In 1923, Vincenz Hundhausen, a German lawyer and notary with literary ambitions, arrived in the Chinese capital to settle the estate of a fellow countryman. This stay grew into a lifelong intimate relationship with China, where Hundhausen lived and worked, with only one brief interruption, for thirty-one years.
Looking back in 1946, he wrote that he had made the decision not to return to Germany soon after he first arrived in Peking because he had already foreseen the political developments to come. Eight years later, in 1954, he was expelled by the Chinese government, and he died the following year in his home town of Grevenbroich, aged seventy-seven.
This extraordinary German expatriate, little known by non-sinologists, has now been given his long-deserved place of honor thanks to Hartmut Walravens' valuable compilation of biobibliographical material—a Sisyphean task of almost thirty years. Two further self-contained volumes will follow. One of these will be devoted to Hundhausen's previously unpublished German renderings of Chinese poetry, as well as reviews of his publications and performances by the "Pekinger Bühnenspiele," the German-language theater company that he initiated. The other volume will provide access to the correspondence traced to date, and offer information about Hundhausen's Peking environment. The set of three volumes will for the first time permit an approximate reconstruction of the many-faceted life of Vincenz Hundhausen, and will occupy a prominent place among publications about the many German nationals resident in China.
The editor is right to point out in his concise preface the parallels with the widely known translator Fritz Kuhn, whose sizable legacy in Germany was made available by his executor. In Hundhausen's case, however, there is no significant estate in Germany, and only fragments of what exists have been published. The voluminous rendering of Bai Juyi, which he sent to the Zürich publisher Arche, has been lost without a trace.
In the present volume, the brief preface by the editor is followed by the body of the text in two sections. The first part (about one third of the book) contains tributes to Hundhausen and reminiscences, written for birthdays or as obituaries, looking at his life and work in China from a wide variety of perspectives. Part 2 contains a chronological bibliography, which is further subdivided: (A) texts authored by Hundhausen; (B) renderings from the Chinese (I use this term for [End Page 241] the German Nachdichtungen, which is applied to loose translations that aspire to a poetic quality of their own; (C) texts edited by Hundhausen; (D) publications printed or published by Hundhausen; (E) broadsheets and advertising material (although these could equally well have been included under C); (F) traced unpublished texts; (G) traced correspondence; (H) literature about Hundhausen; (I) advertisements by the Peking publishing company; (J) texts considered attributable to Hundhausen; (K) an index of names; (L) an index of titles; and (M) the finding list for the Chinese originals of texts rendered by Hundhausen, painstakingly compiled by Lutz Bieg. Subdivisions (K), (L), and (M) might have been better placed in a separate appendix. One rather irritating detail is the fact that the entries found in the index are not always identical to the words used in the main text. Thus the index lists "Bibliographie" under (K) and (L), whereas the heading under (L) uses the synonym "Schriftenverzeichnis." This inconsistency is out of keeping with the conscientious attention to detail apparent everywhere else in this volume and rather spoils the overall impression of clarity.
The irritations, however, are minor ones. The life of Hundhausen alone is of interest in a variety of ways, and it is worth summarizing some of the aspects that emerge from the biographical accounts.
All twenty-three texts emphasize Vincenz Hundhausen's extraordinary literary talent and his sublime use of language. Most of them also mention the wide range...