Today, 5 May 2018, is the 200th anniversary of birth of the great German-British sociologist Karl Marx. British? Yes, Marx became stateless and he lived the most productive years of his life in London, where he's buried. I used to walk past his home in the Soho district every day on my way to work, and do my research as he did in the reading room of the British Museum up the road, Moreover his thinking was influenced by what he observed of British commerce and industry in Manchester, where his collaborator and benefactor Friedrich/Frederick Engels ran a successful business, and they would drink together at the Red Dragon pub in nearby Salford.
What makes Marx worth reading now is not his Panglossian prognoses, but his still resonant diagnoses…"The bourgeoisie,” Marx and Engels wrote, beautifully, “has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self- interest, than callous ‘cash payment’. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation.”I had thoughts like these while listening to Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook testimony to the US Congress las week.
Marx wrote mostly in his first language, German. His ideas and his influence couldn't have spread as far and as fast as they did without the help of his translators, so it's fitting to draw attention to the latter on this occasion. The early ones were NPIT Marxist acolytes whom Marx and Engels sought out or who did it on their own initiative. There's a tribute to a few of them in a short paper on the academia.edu web page that's the companion to this blog (see below).
And the labour of translating Marx continues, now professionalised, and is probably never-ending. The centre of activity has shifted from Russia, where it was in Soviet days, to China. At the Central Bureau of Compilation and Translation in Beijing, Gu Jinping, a highly professional and highly specialised translator now aged 85, continues to work with his colleagues on translations of Marx and Marxism.
Stuart Jeffries. Two centuries on, Karl Marx feels more revolutionary than ever. Guardian Unlimited, 5 May 2018.
Christopher Hooton. Pub where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels 'discussed communist revolution' shuts down amid redevelopment. The Independent, 8 August 2017.
Brian Harris. Marx's earliest English translators. Academia.edu, 2010-2017. To retrieve it, click [here].
Xinhua. China focus: for tranlators, Marxist works a lifetime labor of love. Xinhuanet, 8 May 2018. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-05/03/c_137154149.htm.