Radical Politics in Translation

A conversation about translating politically extreme and incendiary texts, from the French Revolution through World War II


Fields of Knowledge
  • Memory
  • Philosophy / Theory
  • Politics / Economics

Organizing Institutions



Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania

Opens to public



6:00 pm


4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to present "Radical Politics in Translation," a conversation between Mitchell Abidor and Jean-Michel Rabaté on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 from 6pm to 7:30pm.

France has a long tradition of writing and activity on the two political extremes, dating from the days of the Revolution through World War II. Much of this writing has gone untranslated until recently, when Mitchell Abidor took up the task of making them available in English. The question we will ask is, why? Why have they gone untranslated for so long, and why make available today the anti-Semitic lunacy of a Louis-Ferdinand Céline, the justifications for the killing of innocents of the bombthrowers of late nineteenth century France or the apologies for crime of the anarchist bandits of the early twentieth. What is the point of reading these men today? What are the challenges these translations face? And was there a connection between these men and the world of art and the avant-garde?

read more

Mitchell Abidor is the author of The Great Anger: Ultra-Revolutionary Writing in France from the Atheist Priest to the Bonnot Gang, Communards: The Paris Commune of 1871 as Told by Those Who Fought for It, and forthcoming anthologies of translations of the anarchist Propagandists of the Deed, the Sans Culottes of the French Revolution, the French anarchist individualists, Louise Michel, more on the Commune, and of anarchist writings by Victor Serge. Mitchell has translated documents in various revolutionary traditions from French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Esperanto. His particular focus is writings at the extremes, from anarchist bomb throwers and bandits to post-'68 French Maoists to the anti-Semitic writings of the great novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline, including the first translations of selections from his wartime Collaborationist correspondence.

"Q: You said that you had been relatively unsuccessful. What does that mean?

A: I wanted to kill more, but the kettle wasn't properly closed.

Q: You had put projectiles in it.

A: I had put 120 pellets in.

Q: Vaillant, who said he wanted to wound and not kill, had put nails and not pellets.

A: Me, I wanted to kill and not wound."

-- The anarchist Emile Henry at his trial for throwing a bomb in a cafe, 1894