Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2013

Publication Title

Willa Cather Newsletter & Review





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In Willa Cather: A Bibliography, Joan Crane provides an extremely intriguing entry for the first German-language edition of Death Comes for the Archbishop, entitled Der Tod kommt zum Erzbischof. The first part of this bibliographical description is quite innocuous: “Translated by Sigismund von Radecki. Stuttgart, 1940.” Immediately after this, however, Crane states: “Note: This edition was burned by the Nazis, and the plates were destroyed. The translator carried carbon sheets of his translation into Switzerland concealed under the lining of 2 suitcases.” She then concludes the description by noting, “The edition that follows (E50) was subsequently published in Zurich” in 1940 and 1942 (Crane 327). A Cather novel run afoul of the Nazis? A daring, heroic escape to Switzerland by someone who wanted German-language readers to have access to the novel? These elements would more typically be found in a spy thriller than in a bibliography. Such a dramatic narrative not only makes for interesting reading but also almost certainly pleases those who love nothing more than to hear stories of how particular fictions were so powerful or threatening to the status quo that various authorities moved to prevent their publication or distribution (e.g., via libraries or classrooms). There is only one problem: almost none of what Crane wrote is accurate.


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