Goethe's Faust

Translations

In 1821, a partial English verse translation of Faust (Part One) was published anonymously by the London publisher Thomas Boosey and Sons, with illustrations by the German engraver Moritz Retzsch. This translation was attributed to the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge by Frederick Burwick[5] and James C. McKusick[6] in their 2007 Oxford University Press edition, Faustus: From the German of Goethe, Translated by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.[7] In a letter dated 4 September 1820, Goethe wrote to his son August that Coleridge was translating Faust.[8] However, this attribution is controversial: Roger Paulin, William St. Clair, and Elinor Shaffer provide a lengthy rebuttal to Burwick and McKusick, offering evidence including Coleridge's repeated denials that he had ever translated Faustus and arguing that Goethe's letter to his son was based on misinformation from a third party [9] Coleridge's fellow Romantic Percy Bysshe Shelley produced admired[10] fragments of a translation first publishing Part One Scene II in The Liberal magazine in 1822, with "Scene I" (in the original, the "Prologue in Heaven") being published in the first edition of his Posthumous Poems by Mary Shelley in 1824.[11]

In 1828, at the age of twenty, Gérard de Nerval published a French translation of Goethe's Faust, which given his young age and the complexity of the text is regarded as a remarkable feat, all the more so considering the praise it received from the German author himself.

In 1870–71, Bayard Taylor published an English translation in the original metres.

In 1887 the Irish dramatist William Gorman Wills loosely adapted the first part of Faust for a production starring Henry Irving as Mephistopheles at the Lyceum Theatre, London.

Calvin Thomas published translations of Part 1 in 1892 and Part 2 in 1897.

Philosopher Walter Kaufmann was also known for an English translation of Faust, presenting Part One in its entirety, with selections from Part Two, and omitted scenes extensively summarized. Kaufmann's version preserves Goethe's metres and rhyme schemes, but objected to translating all of Part Two into English, believing that "To let Goethe speak English is one thing; to transpose into English his attempt to imitate Greek poetry in German is another."[10]

In August 1950, Boris Pasternak's Russian language translation of the first part led him to be attacked in the Soviet literary journal Novy Mir. The attack read in part,

... the translator clearly distorts Goethe's ideas... in order to defend the reactionary theory of 'pure art' ... he introduces an aesthetic and individualist flavor into the text... attributes a reactionary idea to Goethe... distorts the social and philosophical meaning...[12]

In response, Pasternak wrote to the exiled daughter of Marina Tsvetayeva,

There has been much concern over an article in Novy Mir denouncing my Faust on the grounds that the gods, angels, witches, spirits, the madness of poor Gretchen, and everything 'irrational' has been rendered much too well, while Goethe's 'progressive' ideas (what are they?) have been glossed over. But I have a contract to do the second part as well! I don't know how it will all end. Fortunately, it seems that the article won't have any practical effect.[12]


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