Robert Chen on translating Adolf Brand

Robert Chen

on translating Adolf Brand

“Morituri,” published by Brand in his magazine Der Eigene in 1898, is a homoerotic poem wherein the narrator begs the sun to provide love, strength, and youth to his lover. This is consistent with the glorification of health and strength, especially of the nude body, found in illustrations throughout Der Eigene, including the one accompanying the original poem. Of note here is that Brand and his colleagues often described homosexuality as Liebe zwischen Freunden, or “love between friends,” so the romance is implicit even without the mention of “beloved.” Given Brand’s open hostility towards religion, it is also interesting that the poem has a prayer-like quality, which I hoped to preserve in the translation.

about the author

Adolf Brand (1874–1945) was a German gay activist and the founder of the first gay periodical, Der Eigene (1896–1932). He was also a founding member of Der Gemeinschaft der Eigenen (GdE), a literary society that viewed homosexuality as a basic human desire better expressed through art and literature than biology. As such, the GdE rejected Magnus Hirschfeld’s medical view of homosexuality, which associated it with femininity. GdE members fought unsuccessfully for the reform of Paragraph 175, which criminalized homosexuality in Germany. However, some of Brand’s more devastating views, including his support for pederasty, white supremacy, and misogyny, have rightfully caused the GdE to be discredited today. Beyond his literary activities, Brand was also known for outing prominent figures who expressed homophobic views, for which he was imprisoned at one point. Unfortunately, Brand was forced to abandon his activism in the 1930s due to harassment from Nazi authorities.

about the translator

Robert Chen is a fourth-year at the University of Pennsylvania studying biochemistry and chemistry.

An illustration by Richard Grimm accompanying the original poem in Der Eigene.