- Translating the Colli-Montinari Kritische Studienausgabe
This brief essay addresses the current state of the Stanford University Press translation of the Colli-Montinari Kritische Studienausgabe as The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche and describes some of the particular issues that confront translating a "critical edition" of this sort. As some readers may know, Keith Ansell Pearson and I have taken over the general editorship of this translation project, which has languished since the death of Ernst Behler in 1997. Most readers probably also know very little about what has been happening since the last volume, Unpublished Writings from the Period of Unfashionable Observations, was published in 1999.1 In what follows, I shall briefly review the history of the translation project, discuss some of the changes I have made to the original project as designed by Behler, let you know what is happening now, and then detail some translation issues that Ansell Pearson and I have confronted.
Parts of the history are commonly known, but much may be quite surprising to some. One of the peculiar features of this particular project is its complicated copyright arrangement, and this bears significantly on aspects of the future of portions of the project. Contrary to what is widely believed, the copyright for the Colli-Montinari edition is not owned by Walter de Gruyter. The original copyright for the edition prepared by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, which they began in Florence in 1958, was owned by the small Italian publishing house Adelphi Edizioni. Colli and Montinari's original plan was to publish an Italian translation of Nietzsche's complete works, working primarily from the nineteen-volume Grossoktavausgabe, published in Leipzig from 1894 to 1926, and correcting it when necessary by comparing it with the other available German translations. As they compared the available German texts of the Nachlass, however, the discrepancies between editions led them to doubt the reliability of the texts they had at their disposal in Florence, and, as Montinari puts it, a "troubled scholarly conscience" advised him to travel to the Goethe-Schiller Archiv in Weimar to examine the actual manuscripts, which he did for the first time in April 1961.2 After Montinari returned to Florence, he and Colli came to the conclusion that what was needed was a translation in chronological order of [End Page 64] the complete Nachlass, and it was at that point in time that the idea of a critical edition first came to light. This new project was bigger than the small Adelphi press could handle, however, and it asked the French publisher Éditions Gallimard for assistance. In September 1962, Adelphi and Gallimard came to an agreement, with Adelphi granting Gallimard the French-language rights and a share of control of other rights. Montinari had been trying since 1961 to get a German publisher to agree to publish a German edition, but this did not happen until after two events in 1964: the publication of the first Italian translations by Adelphi and the presentation by Colli and Montinari of a paper titled "Etat des textes de Nietzsche" at the Colloquium on Nietzsche organized by Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze at Royaumont.3 At the meeting at Royaumont, Colli and Montinari met and spoke about their project with Karl Löwith, who returned to Germany and in February 1965 persuaded Heinz Wenzel, then the managing editor of the humanities section at Walter de Gruyter, to acquire the rights from Adelphi and Gallimard to publish the Colli-Montinari edition in its original language. The first German volumes began appearing in 1967, and the project is not yet complete.4
Let me emphasize that despite the fact that the original text was in German, de Gruyter licensed the German rights from Adelphi and Gallimard. As it is an international company, de Gruyter initially purchased both German and English rights and planned to issue an English edition at the same time that it acquired the German rights. But, like Adelphi earlier, it got cold feet and had financial concerns about the English-language edition. Ernst Behler and Stanford University Press first approached Adelphi/Gallimard in the early 1980s to request English rights, but they were...