Monday, October 18, 2010


Dear PEN, and PEN translation committee,as a former member of the executive committee and of the translation committee these many years ago, I wanted to call your attention to what appears to be a theft of my work by the Canadian Stage and their new director Matthew Joycelin.
My below letter to the Canadian reviewer Robert Cushman explains the situation in sufficient detail.

This especially egregious instance of theft, however, reminded me of a situation that prevails in the field translation and adaptations of foreign dramatic works and where I am by no means the exclusive victim. For example Anne Cattaneo of Lincoln Center, is bereft of German, which however, does not keep her from appropriating Carl Weber’s translation of Botho Straus’ BIG AND LITTLE at Lincoln Center, and even having the gall of having it published under her name in
Margaret Herzfeld-Sander’s German Drama Contemporary II, Continuum Books.

That is of the work of someone who was the head both of the NYU and then the Stanford Directing Program, and who himself turns out to have an extremely weak ego when it comes to the matter of attribution. In other words: how en flagranti can you be!

Let me briefly recount other instances where the like has happened to me, and where vanity played a greater role than did financial gain. Back on the West Coast in 1986 there is a performance of my translation of Peter Handke’s THEY ARE DYING OUT [the final stage version of which I developed together with Carl Weber in 1979 for its Yale Drama School premiere, but which the German director
of this production is unaware of.] I actually have received my royalties, from Verlag der Autoren, and so am utterly surprised to see the name of the German director, who barely has English, as the translator. He tell me “that [i.e. translating] is something different.” I do not ask him why I then received my royalties. The fellow who says he derives form the group in Frankfurt around the Theater am Turm group which did the premiere of Handke’s PUBLIC INSULT in the late 60, then proceeds to do a production of a Heiner Mueller play, one of the ones whose translation I looked over for Carl Weber – and lo and behold, at the last moment, under my very eyes, affixes his own name to it as the translator. At which point, I make it a point to publicize what is transpiring.

Also while in L.A. what if there is not a performance of Franz Xaver Kroet’s MICHI’S BLOOD… in a translation by one Denise Gordon. I know Denise, while working with Jack Gelber on a producton of my translation of Kroetz’s FARMYARD at Yale in the early 70s, I gave copy of my translation of MICHI’S BLOOD to her, a graduate directing student, to work with actors, and she suggested a few line changes, and being who I was then gave her credit as co-translator when I published FARMYARD AND OTHER PLAYS as publisher of Urizen Book. Denise is bereft of German. I contact the director of the play in Los Angeles, and matters are straightened out. I could go at great length on the matter of a Mr. Roger Downey here in Seattle who once claimed to Verlag der Autoren that he had gotten exlusive rights to translate Heiner Mueller’s  QUARTET, an outright lie that is but the tip of this iceberg.

So it is my guess there is a lot more of this going on, all around the English language theater.
Michael Roloff


Dear Mr. Cushmann,
I have read with interest your and the other reviews that the Toronto Performance of Dorst/ Unamuno's FERNANDO KRAPP
has elicited among Canadian reviewers. If Mr. Joycelin think the play has anything even remotely to do with theater of the
absurd he appears to have misread as well as misrepresented it. The story dates to 1920, at which point super successful
capitalists such as Fernando could exercise the "droit de seigneur" of the now exhausted aristocracy. It is a society in a
stage of transition, also sexually. Julia would like to be her master's whore, who however puts her on a pedestal
while he slakes those desires with the servants. Power! Sex! Property! their inter-play are the matters that the play present to be
entertained by the audience. The psychiatrists come in where a vibrator would be more useful, Freud was still news
in 1920. Thus the play is a kind of tragedy, Fernando's.

However, I have a question for you. As the play's first translator the Canadian Stage asked me for it in December
of last year, but then found a copy of the book [German Drama Contemporary, Carl Weber, editor.
Johns Hopkins University Press ] in Toronto. Mr. Joycelin does not know German,
however in three months - between December and March of this year he appear to have learned German well
enough to translate the play, present it to the agent for the rights, Suhrkamp Verlag, for approval.  I heard
from someone at Canadian Stage that my translation was merely made adaptable for British/ Canadian usage.
Canadian Stage have refused to send me a copy of "their" version, which, surprisingly, uses my own
actually incorrect title.  A few of the reviews find the translation hiccuppy, your take on it makes it
seem much more the sort of thing I arrived it. Anyhow, compare what you can read in the book
with what you saw. The play premiered here in Seattle at the AHA theater in 1996, it had its first reading
at Arne Zaslove's BATHHOUSE theater, the translation was vetted by my then old time collaborator
Carl Weber, we made a single change for the performance here; and approved by Suhrkamp who'
alerted Canadian Stage not to use my translation. After my signature I append your fine review
for those who have not seen it.
Very truly yours,

 "Chicquita abracas a todos"


No comments:

Post a Comment

this blog is moderated by

Powered By Blogger

Search This Blog

About Me

My photo
seattle, Washington, United States
MICHAEL ROLOFF exMember Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website


Blog Archive