Everything Is Just Dandy!

Max Stirner – The Unique and Its Property

The Anarchist Library

2022 04 15

Author: Max Stirner
Title: The Unique and Its Property
Date: 1845
Notes: Translated by Apio Ludd aka Wolfi Landstreicher, 2017. This transcription is based on a heavily modified OCR of a PDF file. It will likely still have some transcription errors. The transcription attempts to closely match the original, including apparent typos/mistakes, except for: 1. page footers (page number, section number, etc.) have been removed; 2. pagination and line breaks are different, of course; 3. some footnotes in the original had (apparently) spurious letters — e.g., “95a” — that have been removed to simplify linking here. The Unique and Its Property was published by Little Black Cart and can be found in book form here.

To my sweetheart Marie Dähnhardt

Translated, edited and introduced by Apio Ludd aka Wolfi Landstreicher

Copy edited by Ann Sterzinger

With gratitude to Trevor Blake

Footnotes whose number at the bottom of the page is followed by a triangle are found in early German editions, though often expanded upon here by translator. All others are solely by the translator.

Why a New Translation?

First of all, I enjoy the play of languages and the play of words. For me, making a translation is a form of play. It has aspects of a puzzle, aspects of a complex joke, aspects of an alchemical experiment (what will come of the attempt to draw concepts from one language into another?). All of this moves me to translate, recognizing that every translation is an interpretation.

When I first read The Ego and Its Own, I recognized that there was a great deal of humor, sarcasm, and satire throughout the book. I never understood how anyone could call Stirner “humorless”—yet certain critics (particularly those who wanted to present him as a precursor of the political right or some other sort of “supreme evil” in their eyes) accused him of precisely this. After translating Stirner’s Critics and “The Philosophical Reactionaries,” I realized the extent of his mocking, sarcastic, and, at times, bawdy humor and the breadth of his wordplay. My play with these translations and talks with Jason McQuinn {1} clarified some of the flaws I had recognized in the existing English translation of Der Einzige und sein Eigentum, and the pleasure I find in the activity of translating moved me to take up the project.

The first English translation of Stirner’s book appeared in print under the title The Ego and His Own in 1907. It was the work of Steven T. Byington, an individualist anarchist involved with the circles around Benjamin Tucker. Tucker funded the project (and published the result). He insisted on the use of “ego” in the title, even though it is not at all an accurate translation of “Einzige.” Byington was very skilled with languages and worked most of his life as a translator and proofreader. So it isn’t a surprise that Tucker would turn to him to translate Stirner’s work. But there are some reasons to question whether Byington was the best choice.

Though he was an individualist anarchist, he was also a Christian— not a fundamentalist, obviously, but an active member of the Ballard Vale Congregationalist Church (now the Ballard Vale United Church) in Andover, Massachusetts and its clerk for thirty-two years. He made a life-long project of translating the Bible into modern English under the name of The Bible in Living English. Could a good Christian translate a work like Stirner’s without twisting the basic meaning? I have my doubts.

I will not deny the value of Byington’s translation. Without it, I would not have read Stirner or been motivated to revive my skills in the German language. But no one has even thought of doing another translation. John Carroll{2} drastically abridged it and made a few revisions. David Leopold{3} revised it to get rid of anachronisms (and supposedly to add sentences and phrases left out in Byington’s translation), but Leopold must have missed a few things himself.{4} But otherwise this translation has been treated almost like a sacred text—an irony in light of its content.

I decided to do a new translation because, on reading the German, I realized that the mistranslation of the title and the first and last sentence{5} were not the only major flaws in Byington’s effort. Throughout the book a reader will find the word “ego” used not only to translate “Ich” (I), but also at times to translate “Einzelne” (individual) and “Einzige” (unique). In addition, there were the occasional crudities that Byington chose to clean up and humor that he seemed not to get. But most of all, after reading Der Einzige in the original German, I felt that Byington had lost enough of Stirner’s playful ferocity that I wanted to make another attempt with the aim of bringing more of this out. And besides, as I said, I like playing with language. I like the wrestling match of trying to bring not just a meaning, but a feeling, from one language into another. I knew I had a challenge of several years (I started working on this in 2010). It was a challenge I would enjoy.

For Whom Did I Do This?

I have given the most significant answer to this question already, but obviously if I were doing this only for myself, I wouldn’t get it published. However much I may enjoy playing with myself, I always find an added pleasure when I play with others. This is why I want to toss my translation out to certain others to make the game more exciting, but not just to anyone. So I will start by saying a bit about those for whom I did not do this.

I did not make this translation for academics, for institutional intellectuals who want to dissect this unflinching and playful critique of all fixed ideas as a mere text in order to maintain their career. I know some academics will make use of it for their own purposes in any case, and to the extent that they are doing this for their own enjoyment, I would expect nothing less. In turn, some of them may provide me with fodder for furthering my own egoistic purposes. But I will not cater to them. Because—to the extent that they accept their role within the institutional structure, i.e., to the extent that they are and act as academics—they are as distant from the “immense, reckless, shameless, conscienceless, proud— crime” that willful self-creation and self-enjoyment require as any bureaucrat, any police officer, any other government employee{6}, and so could never be my accomplice in my self-creation.