For my father, Joseph Witriol, literary translation was more than a means to supplement his teacher’s salary. It was – perhaps primarily – something he enjoyed doing. He also, I believe, wanted to have a permanent literary memorial. He claimed that he did not have sufficient talent to write a book, but at least articles and reviews – and more so published book translations – would be his legacy.
It seems dad may have set the ball rolling. He had written to the biographer in 1954 asking to be appointed the sole authorised translator –
and had a reply, in German, from Tel Aviv a week later –
This was the start of a relatively complex process involving both the technical and artistic aspects of translation as well as what my father in one letter to Max Brod called the “sordid financial” details of securing a contract. But at least the English translation was published and in time for the centenary and without the involvement of middlemen.
However, Joseph Witriol’s attempts to publish Poor Cicero failed. Certainly not for want of trying over many years. The same laborious process of writing to Max Brod in Israel with detailed textual queries –
The same negotiations, but now more convoluted as literary agents were involved. The first of whom was also working around this time on foreign rights for a well-known British writer –
The agent would have had the completed typescript, in three bound parts and running to about 100 000 words, to lug around or post –
And would have been aware, if not had sight of, this publisher’s copy of the German original with its tipped-in and apparently amended rights statement –
Unlike that first agent, who acted as my father’s agent for several years, some just gave suggestions –
while others seemed more involved and, shall we say, gung-ho about the project –
till the final attempt – based on the papers I have – a few years later, sent to a well-known agent –
I believe a colleague from Hasmonean, E J Frank, by then retired in Israel, was also involved in some way – if only as a “courier” of the typescript.
So, more than fifty years after my father translated Armer Cicero, if you want to be able to read Max Brod’s Roman Roman (sorry) in English, do let me know…