The Blue Stain: A Novel of a Racial Outcast by Hugo Bettauer (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Media Archive, Passing on 2019-01-28 19:31Z by Steven

The Blue Stain: A Novel of a Racial Outcast by Hugo Bettauer (review)

Journal of Austrian Studies
Volume 51, Number 2, Summer 2018
pages 99-101
DOI: 10.1353/oas.2018.0027

Adam J. Toth, Lecturer of German
University of North Carolina, Wilmington

Hugo Bettauer, The Blue Stain: A Novel of a Racial Outcast. Edited by Peter Höyng. Translated by Peter Höyng and Chauncey J. Mellor. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2017. 144 pp.

Hugo Bettauer, an author virtually unknown to the U.S., will see new appreciation with the recent translation of his novel The Blue Stain: A Novel of a Racial Outcast. Originally titled Das blaue Mal: Der Roman eines AusgestoĂźenen and published in 1922, Peter Höyng and Chauncey J. Mellor’s new and first translation of this book will make it more accessible to audiences in the English speaking-world. The translation of this novel arrives at a critical and relevant time particularly in the U.S., as the novel tells the story a half-white/half-black protagonist of Austrian and African-American descent and his life in various parts of the United States and Vienna. The novel offers crisp perspective during the U.S.’s ever-present crisis of racism and social injustice. Rather than nitpicking and fussing over the details of the translation, however, I will focus on the translators’ note, the introduction, and the afterword, as these matter a great deal to those gaining access to Austrian literature without the benefit of the German language under their belt and therefore weigh heavily on the work’s overall success.

Höyng and Mellor’s notes on the translation process accurately explain how they rendered the novel into English but offer limited perspective behind some of their decisions. When explaining how to translate the interjection “Wehe,” Höyng and Mellor assert that “possible dictionary translations for ‘Wehe’ were ‘alack‘ and ‘woe is me,’ both of which sounded hopelessly stilted and obsolete, reminiscent of shallow melodrama, and out of character for Zeller. ‘Good grief‘ was also rejected, because it evokes Charlie Brown’s use of this stock phrase in Peanuts and the bemusement it conjures up. ‘Good Gracious‘ showed up, but seemed a bit too pretentious, British, and possibly effeminate” (Höyng and Mellor, ix). For whom “Good Gracious” may seem pretentious, how the expression may seem too British, and why it would sound too effeminate (or effeminate at all) remain unanswered. While I can appreciate any amount of constraints the translators may have had in writing their notes, their target audience seems to only be one that speaks English but not German. Dwelling on such Kleinigkeiten in their introduction diverts the reader’s attention away from the text as a whole and down a rabbit hole on semantics and approximation. That said, the careful attention Höyng and Mellor gave to the work’s title and the translation of pejorative language against African-Americans in the original and in the translation express the importance of the novel itself and could itself hardly be considered trivial.

Höyng’s introduction gives the most thorough contextualization of the novel possible, guiding its readers through Bettauer’s known biography and the historical milieus of the book and its author. Höyng notes that “The Blue Stain represents the first novel in German to address racism in the United States in the twentieth century” (xv), stressing an important part of the novel’s position within the Austrian literary canon. He also emphasizes the important parallels made between Austria and the U.S. regarding race that converge in the novel, namely the “1867 law emancipating the Jews,” when Jews “had been granted their civil rights” (xix, xiv). By stressing this historical event, Höyng draws attention to the parallels between institutional anti-Semitism in the Habsburg Empire and institutional racism against African-Americans in the U.S. While I think the historical similarities are a good place to start bringing these historical events into dialogue with one another, additional contextualization of de jure and de facto anti-Semitism in the Habsburg Empire before and after emancipation in 1867 would help the readers see the historical differences between the experiences of Jews in the Habsburg Empire and African-Americans in the U.S.

The more critical points made about Bettauer’s…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Emory professor translates 1922 novel about racial identity

Posted in Articles, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-01-27 03:06Z by Steven

Emory professor translates 1922 novel about racial identity

Emory News Center
Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia
2017-10-12

April Hunt, Communications Manager


In “The Blue Stain,” a man viewed as white in Europe struggles with identity after he comes to the U.S., where he is seen as black. Thanks to Peter Höyng, associate professor of German studies, the novel is now available in English.

Carletto is a man raised in privilege and wealth in Europe, where he is seen as white, if exotic. He struggles with the very question of identity after he loses his fortune and comes to the United States, where he is viewed as black.

What may sound like a contemporary debate about the complex questions of race and identity is actually the plot from the 1922 novel “The Blue Stain.”

Austrian author Hugo Bettauer’s novel might have been lost to the ages had Peter Höyng, an associate professor of German studies in Emory College, not stumbled across it in the Austrian National Library while doing scholarly research on the author in 2002.

He was struck that Carletto’s story starts, and ends, in Georgia. Along the way, it touches on the entrenched role that race has in American society, as seen by an outsider like Bettauer, a Jewish man from Austria.

Höyng became devoted to translating the story. His labor of love recently became the English-language version of “Blue Stain” — published with the subtitle, “A Novel of a Racial Outcast” —with him as editor and co-translator with Chauncey J. Mellor, a former colleague at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“There is nothing else in German literature at the time that addresses racial issues in the United States, how racism worked not just in the South, but in New York and the North,” Höyng says. “The story itself, though, is a small but very effective way to discuss the deeply political ideas of standing up for equality and against injustice.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The Blue Stain: A Novel of a Racial Outcast

Posted in Books, Europe, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2019-01-27 02:10Z by Steven

The Blue Stain: A Novel of a Racial Outcast

Camden House (an imprint of Boydell & Brewer)
May 2017 (Originally published in 1922)
182 pages
9×6 in
Paperback ISBN: 9781571139993
Hardback ISBN: 9781571139825
eBook for Handhelds ISBN: 9781782049975
eBook ISBN: 9781787440876

Hugo Bettauer (1872-1925)

Translated by:

Peter Höyng, Associate Professor of German Studies
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

Chauncey J. Mellor, Emeritus Professor of German
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Afterword by:

Kenneth R. Janken, Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

A European novel of racial mixing and “passing” in early twentieth-century America that serves as a unique account of transnational and transcultural racial attitudes that continue to reverberate today.

Hugo Bettauer’s The Blue Stain, a novel of racial mixing and “passing,” starts and ends in Georgia but also takes the reader to Vienna and New York. First published in 1922, the novel tells the story of Carletto, son of a white European academic and an African American daughter of former slaves, who, having passed as white in Europe and fled to America after losing his fortune, resists being seen as “black” before ultimately accepting that identity and joining the early movement for civil rights. Never before translated into English, this is the first novel in which a German-speaking European author addresses early twentieth-century racial politics in the United States – not only in the South but also in the North. There is an irony, however: while Bettauer’s narrative aims to sanction a white/European egalitarianism with respect to race, it nevertheless exhibits its own brand of racism by asserting that African Americans need extensive enculturation before they are to be valued as human beings. The novel therefore serves as a unique historical account of transnational and transcultural racial attitudes of the period that continue to reverberate in our present globalized world.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction by Peter Höyng
  • Part One: Georgia
  • Part Two: Carletto
  • Part Three: The Colored Gentleman
  • Afterword by Kenneth R. Janken
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Being ‘Mixed Race’: Kira Lea Dargin and Annina Chirade

Posted in Audio, Autobiography, Europe, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, Oceania, United Kingdom on 2015-05-13 15:58Z by Steven

Being ‘Mixed Race’: Kira Lea Dargin and Annina Chirade

BBC World Service
The Conversation
2015-05-11

Kim Chakanetsa, Presenter

Left: Kira Lea Dargin. Credit: Claire Mahjoub, SSH. Right: Annina Chirade. Credit: Adu Lalouschek

Kira Lea Dargin’s parents met at church. Her mother is white from a Russian family who emigrated to Australia in the 1950s, and her father is Aboriginal Australian. Being “mixed” Kira says, means constantly having to explain how you came about or how your family manages to blend. Having come through some difficult times as a teenager Kira now happily identifies with both of her cultural backgrounds. As the director of ‘Aboriginal Model Management Australia‘, her mission is to help broaden how Australian beauty is defined.

Annina Chirade describes herself as Ghanaian Austrian. She is the founder and editor of Rooted In magazine. When she was growing up, between London and Vienna, people would often question whether she was related to her fair, straight-haired mother. After many years obsessively straightening her own “kinky, curly, Afro-” hair as a teenager, she found her own style – inspired by the confident styles of black female singers like Erykah Badu. Annina says that when you are ‘mixed-race’ people make assumptions about your identity and consider it to be “up for debate”, but she is clear that “whiteness is not something I’m a part of.”

Listen to the interview here. Download the episode (00:26:55) here.

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Claudia Unterweger – Austria’s first black News presenter

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Europe, Media Archive, Women on 2012-02-27 03:13Z by Steven

Claudia Unterweger – Austria’s first black News presenter

Afro-Europe: International Blog
2012-02-18


©ORF (Ali Schafler)

Claudia Unterweger (39) is the first black TV News presenter in Austria. She was born to an African-American father and an Austrian mother. Since February 2011 she is one of the News presenters of “Zib-flash”, a program of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF.

Unterweger caused a stir in 2011 because of the simple fact that she had a different skin color than the general population. “I define myself as black, or as an African-Austrian woman,” says the Vienna-born Unterweger.

She sees herself as a part of the media history. “Arabella Kiesbauer (an Afro-Austrian) was over 30 years on the screen and was already a pioneer in the entertainment field. We are now taking a step forward and I hope that many more steps will follow.”

Unterweger continues. “I personally call and see myself as an Afro-Austrian, a black Austrian, but also as part of a whole generation of black people who grew up here in Austria, but who are still perceived as an anomaly.”…

Read the entire article here.

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