Marxism and Translation

One of the aspects of this book which doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it deserves relates to the general question of translation. If we are to talk about the ‘classics’ of Marxism it appears to be that we often forget that, for a reader of English, practically in their entirety we are not reading what the original author wrote, but what the translator(s) of that author wrote, i.e. what the translator thought the author wrote and how that could be best expressed in English (or any other target language). One of the reasons Lih’s book is as long as it is is because of the fact that he (apparently) goes into in some depth the question of how What Is To Be Done? has been translated, discusses Lenin’s original Russian terminology and includes is own retranslation of Lenin. Not having read Lih’s book (and given its ridiculous price I doubt I ever will be able to either) I am unable to judge his arguments, but the central point remains that, when we discuss, say, Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? in English, we are not discussing Lenin’s text but someone (who?) else’s translation of that text, and that translation is never going to be semantically or formally identical to, and even may be semantically and formally quite different from, the original. For the more exegetical among us, who are over fond of quoting the ‘classics’ and splitting terminological hairs in them, this is something worth bearing in mind.

More (pdf: 91 KB): Marxism and Translation


One thought on “Marxism and Translation

  1. “ridiculous price”
    Just in case you still aren’t aware that Library Genesis has practically any book (and journal articles) available as free one click downloads

    For journal articles get the doi from publisher website and search under “Scientific Articles” instead of the default “LibGen (Sci-Tech).

    eg Google Scholar has LOTS on “Lars Lih”
    First item is the book you cannot afford. This has link for 160 citations to it:,5&hl=en

    The first six items are books which you can probably get in a standard LiGen search.

    Next is the first journal article in that list of 160 citations:
    Racism and the sociological imagination
    B Carter, S Virdee – The British journal of sociology, 2008 – Wiley Online Library
    The article title is itself a link to the publisher Wiley Online:
    The URL itsself includes the “doi” which is displayed as usual at the actual page:

    Racism and the sociological imagination

    First published: 25 November 2008Full publication history
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-4446.2008.00214.x View/save citation
    Cited by (CrossRef): 9 articles Check for updates

    Then from “Scientific Articles” search at Library Genesis for the doi, which is:
    we get:
    Which provides links to freely download the article (which I have no interest in).

    Usually you can get the doi for article you see any citation of via ordinary author/title google search listing the publisher’s page for it in first few items found by google.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s