[INDOLOGY] Hitler and MLBD

Jesse Knutson jknutson at hawaii.edu
Tue May 20 20:18:50 UTC 2014

Dear Friends, For me the issue is not that someone publishes Mein Kampf, it
is that MLBD should publish it. I do agree that the text should not be
pulped--it should be available for historical education and research, but
it is questionable when it is being marketed because of its potential
popularity and commercial viability. This is the important point and what
is slightly chilling about the whole thing, particularly in view of the
very strong appeal of fascist ideology in India today, if not Nazism in
particular. I think it is worthwhile that we as scholars ask MLBD to try to
maintain its dignity and integrity as at least a halfway serious publisher,
by not pandering to what is most vile in Indian society. I don't think we
should go as far as to ask that Hitler's writings be universally pulped, we
should only demand that they not form a part of the marketing agenda of a
press with which we have been historically associated and continue to
associate ourselves. So we are certainly right in demanding that MLBD not
publish Hitler, and I think we can use this opportunity to ask that MLBD
not make other stupid decisions about what it peddles. It is o.k. for the
press to try to be somewhat commercially viable, but not at the expense of
all dignity. It has some responsibility as a bastion of Indological and
historical publishing. If they publish Hitler without getting some flack
from us, then next it will be Savarkar and other Hindutva sludge.

Thus I think we should broaden our criticisms of MLBD. I have personally
been sending Mr. Jain angry letters for years, not only about the titles,
but about the miserable condition of their bookshops, and the incompetence
and rudeness of staff who are obviously nepotism-spawned stooges. His
responses have been without exception very disappointing exercises in
fatuous self-congratulation.

There has been a general decline in Indological titles at MLBD for some
time, in favor of really bad, unscientific new age stuff. It is o.k. if
they publish some slightly new agey stuff, but they have thrown all
standards out the window for some time now, and I think they really lack
competent, educated, and discerning staff. This at a time when there is no
shortage of highly educated and yet jobless Indians. I know that publishers
have to find a way to survive, but I feel so sad that the very publisher
that has provided me so much access to Sanskrit texts and other matter for
decades, should disgrace itself like this.

Let's keep up the heat, but focus it not on Hitler and Nazism per se, but
on MLBD and its responsibility both to us and itself.

On Tue, May 20, 2014 at 3:50 AM, Robert Zydenbos
<zydenbos at uni-muenchen.de>wrote:

> A view on this not really Indological matter from an Indologist in Munich,
> Bavaria (the historical starting place, which is why I regularly deal with
> such questions; again in class, last Monday).
> (Situation in Germany:) It is not true that the Government of Bavaria
> “refuses to allow any copying or printing of the book in Germany” (sorry,
> Dominik, but the statement in your open letter is not quite accurate). In
> fact, the Bavarian government has subsidized a new, historically critical
> edition of the book by the Institut für Zeitgeschichte with an amount of
> half a million euros. In spite of support from many German Jews for this
> idea (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/12/german-jews-
> want-mein-kam_n_257937.html), the present chief minister of Bavaria
> suddenly announced, a few months ago, the stopping of a further
> subsidizing, apparently because of protests from certain other Jewish
> groups (which I consider foolish: both the protests as well as the
> interruption of the subsidy, and this stop has been criticized by
> oppositional left-wing political parties in the Bavarian parliament), but
> the editing work continues. For the latest details, see
> http://www.br.de/nachrichten/mein-kampf-hitler-100.html
> (Prohibition through exercise of copyright:) The Bavarian government has
> been quite selective in exercising its copyright to prohibit new editions
> of the book elsewhere. E.g., nothing has been undertaken against several
> editions in Israel (see https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/
> Mein_Kampf#Aktuelle_Rechtslage).
> (Availability and how to deal with it:) “Mein Kampf” is freely available
> anyway, as has already been amply pointed out in this thread. The critical
> edition (see above; also an edition for schools is planned) is meant to
> counterbalance the surge of new editions that unavoidably will appear from
> 2015 onwards (http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/der-kampf-um-mein-kampf.
> 724.de.html?dram:article_id=99882). If MLBD brings out an integral
> edition of the book (not historically critical, but at least complete; does
> it have an explanatory preface? Has anybody seen it?), then readers can
> judge for themselves just how dull and crazy it is. (How many of the
> prudishly politically correct critics in this thread have actually read it?
> I stopped reading it – precisely because most of it is dull, and the rest
> is crazy in a not entertaining way.) This craziness may not be so visible
> if, in an uncontrolled manner, mere excerpts are published, which is not
> what MLBD has / had in mind. Furthermore, MLBD explicitly speaks / spoke of
> the author on its website as “evil”, thus explicitly not endorsing the
> contents of the book (did anybody here see that? Or were we too busy being
> outraged?).
> (Commercialism:) MLBD is a commercial publisher and evidently has stopped
> being a purely academically Indological publisher at least for some time
> now (if ever they have been one). Already for years they have been bringing
> out books on all sorts of topics, many of which, in my view, are rather
> trashy. Is it really fair to be intercontinentally critical of them while
> their commercial competitors, like Jaico, are making money with it? Like
> Amazon and Barnes and Noble sell it? (https://en.wikipedia.org/
> wiki/Mein_Kampf#Online_availability)
> (Consistency:) If the overseas academic community cries out against the
> banning of books in India (Doniger, Ramanujan) in the name of freedom of
> expression, it looks odd that such people demand a ban on this old book for
> reasons which hardly any Indian understands (cf. for an illustration
> Veeranarayana Pandurangi’s characteristic post in this thread, last Sunday).
> (Effectiveness of protest:) Hitler’s book has already been popular in
> India for a long time, apparently esp. among Hindu nationalists (see
> “Hitler als «Management-Guru» in Indien” - http://www.20min.ch/ausland/
> news/story/29880511). It seems that India demands the right to make every
> mistake the West has made, from environmental destruction, turbo
> capitalism, nuclear armaments, to reading warped books. A mere loud
> condemnation of (just another) edition of Hitler’s book coming from the
> West is likely to be seen as yet another bit of neo-colonial
> holier-than-thou moralizing. What effectively is being said is ‘Americans
> and Israelis should read the book, but it is too dangerous for you foolish
> Indians to have it’, and I do not think that any Indian wants to hear that.
> Banning a book has never stopped the spread of nefarious ideas anyway (only
> better books, open discussion and explanation do that), and if we make a
> fuss, it may only mean additional publicity for something that we do not
> want to see popularized.
> (Superfluousness:) For whatever reason, MLBD has apparently already taken
> down the offer from its website www.mlbd.com as of today (May 20, 2014).
> This may mean that this entire discussion, the open letter etc. are
> superfluous. (Or it may mean that only the online advertising has stopped,
> but not the production and sale. I do not know.)
> Because I believe protests to MLBD in this matter are unfair,
> discriminatory, ideologically ineffective, not Indological, at worst
> publicitywise counter-productive, and perhaps superfluous anyway, I will
> not sign the public petition.
> Robert Zydenbos
> --
> Prof. Dr. Robert J. Zydenbos
> Institut für Indologie und Tibetologie
> Department für Asienstudien
> Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)
> _______________________________________________
> INDOLOGY mailing list
> INDOLOGY at list.indology.info
> http://listinfo.indology.info

Jesse Ross Knutson PhD
Assistant Professor of Sanskrit and Bengali, Department of Indo-Pacific
Languages and Literatures
University of Hawai'i at Mānoa
452A Spalding

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