Yes, this is yet another entry for the Ungeziefer file…
One where scholar and author Rebecca Schuman, who is obviously highly intelligent and supremely credible as evidenced by her skepticism (likeminded with yours truly of course) of Michael Hoffman translating Kafka’s Ungezeifer as a cockroach, as discussed in her 2017 Literary Hub article I Made a Mistake in My Book and the Internet Went Nuts.
Cockroach is, some might say, a bold choice. Others might, uncharitably, call it a mistake, and a big, significant one, one that would signify Hofmann’s grasp of the field he dominates as tenuous. But as vehemently as I disagree with cockroach—I prefer Susan Bernofsky’s some sort of monstrous insect—I’m not saying that Hofmann’s a hack, not entirely.
But this entry is a bit more than just a validation my point.
It is also one where with Schuman’s willingness to take on the odd word choice, which some might call a regretful miscalculation, of a renowned scholar such as Hoffman is, isn’t just an example of her intellectual rigor and toughness, it is also yet another example of the disparities between females and males in a professional setting, the setting here being in the arena of German language author-ity and scholarship.
The disparities this time being exhibited in the differences in the reception between a female scholar’s oversight versus a male scholar’s, where Schuman’s oversight of screwing up her German skulls almost lost her her career (and maybe even her mind) and Hoffman’s oversight of calling Gregor Samsa a cockroach was mostly viewed as harmless scholarly license.
It was true. I had fucked up my skulls. Given: It’s hardly a rousing soliloquy claiming Goethe’s finest work is Macbeth. But still.
Here’s how it happened. The chapter now marred by Schädel-gate is called Liebeskummer, a word for heartbreak that literally translates to “love grief.” I wrote it, in its entirety, with a newborn baby, a feat comparable to climbing the sheer face of a cliff using only one’s teeth. It’s a goddamned wonder I could remember Goethe’s name. However, I’m loath to share this fact; offering, as an excuse, my attempt at multitasking the impossible reveals me as a woman—and, therefore, someone whose expertise is brought into question by default.
Obviously, these disparities in reception has much to do stereotype incongruencies, you know, kind of how people get weirded out by male nurses.
Anyway, what are we gonna do, right?
It is, after all, a man’s world…
At least until it isn’t.
Featured image courtesy of The New Sisyphus Is a Woman by Ron Milford