Every Picture Tells Two Stories
This must be one of the eeriest book-covers in the College library.
Through her research for her MSt in English (1900 – present), Anna Weber has tried to work out the dynamic between the two labels, St Hilda's and the swastika. Does the library sticker overrule the swastika, turning this book into a library copy like any other? Does the swastika stain the library tag, complicating the notion that all books should be freely accessible in a library? The book, of course, is Mein Kampf - a 1939 English translation published by Hurst and Blackett. Anna is currently researching the book's publication history in Britain, which strongly contrasts with Mein Kampf's fate in many other countries. While it was completely banned Germany until 2015 and has since become available only as a critical scholarly edition, Mein Kampf has always been freely available in the UK. Although this fact raises difficult ethical questions, there has been virtually no recent research on the history of Mein Kampf in Britain. This is a blind spot that Anna tries to tackle as part of her studies in ‘Theories of Text, Bibliography and Book History’.
English was the first language that Mein Kampf was translated into (in 1933, even before Italian). Mein Kampf became a huge bestseller in the anglophone market. In some cases, for example in India, it still is today. English-language publishers mostly justified publishing this book by pointing out that the public needed the opportunity to educate themselves about politics in Germany, or in post-war times, about the history of fascism. However, Anna’s argument is that the presentation of English language Mein Kampf editions (cover design, typeface, etc.) often replicated the German original, turning Mein Kampf into a fetish object rather than presenting it as a highly problematic source text. This image encapsulates how problematic fetishization and a genuine striving for information/education about politics and history in Germany interlock in English editions of Mein Kampf, with the swastika and the St Hilda's library label competing for dominance of the cover.
Anna Weber is reading for a MSt in English (1900-Present), part of which is a course in Theories of Text, Bibliography and Book History.