Steven T. Byington’s Triple Score


1845-1945, Book, Historical Work, Max Stirner, Poetry, Steven T. Byington / Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

Steven T. Byington created the first full English translation of Der Einzige und sein Eigentum, which was published in 1907. It has been republished many times and subsequently edited by numerous editors. We addressed the question “(What is the) Best version of ‘Einzige’ in English” in a blog post.

Max Stirner wrote in Der Einzige und sein Eigentum (1845):

Wie bei den Griechen möchte man den Menschen jetzt zu einem zoon politikon machen, einem Staatsbürger oder politischen Menschen. So galt er lange Zeit als »Himmelsbürger«. Der Grieche wurde aber mit seinem Staate-zugleich entwürdigt, der Himmelsbürger wird es mit dem Himmel; Wir hingegen wollen nicht mit dem Volke, der Nation und Nationalität zugleich untergehen, wollen nicht bloss politische Menschen oder Politiker sein. »Volksbeglückung« strebt man seit der Revolution an, und indem man das Volk glücklich, gross u. dergl. macht, macht man Uns unglücklich: Volksglück ist — mein Unglück.

Steven T. Byington translated and interpreted this passage in The Ego and His Own (1907):

As with the Greeks, there is now a wish to make man a zoon politicon, a citizen of the State or political man. So he ranked for a long time as a “citizen of heaven.” But the Greek fell into ignominy along with his State, the citizen of heaven likewise falls with heaven; we, on the other hand, are not willing to go down along with the people, the nation and nationality, not willing to be merely political men or politicians. Since the Revolution they have striven to “make the people happy,” and in making the people happy, great, etc., they make Us unhappy: the people’s good hap is — my mishap.

Byington was able to convey the double-meaning of Stirner in “… the Greek fell into ignominy along with his State… ” because in English, State can refer both to “nation” and “nature.” Byington also conveyed the deliberate ambiguity of the capitalized “Us” in the final sentence: it is “us” the people they strive to make happy, and “Us” the Royal singular who are not made happy, both at the same time as a deliberate contradiction. But Byington scores a triple goal with closing alliteration. See the poetry of happy / unhappy (favorable / unfavorable mood), hap (circumstance) and mishap (accident).

You can learn more of Byington’s life and work in the most recent issue of Der Geist (2017), issue five.