Bambi translated by Whittaker Chambers 1928

Among other things, Whittaker Chambers was a highly gifted linguist. He spoke more than a dozen languages, starting with native English, French from his mother, and German from a tutor. His personal library includes most Indo-European languages:

My mother had urged me to study Gaelic, the language of our forebears… I began to study Arabic, Persian, Hindustani, and the Assyrian of the cuneiform inscriptions… I presently picked up a rough smattering of the dialect [Rumanian Gypsy]… (Witness, p. 145)

At the time of his death in 1961, he had resumed his study of languages: Chinese, Latin, and Italian formally at Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College), as well as Classical Greek on his own.

This same gift for languages allowed Chambers to pass himsellf off as a European in front of many people — including spy apparatuses in Washington.

It also allowed him to earn extra income in moments of extreme poverty, namely 1928-1932 when he was at the fringes of the Communist Party and 1938-1939 when he defected from the Soviet espionage underground.

Most if not all of the translation work came through his Columbia College classmate, Clifton Fadiman.



  1. Read the reviews in TIME and New York Times (“admirably translated”)

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