…the gnawing of the mice

by Chris Bertram on February 25, 2004

I’ve been rereading parts of the “German Ideology”:http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/index.htm , the text where Marx and Engels really start to get historical materialism straightened out. And very fine and interesting it is too. But my purpose in this post isn’t to discuss the content of a work which Marx and Engels did not publish but “abandoned … to the gnawing criticism of the mice”, but to reproduce (below the fold for bandwidth reasons) a page of the original MS which appears in facsimile in volume 5 of the MECW. What readers get, thanks to the intervention of subsequent editors, as a piece of elegant if vituperative prose, appears in the original in the form of a half-crossed out scrawl . The scrawl only occupied about half the page, the rest of which is filled with jottings, notes and many many doodled heads (probably by Engels). Other facsmile pages are in an even worse condition with great chunks consumed by the rodents. [I now discover that the page I’ve photographed and a few others besides are on the “marxists.org”:http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/index.htm website anyway, never mind ….]


The page displayed is from the Feuerbach part of the MS, and the facsimile is at MECW 5 facing p. 35.


Below I’ve enlarged a detail of Engels’s heads.



Kieran Healy 02.25.04 at 12:02 pm

Wasn’t it David Riazanov, the Russian translator of the original Gesamtausgabe who said you had to translate Marx twice — once from German into whatever language you wanted, but before that from Marx’s appalling handwriting into German. And even beyond that, much of Marx and Engels’ correspondence is written in a weird joky French-English-German hybrid, filled with portmanteau words and whimsical in-jokes.


Mike 02.25.04 at 5:19 pm

Someone should have started the Cartoonist International, instead.


Chirag Kasbekar 02.25.04 at 7:27 pm

That actually looks like a lot of my notebooks.

But mine are better.


Natalie Solent 02.27.04 at 9:46 am

Beautiful! No irony here, I really find this calligraphic swirl of heads-within-heads to be a thing of beauty. And I discover I have more in common with Engels than I thought: I always doodle heads facing to the left as well.

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