September 11, 2006
Av Filip Björner
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The Value of
Ayn Rand's authorship is...
...for the future of mankind the most hopeful element which has arisen as part of the culture of the Western World in the twentieth century. It has the power to make a radical change of tomorrow's global culture for the better. But she did not write predominantly for liberating humanity, or for spreading a rational philosophy. On the contrary!
She developed her philosophy
A shining footnote
In Sweden today there lives a man who is clever at translating literature from English into Swedish, and who is devoting himself to doing that first and foremost for his own sake. His goal is to translate as much as possible of Ayn Rand's novels and philosophical non-fiction works, and to do it as well as possible.
The ability to translate magnificent literature in a competent way is a skill, which is a tiny skill compared to the achievement of composing several splendid works. The scale of this relation is roughly the same as between a person who invents a motor and a person who invents an ashtray for a car door.
In other words Ayn Rand is a giant amongst giants, while Per-Olof Samuelsson is a footnote amongst footnotes.
Per-Olof, though, is a rational and proud footnote. Yes; he is an exceedingly shining footnote
Earlier Per-Olof has translated Capitalism The Unknown Ideal (Lindfors 1984), Anthem (Egoisten 1996), and a number of essays by Ayn Rand (and by other American Objectivists) which were published in thirty-seven different issues of Objektivistisk $kriftserie (1987-1996). The Ayn Rand translations he made by full permission from the Estate of Ayn Rand (the "Estate").
He has also translated two books by Ayn Rand, which translations were completely uncommissioned by the Estate. These translations are fully legal in themselves. The Estate has no right to restrain anyone from translating anyone of Ayn Rand's books.
However it is up to the Estate to decide which translations it will allow to be spread. But that judicial right is strictly time limited. It is only a matter of time before Per-Olof's legally made translations also legally can be sold by one or more commercially acting persons and companies. The Estate has no right to interfere in this process, whether now (against the translations as such) or in the future, after a certain amount of years (against the distribution).
Still, the Estate has the judicial right to take legal steps in order to
The Estate may also send agents overseas to spy on the criminal activity going on in Sweden. This is the sort of criminality they have to detect, in order to stop:
In a dark ally in Stockholm, or maybe in Gothenburg or in some other Swedish city, late at night, a criminal person is waiting. He is ready to attack. He stands still in the darkest corner, waiting for an innocent person. When he sees that the innocent person he is waiting for is walking all alone, he sneaks up on him. Suddenly he moves out in front of his target, and he quickly raises his hand with a heavy weapon. The weapon is a solid metal nugget. And he persuades the "victim" to take this gold nugget for free.
The innocent person is paralyzed, shocked, and at first feels uncomfortable, or rather is feeling guilty for not feeling so uncomfortable.
Yes, Per-Olof's translations are solid gold. They are competent. They treat Ayn Rand's wording fairly. They never misrepresent any of her philosophical premises, and they are truthfully rendering the richness of her thoughts, observations and wordings. Hence it would be rational if the Estate sought to use Per-Olof's productive skill instead of opposing his efforts.
Why, then, is the Estate so eager to forbid the spreading of this gold?
Permission and withdrawal
For several years
In 1996 Leonard Peikoff wrote a letter to Per-Olof and withdrew the former permission by the Estate, because Per-Olof before that, in a letter to Leonard Peikoff, launched a "diatribe" against him, regarding their different stands in the ARI-TJS-conflict. This is the reason, the only reason, and the simple true reason, why the Estate today is acting against Per-Olof's personal interests of translating Ayn Rand's books and spreading Objectivism.
And for the record: I do not agree with Per-Olof in his judgement of the ARI-TJS-conflict. On the contrary
The consequences of that conflict are not limited nor resolved by the Estate, ARI (The Ayn Rand Institute) or Leonard Peikoff. It is only further evolved.
Is this the only reason why the Estate is so eager to forbid the spreading of Per-Olof's translations?
If the Estate wants to earn some money on Per-Olof's translations, a rational action would be to contact Per-Olof and make an arrangement with him.
Yes, indeed, it would be a wise thing to do, if the Estate just mentioned an account number on the web for all of us Swedish reading readers who have identified the value of Per-Olof's translations, and are willing to pay for them. And with this simple act, the whole affair could quickly be settled, in business terms.
But, it is unfortunately not likely that this will happen. Because the motive of the Estate is not purely selfish. The reason for the Estate's stand against Per-Olof has nothing at all to do with commercial thinking.
About two arguments
And now I will also comment on two of those arguments which a person
1) There is no such thing as an "Infringing Translation". There never can be. All there is, is good and bad translations. And all those made by Per-Olof are good.
What there can be is infringing publishing, infringing distribution, infringing advertising etc. if
All the activities of Per-Olof are resulting in more people getting interested in Ayn Rand's ideas and willing to buy several books by her in different languages and translations. Per-Olof's activities result in a rising demand for books by Ayn Rand both in English and in Swedish.
2) The Estate and ARI claims to have "built on Ms. Rand's intellectual property by investigating a great deal of money and years of effort in protecting her literary legacy, including careful management of the publication of her works."
It would have been a good thing if that statement were completely true. And hopefully it is nearly so. But not completely. I know of at least one book by Ayn Rand, whose translation to Swedish was badly performed. And that was the first translation of Atlas Shrugged, published in 1986.
I also know that the Estate and ARI often let libertarians in Sweden handle the distribution and promoting of Ayn Rand's works. (I profoundly hate Libertarianism, as much as I hate Communism and Nazism, but this is beside the point.) The point is, there are persons and companies in Sweden that are better qualified for translating, distributing and promoting works by Ayn Rand than those engaged by the Estate and ARI.
Now, the bad translation of Atlas Shrugged was published 20 years ago, and authorized by Leonard Peikoff, so maybe the claim above may be more true about translations made worldwide in for example the last ten years. But that's a maybe.
The Swedish translation of Atlas Shrugged in 1986 was bad in the way the words were put. And unfortunately I have met readers who thought that those many bad wordings were made by Ayn Rand herself.
That translation also contains severely clumsy formulations which involve distortions of premises of Objectivism, including incompetent bamboozling of essential points in John Galt's speech. An approval by Leonard Peikoff is consequently in no way a guarantee for a work of translation being made in a competent manner, so therefore the claim above is not completely true. But what is still worse, is that all those translations made by Per-Olof, whether authorized by Leonard Peikoff or not, are excellent. So, by opposing Per-Olof, Ayn Rand's intellectual property is not protected. It is instead hazardously unprotected by ARI and the Estate, because they authorize libertarians and other incompetent persons (or in some cases at least lesser competent persons than Per-Olof) to translate and sell books by Ayn Rand in Sweden.
How to act
I have above stated my interest in paying the Estate some money for buying Per-Olof's translations of The Anti-Industrial Revolution and The Virtue of Selfishness. And hereby I strongly recommend other Swedish reading persons, who have the slightest interest in Ayn Rand writings, to buy those translations made by Per-Olof.
If this recommendation in any way can be classified as criminal
Yes indeed! I will most heartily recommend all Swedish reading persons, who are interested in books and essays by Ayn Rand, to obtain all of those translations made by Per-Olof, including those which are illegally distributed. Some of those legally distributed translations one can now only obtain from second-hand bookshops and by copying them in libraries. Those illegally distributed can be found elsewhere.
Is it benefiting human life and happiness if one some time in life commits an illegal action? Yes, obviously there are cases when it is rational to break a law, even though law-abiding normally is a virtue.
I will also
Not because I believe that ARI cares about what I think, or neither that Per-Olof's translation achievement are dependent on ARI's liking or disliking, but because this recommendation is morally right to do when one knows for certain that gold is gold as compared with the mixture of gold and lead which Leonard Peikoff, ARI and the Estate now and then sanctions.
The Estate wants to prevent a good Objectivist from distributing his own competent translations by Ayn Rand's works. A more rational behavior would be to contract the clever translator and utilize his talent commercially. It is deplorable that ARI does not fully understand the point of evaluating competently performed translations.
And there is yet another thing to say: Thank you Per-Olof! Thank you for being a competent translator doing a good work!