New German Edition of Remote People Reviewed

A review of the 2018 German edition of Waugh’s Remote People is published in this month’s online issue of literaturkritik.de. The German title is Expeditionen eines englischen Gentleman, literally “Expeditions of an English Gentleman”. This review  is by Sylvia Heudecker who begins with with a summary of the book and then offers a few comments on the translation by Matthias Fienbork. She goes on to provide an explanation of how this second German edition by Diogenes Verlag in Zurich came to have a different title from the English and original German edition:

Even before getting into the text, the decision for the German translation [to be retitled] is itself of some interest. The current edition of Diogenes takes as its title the subtitle of the [earlier German edition also in Fienbork’s translation].  The limited first edition of Eichborn-Verlag was published in German in 2007 under the title  Strange Peoples, Strange Mores – expeditions of a British gentleman [Befremdliche Völker, seltsame Sitten – Expeditionen eines britischen Gentleman] and thus focused mainly on the indigenous people of Abyssinia and the vast, often unexplored continent traveled by Waugh. What is described is far away: thousands of kilometers, deep inside the black continent. And although the achievements of civilization – such as the railway, European architecture or the Coronation Carriage of Wilhelm II – have already made it there, obviously the spirit and essence of European civilization are missing and make the observations seem like a perverted variant of the absurd wonderland of Lewis Carroll. The cautious approach to the choice of the [new] title is understandable: The renunciation of the title Strange people, strange customs avoids those responsible being criticized from the outset of political incorrectness. But on the other hand, the title of the new release, Expeditions of an English gentleman, misleads the reader, because it suppresses an essential aspect [of the book]. Waugh’s observations reveal more than just the traditional chauvinist attitude of an imperial Briton who encounters backward tribes in remote regions of Africa. Far beyond the borders of his motherland, Waugh looks very closely at those people (“people”) of the West who have settled “far” in their home country (“remote”) in Africa. [Jenseits der Grenzen seines Mutterlandes sieht Waugh mit scharfem Blick sehr genau auch auf jene Menschen („people“) des Westens, die sich „fern“ ihrer Heimat („remote“) in Afrika niedergelassen haben.] Among them are [individuals living] ludicrous, dumb, quirky, self-righteous, egocentric and even failed existences.Thus, the distance not only proves to be a miraculous place of adventure, but also an observation point for how dubious the success of such cultural exporters must remain because they themselves are doubtful.

Translation by Google with a few edits. The explanation may well make more sense in the German original, but the translation gives some idea of the motivations for the title change.

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