Conrad First The Joseph Conrad Periodical Archive

A Note on Conrad’s German Serializations

Frank Förster, University of Kiel

© Frank Förster. No part of this text may be reposted or republished without the permission of the author.


Starting in 1900, more than ten German newspapers and journals published serializations of Conrad stories and novels in translation. These can be divided by decade into two major groups of publications. The first phase of German translations can be set within the first years of the twentieth century, comprising short stories issued by publishing houses which specialized in offering series of translations within literary journals, or serialized paperback novels, a practice that was common at this time. The second phase ran simultaneously with the issuing of the first complete Conrad edition by the published house of S. Fischer between 1926 and 1939, but the two were not always connected. Translations of Conrad’s narratives were often printed by review journals with a particular profile within the spectrum of literature, science, arts, and politics; such journals began to disappear after 1933 with the rise of National Socialist cultural politics. The account that follows expands and clarifies information already made available by my overview of German publication history, Die literarische Rezeption Joseph Conrads im deutschsprachigen Raum (2007).

Translating foreign literature (1900–10)
The collected stories of the volume Tales of Unrest were translated into German by different translators relatively soon after the volume appeared in English in 1898. A number of German literary journals serialized these translations during the first decade of the twentieth century. Those journals were apt to publish many literary translations on the recommendation of literary agents, book award panels, and the like. At this time translations into German were often made en masse, sometimes rather carelessly. The relevant journals targeted a large audience, spanning a range between trash and modern prose literature.
The first Conrad story to be translated in German, “Karain—eine Erinnerung” (“Karain: A Remembrance”), was published by Die Romanwelt: Zeitschrift für die erzählende Literatur aller Völker (The World of the Novel: Journal for the Prose Literature of all Peoples) [LINK], a weekly literary journal specialized in the serialization of novels and longer stories from all countries, but also containing some reviews at times (see vol. 7, 1900, 1527-34, 1560-66, 1590-97, and 1623-28); it was published by the publishing house of Vita, Berlin. Die Romanwelt was merged into the monthly literary journal Aus fremden Zungen: Zeitschrift für die moderne Erzählungslitteratur des Auslandes (From Foreign Tongues: Journal for Modern Prose Fiction from Overseas) [LINK] which was published at that time by Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart. One issue contained not only a translated short story by Conrad, “Die Idioten” (“The Idiots”), but also the first appreciative article on Conrad in German (see vol. 12, no. 9, September 1902, 416–27 and 431f). The enthusiastic critic declared Conrad to have great talent and an original voice; Conrad’s Slavic origins were amply evident in his melancholic view of life and affection for bleak and tragic matters, revealing nothing specific English in his character. The story “The Idiots” was apparently chosen with an eye to Conrad having recently been granted a prestigious award by The Academy [LINK]. Another translation, “Ein Vorposten der Kultur” (“An Outpost of Progress”), was published by the fortnightly journal Vita’s Novellenschatz: moderne kurze Geschichten (Vita’s Treasure of Novellas: Modern Short Stories) [LINK], also issued by Vita of Berlin. The magazine was short-lived, lasting only two years, and focused on stories by contemporary foreign writers (see vol. 19, 3–49).
A third publishing house, Greimer & Pfeiffer of Stuttgart, offered the fourth narrative from Tales of Unrest in its journal Der Türmer: Monatsschrift für Gemüt und Geist (The Tower Warder: Monthly Journal for Mind and Intellect) [LINK], which issued “Die Lagune” (“The Lagoon”) in March 1903, unfortunately, without giving the name of the translator (see vol. 5, no. 6, 650–61). Founded in 1898, Der Türmer had a particular focus on naturalism and the domestic arts, and emphasized its German-Protestant profile. In subsequent years, the journal’s print circulation grew strongly. Later editors cultivated a conservative cultural vocabulary, and they were to offer no criticisms of National Socialist ideas in the 1930s.
The author and diplomat Rudolf Lindau (1829­−1910) was impressed by Tales of Unrest, purchased during a holiday in Italy where it had recently been published by Tauchnitz (see Förster 2011). He applied successfully for the translation rights of at least three tales, “The Return”, “The Lagoon”, and “An Outpost of Progress”, of which two had already been translated, as already noted. Aside from a book version of 1910 which presented all three German versions (Lindau 1910), at least two of the three stories had already been serialized: “Die Heimkehr” (“The Return”) in 1902 in Deutsche Rundschau (German Review) [LINK], a periodical which centred thematically on science and literature, and “Die Lagune” (“The Lagoon”) in the 1907 Whitsun issue of Vienna’s newspaper Neue Freie Presse [LINK].
Founded in 1874 by Julius Rodenberg (1831–1914), Deutsche Rundschau had long been a highly influential organ of German politics, literature, and culture. Rodenberg favoured the literature of the Goethe-era in terms of artistic values, and preferred representatives of poetic realism such as the novellas of Theodor Storm (1817–1888) and Gottfried Keller (1819–1888) (Syndram 1989; Haacke and Rodenberg 1950, 143). It saw its primary readership as academic readers or members of the educated middle-class known as Bildungsbürgertum, who had the status of cultural elite, and were willing to pay 24 marks for an annual subscription (Goeller 2011, 82f.). However, a conflict with Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898) in 1888 about the publication of the diary of Friedrich III (1831–1888) was to cost the journal its leading position as a review during the following decade. Even so, it remained a periodical of high standards in terms of scientific and cultural relevance, with well-respected scholars as its main contributors. Its traditional and elitist stance allowed the journal to recruit other distinguished authors of scientific, deliberative essays (see Kulhoff 1990, 188ff.). The journal’s serialization of novels (as opposed to short novellas) began with the work of Theodor Fontane (1819–1898), who was its most prominent author in the 1890s after the change in editorial strategy by chief editor Rodenberg. But the journal did not mirror the contemporary literary and artistic production, and it opposed the progressive movements in art history, literature, and social thought. Instead, it remained focussed upon historical and domestic topics matters with patriotic background, accepting only reluctantly texts by naturalist writers and dramatists (Goeller 2011, 99f.). Its publication of “The Return” in translation offers further evidence of these tendencies, with Conrad’s tale of the oppressiveness of metropolitan life and a marriage undergoing collapse apparently mirroring the magazine’s own opposition to fin de siècle social decadence.

Pre- and postprints of Fischer’s edition (1926–39)
There were two different publishing options available to S. Fischer when preparing the first complete edition of Conrad in German (1926–39). The complete edition could be accompanied by additional publications in journals or newspapers, which would focus on expanding the readership by reaching as many readers as possible for the newly translated edition, as had the official organ of S. Fischer Verlag, Die Neue Rundschau [LINK to linked Works Cited entry for CF article by Anthony Fothergill]. Alternatively, the translations could be published first and completely separate from the S. Fischer edition.
On the one hand, despite reprints in Die Neue Rundschau, the liberal newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung issued at least three novels concurrently to their respective book publication by S. Fischer: Die Rettung (The Rescue) (1931) [LINK]; Der Verdammte der Inseln (An Outcast of the Islands) (1934) [LINK]; and Spannung (Suspense) (1936) [LINK]. The newspaper had a democratic, non-Nazi profile and enjoyed the status of a nationally-read newspaper with a broad readership. It was famous for its feuilleton section, which published essays and articles by leading intellectuals of the day. In so doing, it counterposed modern literature to the direction taken by contemporary politics by proposing reviews and serializations of books by German authors (Harry Graf Kessler, Carl Zuckmayer, Heinrich Mann, Max Frisch, and many others) as well as from the French-speaking world (André Gide, Marcel Proust, or Jean Giono) and from English-speaking countries (James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, G. K. Chesterton, and Conrad) (Gillessen 1986, 67f.). In his detailed study, Anthony Fothergill shows how Conrad was promoted by the editor of the newspaper’s feuilleton, Benno Reifenberg (1892–1970), and his wife Maryla Mazurkiewicz Reifenberg (1892–1981) (Fothergill 2006, 121–32). The Frankfurter Zeitung published several appreciative articles and book reviews in tandem with Fischer’s complete edition, which it thereby helped to promote.
On the other hand, four stories were printed prior to, and separate from, the first complete edition by S. Fischer. These were not preprint in general, but Fischer was eager to secure the translation rights (and also the translator). Moreover¸ the two volumes of stories were not published by S. Fischer in their original format for another half-century, when a second complete edition appeared, ’Twixt Land and Sea and A Set of Six.

Figure 1

It is quite remarkable that German translations of the three stories from ’Twixt Land and Sea never appeared in a single volume in the first S. Fischer edition. Only Freya of the Seven Isles was included, but on its own, in April 1929, where it found success by being included among the fifty most beautiful books of the year, a distinction it owed in part to a fine cover picture (Figure 1) by Hans Meid (1883–1957). ’Twixt Land and Sea later appeared in 1978, together with “Typhoon”, as a volume in their second complete and newly translated edition. And yet all three stories had been released singly in three different places during the 1920s and 1930s beyond a publication by S. Fischer.
A translation of “Der geheime Teilhaber” (“The Secret Sharer”) by Elsie McCalman was published on two separate occasions. Although the story had been “officially” published in Die Neue Rundschau [LINK], the journal Der Kunstwart: Monatshefte für Kunst, Literatur und Leben (The Guardian of Arts: Monthly Journal of Art, Literature, and Life) also included it in a number five years later [LINK]. Der Kunstwart was a journal dedicated to literature, theatre, music, fine and applied arts. Drawings or photographs were inserted between the narratives, with which they had no particular connection. Thus Conrad’s story was adorned by photographs of buildings by the German architect Theodor Fischer (1862–1938), specifically, the Kunstgebäude arts building in Stuttgart and the Prinzregentenbrücke (today Luitpoldbrücke) bridge in Munich as well as by four drawings by the German expressionist Josef Scharl (1896–1954) portraying a naked woman (1932), a Van Gogh-like bunch of thistles (1931), a sleeping child (1930), and the heads of two elderly men (1931). Shortly afterwards Scharl was banned by the National Socialist cultural politics and his art branded degenerate; he emigrated to the United States in 1938.
One year before it was published as a single volume by S. Fischer, “Freya von den Sieben Inseln” (“Freya of the Seven Isles”) was serialized in nine issues of the illustrated weekly journal Reclams Universum: für deutsche Kultur im In- und Auslande (Reclam’s Universe: For German Culture Inland and Abroad) [LINK]. It had already been announced by an appreciating article by Alice Berend (1875–1938) in September 1927. The first two translated excerpts were then accompanied by short introductions by Jakob Wassermann (1873–1934) and Thomas Mann (1875–1955), who had each written a foreword for a volume of the S. Fischer complete edition: Mann had written his famous preface for The Secret Agent (1926), and Wassermann had introduced The Shadow-Line (1927). The magazine’s accompanying snapshots of locations around the world bear no apparent relation to Conrad’s story.
Finally, the third story was also published as a book by the Wegweiser-Verlag in Berlin-Charlottenburg, a publishing house run by the book club Volksverband der Bücherfreunde (Public Organization of Booklovers). Its literary editor Hugo Bieber (1883–1950), a Conrad enthusiast, had warmly praised the translations of the S. Fischer edition. Nevertheless, it would appear that he secured the translation rights for A Smile of Fortune; a German translation, “Ein Lächeln des Glücks,” appeared in 1930.
As for A Set of Six, the 1914 translation of “Gaspar Ruiz” by Ernst W. Freißler (1884–1937) was published in the journal Atlantis: Länder, Völker, Reisen (Atlantis: Countries, Peoples, Journeys). Conrad’s story was included in the magazine’s first volume in 1929 [LINK]. The journal was published by Atlantis Verlag, whose publishing house moved from Berlin (1929–44) to Zurich (1944–50) and then to Freiburg i.B. (1950–64). The monthly issues were always comprehensively illustrated, centring broadly on arts, culture, travel, research, and history. When Freißler became foreign literatures editor at S. Fischer Verlag in 1930, he brought “his” translations with him. His translation of “Gaspar Ruiz” was published as a volume in the series S. Fischer Bücherei (the S. Fischer Library) separately from the complete edition in 1934; Heart of Darkness was published in this small series a year earlier.
“Prinz Roman” (“Prince Roman”) was published in Corona: Zweimonatsschrift, an illustrated bi-monthly, in March 1935 [LINK], three years before the S. Fischer edition of Tales of Hearsay. It was translated by the German author Hans Reisiger (1884–1968). Corona was financed by the Swiss Martin Bodmer, a bibliophile collector and keen patron of arts and literature now famous for having created the Bodmer Library in Cologny, Switzerland. Bodmer claimed that his library represented a complete copy of the world’s literature, not merely parts of it. In an attempt to attract intellectually demanding readers, he founded the journal Corona as a successor to Neue Deutsche Beiträge, a journal edited by the Austrian writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874–1929) but abandoned in 1927.
Corona, which ran from 1930 to 1943, continued the ambition of Neue Deutsche Beiträge: to preserve and represent European intellectual life. Another of its models was Die Neue Rundschau, but without being bound to a single publishing house (S. Fischer) and its corresponding production practices and author lists. Bodmer also found inspiration in the journals of other European nations, such as Commerce and Nouvelle Revue Française (France) [LINK], The Criterion (England), La Critica and Il Convegno (Italy), and Revista de Occidente (Spain) [LINK]. An exquisitely crafted layout, he felt, should go hand in hand with an exquisite content. This meant a selection of literature that ranged from Ancient (e.g. Virgil) up to modern times—poetry, theatre, art-history, literary remains, autographs and at least one prose text per issue (a novella or an abstract of a novel)—but that did not pay homage to recent literary movements. Although journal’s contents changed with the accession of the National Socialists in 1933, publishing a higher percentage of texts originally in German, Bodmer persisted in remaining loyal to the journal’s editorial programme by offering a range of foreign literature. Nonetheless, the intended Gleichschaltung (political co-ordination) was made difficult for the German government by the fact that the journal was financed by a Swiss patron (see Rall 1972).
Corona published Conrad’s short story “Prince Roman” in March 1935 alongside two poetical texts, Robert Browning’s “Prospice” and some odes by Luis de León, as well as two historical-philosophical papers, one on Johannes Kepler by historian of astronomy Max Caspar, and another on Macchiavelli by German historian Karl Alexander von Müller (1882–1964), who was sympathetic towards National socialist ideology. Reisiger’s translation was used for the 1938 volume of Tales of Hearsay as part of S. Fischer’s complete Conrad edition; for this reason the other three stories in this volume were translated by Richard Kraushaar.
The journal Weltstimmen: Weltbücher in Umrissen (Voices of the World: Books of the World in Outline) specialized in presenting contemporary literature in survey format: abstracts of novels, biographies of authors with accompanying portraits, various illustrations, and reviews. A seven-page abstract of The Nigger of the Narcissus by author, journalist, theatre critic, and translator of French classics Paul Wiegler (1878–1949), was published in December 1928 (vol. 2, no. 10, pp. 383-389) [LINK], just a year and a half after the release of the translated edition by S. Fischer in June 1927. It was accompanied by a short biography and a portrait of Conrad together with two illustrations.

After 1945
A translated excerpt of roughly one page from the “Familiar Preface” of A Personal Record was published in 1965 by the journal Welt und Wort: Literarische Monatsschrift (World and Word: Monthly Literary Journal) (vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 155f.) [LINK]. A translation of this A Personal Record formed part of S. Fischer’s second complete edition, which also appeared in 1965 with the German title Über mich selbst (About Myself). Conrad’s autobiography was titled Lebenserinnerungen (Memoirs) when it appeared in 1928 in its first complete edition by S. Fischer. The journal Welt und Wort had three sections per issue: essays on topics from the literary and publishing sphere (a long essay on Conrad had appeared in one of the journal’s first issues: “Wesen und Weltbild Joseph Conrads” (Character and World View of Joseph Conrad) by Kurt Pfister, vol. 1, no. 2, July 1946, pp. 37-43), followed by extracts from new publications such as those already mentioned, and numerous reviews of new releases. An editorial comment on the journal’s extract from A Personal Record reads:

As Conrad’s life was colourful and adventurous, this account reads like one of his novels; most notably, it relates what is essential about Joseph Conrad the man who was continually preoccupied with three topics: the (Russian) home, seafaring, and writing.1

These simple words invited German readers to explore Conrad’s universe by means of S. Fischer’s second complete edition, which had begun to appear five years earlier, A Personal Record forming its sixth volume, and finally concluding with its twentieth volume in 1984.



1. “Da Conrads Leben farbig und abenteuerlich verlief, liest sich dieser Bericht wie einer seiner Romane, vor allem aber sagt er Wesentliches aus über den Menschen Joseph Conrad, den immer wieder drei große Themen beschäftigt haben: die (russische) Heimat, die Seefahrt und die Schriftstellerei.” (My translation.)


Works Cited

Förster, Frank. 2007. Die literarische Rezeption Joseph Conrads im deutschsprachigen Raum. Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag.

-----. 2011. “Conrad: The First German Translations.” The Conradian 36.1 (Spring): 94–97.

Fothergill, Anthony. 2006. Secret Sharers: Joseph Conrad’s Cultural Reception in Germany. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Gillessen, Günther. 1986. Auf verlorenem Posten: Die Frankfurter Zeitung im Dritten Reich. Berlin: Siedler.

Goeller, Margot. 2011. “Hüter der Kultur: Bildungsbürgerlichkeit in den Kulturzeitschriften Deutsche Rundschau und Neue Rundschau (1890–1914).” Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Haacke, Wilmont. 1950. “Julius Rodenberg und die Deutsche Rundschau: Eine Studie zur Publizistik des deutschen Liberalismus (1870 - 1918).” Heidelberg: Vowinckel.

Kulhoff, Birgit. 1990. “Bürgerliche Selbstbehauptung im Spiegel der Kunst: Untersuchungen zur Kulturpublizistik der Rundschauzeitschriften im Kaiserreich (1871–1914).” Bochum: Brockmeyer.

Lindau, Rudolf. 1910. Eine Nachlese ; Eigenes u. Fremdes von Rudolf Lindau. Berlin:Fleischel.

Rall, Marlene. 1972. “Die Zweimonatsschrift Corona 1930–1943: Versuch einer Monographie.” Unpublished dissertation, University of Tübingen.

Syndram, Karl U. 1989. “Kulturpublizistik und nationales Selbstverständnis: Untersuchungen zur Kunst- und Kulturpolitik in den Rundschauzeitschriften des Deutschen Kaiserreiches (1871–1914).” Berlin: Gebr. Mann.


Frank Förster is an independent researcher in Joseph Conrad studies and library and information science, currently resident in Kiel, Germany. He is the author of Die literarische Rezeption Joseph Conrads im deutschsprachigen Raum (2nd edn., 2007), an account of the German publication history of Joseph Conrad.

Back to the start of the essay.