The new edition also aims to better convey the jumbled mess of Hitler’s prose. Olivier Mannoni, the translator, told the newspaper Libération this week that he had stuck as closely as possible to the original text — a confusing rant combining anti-Semitic conspiracies, hateful nationalism, and obsessions over sexuality and hygiene.
“An incoherent soup, one could become half-mad translating it,” Mr. Mannoni said, noting that the original French translation in 1934 had smoothed over the writing and given a false impression of Hitler as a “cultured man” with “coherent and grammatically correct reasoning.”
“To me, making this text elegant is a crime,” Mr. Mannoni added.
In 2016, heated debate erupted in France when details of Fayard’s plans for the new edition were first reported. Some Jewish groups said that any airing of Hitler’s views, however critical, risked fanning the flames of anti-Semitism.
Tal Bruttmann, a French historian and specialist in anti-Semitism and the Holocaust who had expressed reservations about the project in 2016, told the newspaper Le Monde this week that there was no further need for a “polemic.” He noted that the team of historians had added so many annotations to “Mein Kampf’ that Hitler’s text had become “secondary.”
Some historians had also worried that the edition would give the text an unwarranted round of new exposure. Johann Chapoutot, a historian at the Sorbonne who specializes in the history of Nazi Germany, told Libération this week that it was a mistake to “fetishize” the book and focus so much on Hitler instead of the culture, social structures and other leaders who made Nazism possible.
“Such an undertaking gives credence to the idea that ‘Mein Kampf’ is the bible of Nazism,” Mr. Chapoutot said. “Which it isn’t.”
But the project’s scholarly heft and commercial precautions seemed to have dispelled most fears, and news of the publication on Wednesday attracted little controversy. Even Haïm Korsia, France’s chief rabbi, told the weekly Le Point that with anti-Semitism still rife, especially online, the book was “the best way to fight against the temptation of doing nothing.”