Black Elk Speaks: The Complete Edition

By John G. Neihardt; Black Elk | Go to book overview

PREFACE TO THE 1972 EDITION

It was my function to translate the old man’s story, not only in the factual sense—for it was not the facts that mattered most—but rather to recreate in English the mood and manner of the old man’s narrative. This was often a grueling and difficult task, requiring much patient effort and careful questioning of the interpreter.

Always I felt it a sacred obligation to be true to the old man’s meaning and manner of expression. I am convinced there were times when we had more than the ordinary means of communication.

For the last forty years it has been my purpose to bring Black Elk’s message to the white world as he wished me to do. This book has had, and is still having a remarkable career. First printed in 1932, it received an enthusiastic reception from literary critics who regarded it as a strangely beautiful book, although they had little knowledge of Indians.

The general public, with practically no knowledge of Indians, gave it a very modest reception. In less than two years the publisher “remaindered” the edition at forty-five cents a copy and the book was forgotten.

A generation passed, but the book refused to die.

Somehow a copy found its way to Zurich, Switzerland, and was appreciated by a group of German scholars, including the late Carl Jung, the famous psychologist and philosopher.

The news of the book reached America and found some friendly appreciators. Copies were obtainable only in rare book stores and sold at premium prices.

-xxvii-

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