A project to create the first complete, critical, and annotated English translation of all of the works of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is underway at the UW. Led by project editor Ernst Behler, chair of the UW department of comparative literature, the effort involves three translators who are also faculty members at the University: Diana Behler and Rick Gray of the Germanics department, and Gary Handwerk, of English. The work, which will consist of 20 volumes, will be published by Stanford University Press, in what the publisher hails as "a monumental publishing event."
At the time of this writing, one volume of the English translation has been printed so far; several others are in preparation. "The aim of this collaborative work is to produce a critical edition for scholarly use," writes Behler in a note to the new edition.
Nietzsche is recognized as one of the most important philosophers of modern times. His influence has been decisive in shaping contemporary thought not only in philosophy but also in the literary disciplines, psychology, anthropology, sociology, political sciences, and theology. This influence extends beyond particular disciplines to artists in the fields of poetry and fiction, music, and architecture, as well as to the public at large.
The work by Behler and colleagues represents a translation of what is called the Colli-Montinari edition, a collection of Nietzsche's works prepared by two Italian scholars, Georgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, shortly after World War II. That version in Italian was the first collection of all of Nietzsche's works in their entirety, in an exact, scholarly chronology; it subsequently was translated into French, German, and Japanese. Only about half of the philosopher's writings were published during his lifetime; various fragments and other writings had been partially published in various places, but were not collected in a complete and systematic way until the Colli-Montinari edition. Now, with the work underway at the UW, the first English translation of this complete collection will become available.
Van A. Harvey of Stanford University puts the work into perspective: "The Colli-Montinari critical edition of Nietzsche's works is one of the most important works of scholarship in the humanities in the last quarter century. It was not until after World War II that one began to realize the extent to which Nietzsche's notebooks had been tampered with, jumbled, badly deciphered, and poorly edited, and it was not until the Colli-Montinari edition that scholars could be confident for the first time of having a trustworthy text," explains Harvey. The UW project will now make that resource available in English.
"The English-language edition should become a classic that will be used by generations of scholars," notes Dave E. Wellbery of Johns Hopkins University.