In response to:
Destiny in Any Case from the December 3, 1998 issue
To the Editors:
In his review of Victor Klemperer’s diaries [“Destiny in Any Case,” NYR, December 3, 1998], Gordon Craig says of Klemperer’s 1947 book LTI that it was soon “forgotten by all but specialists.” This may have been true in West Germany, but it was emphatically not the case in East Germany. When I moved to Berlin in 1987, Klemperer’s brilliant analysis of Nazi linguistic manipulation was being published in East Germany, and nearly everyone I met in the East had it on his or her bookshelf. It had gained a sort of cult status, but for subversive reasons: readers now saw Klemperer’s critique as applying not only to Nazi fascism, but also to East German communism.
World Policy Journal
New School for Social Research
New York City
To the Editors:
In his review of I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years by Victor Klemperer [NYR, December 3, 1998], Gordon A. Craig begins by drawing your readers’ attention to LTI (Lingua Tertii Imperii), also by Klemperer, which Professor Craig describes as “one of the most remarkable studies of National Socialism in the early postwar years.”
Your readers may be interested to know that the Athlone Press will be publishing this book, under the title The Language of the Third Reich, in September 1999.
Gordon Craig replies:
Belinda Cooper is not alone in correcting my incautious statement about the durability of Victor Klemperer’s book LTI. Hendrik Bluhm of Berkeley, who also lived in East Germany in the 1980s, has written to say that LTI “was one of the most important books which I read in my adolescence” and that it was the source of intense discussion among his fellow high school students.
If I had taken the trouble to check the book’s publishing record, I might have avoided my mistake. LTI was first published by Reclam in Leipzig in 1947. There was a second edition in 1968, and from then on the book was constantly in print, its sixth edition appearing in 1980 and its sixteenth, according to Mr. Bluhm, in 1996. There was also a paperback edition published by DTV in Munich in 1969. It was, of course, possible, if not always easy, for Western readers to buy the Reclam editions, but most of those who did so were probably motivated more by specialized interests rather than by the book’s relevance to contemporary political conditions that attracted readers in the German Democratic Republic.
I apologize for having underestimated the circulation of Victor Klemperer’s important book and am grateful to Belinda Cooper and Hendrik Bluhm for setting me right.
May 6, 1999