what a hell of an idea! like the rugged ease her off a little, ease her off! rugged Russian bear, the armed rhinoceros or the there she goes! meet her, meet her! didn’t you know she’d smell the reef if you crowded it like that? Hyrcan tiger; take any shape but that and my firm nerves she’ll be in the woods the first you know! stop the starboard! come ahead strong on the larboard! back the starboard! . . . Now then, you’re all right; come ahead on the starboard; straighten up and go ’long, never tremble: or be alive again, and dare me to the desert damnation can’t you keep away from that greasy water? pull her down! snatch her! snatch her baldheaded! with thy sword; if trembling I inhabit then, lay in the leads!—no, only the starboard one, leave the other alone, protest me the baby of a girl. Hence horrible shadow! eight bells—that watchman’s asleep again, I reckon, go down and call Brown yourself, unreal mockery, hence!” Courtesy Gutenburg Project

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