Sunday, February 22, 2009

Das Buch

I'm always finding new things online. It's not that the book itself is new. In fact, it's been around for exactly one hundred years. What's new is that significant portions of it are now available online in English translation.

'The Book of the Germans in America' was published in 1909. It contains more than nine hundred pages and, starting around page 368 or so, the latter portion of the book is about particular Germans who either emigrated to America or spent enough time in America to have written and published poems regarded as a literary contribution to the German-American experience.

Things changed rapidly in the following decade, largely due to American participation in WWI, when laws took hold requiring schools in German-American communities to use English as their primary language of instruction. Consequently, the book pictured above never really found a place in the public school curriculum.

If you open the text to page 368 by clicking on this link you'll see the first four pages of a fifty page essay called 'German Poetry in the United States' written by a woman named L.L. Leser of Philadelphia, but you won't actually see that essay until after you've scrolled past the photo of Konrad Krez. The original text is all in German. The online edition includes page by page translations of much of the text. Short biographies are provided for a few dozen of the more notable immigrant poets, along with representative samples of their work. The placement of the photo of Krez and the caption beneath it make a fairly compelling case for Konrad Krez as a leading light of German poetry in the United States at that time.

I mention the book here because I've recently translated three Krez poems. My translations are available exclusively on this blog. Links to the archived posts of my translations can be found at AATIA, the Austin Area Translators and Interpreters Association, in my blogroll or at this link.

The poems I translated were written during or shortly after the Civil War and published in 1875. They describe New Orleans before the fall of Mobile in 1865, Brazos Santiago at the mouth of the Rio Grande prior to the march on Brownsville in August, 1865, and the Union occupation of Little Rock from August, 1863, until the end of January, 1865. My great great grandfather died serving in the regiment Krez commanded, the 27th Wisconsin, a fact that I discovered researching my family history online in the past five years.


S. Thomas Summers said...

Very interesting. I envy your ability to translate. Different language offer different nuiances. Thatnks again.

Craig said...


Thanks for your comment. This post is nearly three years old. I notice that the the person who translated the essay and many of the poems included in Das Buch has now added to their archive a translation of church records for immigrant arrivals between 1838 and 1854. My ancestors arrived in '55 and '56, shortly after Castle Garden in New York opened as the forerunner to Ellis Island. I learned my German in school so I'm far from fluent, but I can decipher when I get motivated.