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Ralph Manheim

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Ralph Manheim
Ralph Frederick Manheim

April 4 1907
New York City, New York, US
DiedSeptember 26 1992 (aged 85)
Cambridge, England
EducationHarvard University, Yale University, Columbia University

Ralph Frederick Manheim (April 4, 1907 – September 26, 1992) was a Jewish-American translator of German and French literature, as well as occasional works from Dutch, Polish and Hungarian. He was one of the most acclaimed translators of the 20th century,[1] and likened translation to acting, the role being "to impersonate his author".[2]

Early life


Manheim was born in New York City. He lived for a year in Germany and Austria as an adolescent, graduated from Harvard at the age of 19,[3] and spent time in Munich and Vienna (studying at the universities)[2] before Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. He also undertook post-graduate study at Yale and Columbia universities.



His career as a translator began[2] with Hitler's Mein Kampf, commissioned by Houghton Mifflin and published in 1943. Manheim endeavored to give an exact English equivalent of Hitler's highly individual, often awkward style, including his grammatical errors.[3]

Manheim translated the works of Bertolt Brecht (in collaboration with John Willett), Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Günter Grass, Peter Handke, philosopher Martin Heidegger, Hermann Hesse, Novalis, and many others. His translation of Henry Corbin's work Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi could be considered a major contribution towards the understanding of Ibn Arabi's and Sufi philosophy in the English-speaking world.

In 1961, he rendered transcripts of the trial in Jerusalem of Adolf Eichmann into English, and Grimm's Tales For Young and Old – The Complete Stories, published in 1977. Modern readers are familiar with his 1986 translation of E. T. A. Hoffmann's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King". It was published with illustrations by Maurice Sendak, in conjunction with the release of the 1986 film Nutcracker: The Motion Picture. Lovers of children's books also admire his agile translation of Michael Ende's The Neverending Story.

Later life


Manheim moved to Paris in 1950 and lived there until 1985, when he moved with his fourth wife to Cambridge, England.[3] He died in 1992, at age 85, from complications associated with prostate cancer.[2]

Selected translations


Awards and honors


Manheim received the PEN Translation Prize in 1964.

He received the 1970 National Book Award in the Translation category for the first U.S. edition of Céline's Castle to Castle.[4]

He was awarded a 1983 MacArthur Fellowship in Literary Studies. He won the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation, a major lifetime achievement award in the field of translation, in 1988.

Manheim's 1961 translation of Günter Grass's Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) was elected to fourth place among outstanding translations of the previous half century by the Translators Association of the Society of Authors on the occasion of their 50th anniversary in 2008.


  1. ^ Folkart, Burt A. (September 29, 1992). "Ralph Manheim; Master Translator of Literature". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved October 2, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Bruce Lambert "Ralph Manheim, 85, Translator Of Major Works to English, Dies", New York Times, September 28, 1992. Retrieved on March 25, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c John Calder "Obituary: Ralph Manheim", The Independent, September 28, 1992
  4. ^ "National Book Awards – 1970". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-11.
    There was a "Translation" award from 1967 to 1983.

See also