The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann
“In the desk lay a manuscript translation of Hauptmann’s Michael Kramer, the stage directions of which were written in purple ink, and a little sheaf of papers held together by a brass pin.”
-“A Painful Case” (D 108)
During the summer of 1901, Joyce accompanied his father to the metropolis of the Irish midlands, Mullingar. Equipped with only his faulty knowledge of German and a passion for Hauptmann’s drama, Joyce translated Vor Sonnenaufgang (Before Sunrise) and possibly Michael Kramer during the trip. While the manuscript of the former survived, the latter has been lost, if Joyce did attempt a translation as he claims. Likewise, James Duffy translates Michael Kramer. However, Joyce does not describe the copy text used to make the translation, but he must have had one of the early German editions published by S. Fischer Verlag in Berlin, who also published the works of Thomas Mann.
Ellmann suggests that Joyce “could still feel himself a discoverer of these plays because neither of them had as yet been included in the Heinemann edition of Hauptmann’s works” (JJ 87). Yet, Hauptmann was fairly well known in Britain throughout the 1880s. The Bookman, for instance, ran a lengthy article on the playwright’s growing fame in 1894 (Marshall 143-45). Across the Atlantic, Literature commented that “[m]onographs and brochures on Gerhart Hauptmann continue to crowd the German book market. The poet, who at 35 has been canonized among the immortals, is apparently as inexhaustible a subject for the pen of the literary tyro abroad as even Friedrich Nietzsche himself” (“Notes” 158). The success of the naturalistic Vor Sonnenaufgang placed Hauptmann on the bookshelves of Europe and America, and his affinities with Ibsen’s writing drew the attention of the young Joyce.
Despite the international attention, Hauptmann had not reached the Irish stage, and Joyce saw the opportunity to bring these plays to the newly formed National Theatre. He sent his translations to W.B. Yeats, who turned it down on account of Joyce’s poor German and an unwillingness to stage anything other than native Irish works (Perkins 9-10).
Included here are an early edition of Hauptmann’s drama in German and the first English translation executed by Ludwig Lewisohn, which appeared in The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann.