(BEING CONTINUED FROM 4/01/16)
An anonymous public-service translation and editing of Castoriadis/Cardan texts posed some particular,and potentially serious, problems. The first was the nature of anonymous (or pseudonymous) publication itself: no real name is attached to the work. Fortunately, Curtis responded immediately upon reading the electronically published text RTI(TBS), anticipating potential objections to an account of controversial matters delivered in an
anonymous Translator’s Foreword. In two statements,<http//perso.wanadoo.fr/www.kaloskaisophos.org/rt/rtdac / r t d a c r t i s t a t e m e n t 1 . h t m l > a n d <http//perso.wanadoo.fr/www.kaloskaisophos.org/rt/rtdac/rtdacrtistatement2.html>, he personally vouched for the accuracy of all the information contained therein. Thus,
anyone who might wish to dispute the factualness of that account could confront in the public domain an individual with an actual name.13
A second difficulty of publishing anonymous translations is that there is no direct address to which observations and corrections regarding the volume in question might be sent. Again, Curtis came in handy. In RTI(TBS)’s “On the Translation,” Curtis’s e-mail address
<firstname.lastname@example.org> had appeared in a footnote. Some people evidently contacted him directly to impart their observations and offer their corrections, for he subsequently
posted for a period of time a list of minor problems needing rectification in RTI(TBS)’s first edition. A corrected edition of RTI(TBS) will appear soon after the first edition of FT(P&K). It may certainly be hoped that Curtis will again willingly receive and pass along such information,so that any possible publicly observed mistakes in the present volume may eventually be corrected.
And yet, given the controversial nature of this kind of an unauthorized edition, it is remarkable how few objections were actually lodged. In fact, the only two persons to have written in protest to the Not Bored! website were two former members of Socialisme ou Barbarie.
Daniel Blanchard—mentioned in the RTI(TBS) Translator’s Foreword as one of the people Mme Castoriadis had attempted to blacklist from participation in the June 2003
Cerisy Colloquium on Castoriadis—is known in particular as the person who introduced Situationist International’s Guy Debord to Socialisme ou Barbarie. Along with his
wife, Helen Arnold—one of the rare Americans to have participated in S. ou B.—he objected vehemently to Bill Brown about this RTI(TBS) Translator’s Foreword. Brown
—whose two-decades-old Not Bored! ‘zine is of pro-Situ provenance (though Brown has also published in its pages a remarkable series of penetrating and intelligent review
articles on Castoriadis’s Political and Social Writings)—replied to Blanchard and Arnold that they were certainly welcome and entirely free to write anything they themselves might want about this Foreword, and that he,Brown, would gladly publish their views, too, on his
website. Rebuffed by such a reasonable libertarian response, Blanchard and Arnold retreated from any further contact with him and even refused a subsequent offer from
Brown to set aside the controversy surrounding RTI(TBS) in order to discuss with him, instead, the actual content and substance of that volume. Brown was subsequently quite
surprised and dismayed to learn that Arnold had neglected to inform him that she had in fact become the scab translator engaged by the Castoriadis heirs to replace Curtis on a permanent basis!
Once this evident conflict of interest was revealed,Arnold persisted in being the only person to criticize RTI(TBS) publicly. Besides her, no one else was willing to go on record in the Chronicle article against this electro-Samizdat volume. Dick Howard, who had been criticized along with Joel Whitebook in the RTI(TBS) Foreword,admirably avoided all negative comments, and Whitebook attributed the controversy to the sorts of psychoanalytic problems that arise in families, thereby squarely placing the onus on the Castoriadis heirs. Several scurrilous comments, bordering upon character assassination and delivered without attribution in the article, were laughed off by Curtis there. Again, it was quite fortunate and most appreciated that Curtis was willing to stand up, endorse,
and back up the account given in RTI(TBS)’s Translator’s Foreword, for otherwise there would be no possibility of a publicly accountable confrontation of views, but only
one set of anonymous points of view vying with another one. Arnold stands alone as a critic compromised by her now-exposed self-interest.14 Electro-Samizdat publication
has become so noncontroversial that its sudden broad respectability is now almost as embarrassing and disconcerting as it was initially unexpected.
The history of the English-language publication of Carrefours texts and a description of how such publication choices differed from the contents of the original French volumes have already been recounted in RTI(TBS). To put the matter briefly, American and British publishers (trade,academic, and alternative) were unwilling to publish the
succeeding Carrefours volumes as is in translation, and at times Castoriadis texts were ready for publication in selected English-language tomes before the next planned
Carrefours volume in French. Although it was clearly Castoriadis’s own decision to go ahead and break up the order and contents of the Carrefours volumes for book
translation in English, one of the difficulties encountered with Castoriadis family members after the author’s death was their inability to grasp that non-French volumes had already diverged, and were going to continue to diverge,from the French originals and that the choices for the latter collections, neither completely arbitrary nor absolutely necessary, were in no way set forever in stone, just established on paper in one language. French is no longer the lingua franca of what has become our world society (Castoriadis composed some of his writings directly in English), and it certainly retains no absolute privilege and
priority when faced with an alternate publication history in which Castoriadis himself actively and knowingly participated during his lifetime.
A particular sticking point in negotiations with the heirs was their determination to make the proposed Figures of the Thinkable exactly identical to FP. As mentioned above, FT(P&K) differs only slightly from the French Editors’ posthumous publication. But this difference is significant, and in fact salutary, with respect to the title theme astutely selected by these same French Editors. The heirs had wanted, at all costs, to retain “The Social-Historical: Modes of Being, Problems of Knowledge,” a text written by Castoriadis in English that had, however,already appeared more than a decade earlier in his Oxford
University Press collection. Still in print, there was no reason, thematically or otherwise, to reprint this otherwise fine essay from PPA in a new Figures of the Thinkable volume—except that a choice made by his literary executors (and certainly not by Castoriadis himself, by testamentary means or otherwise) was to be treated as valid without question in all languages, including the one in which such a selection made no editorial sense. In
FT(P&K), we have foregone such an indulgence and instead included “Passion and Knowledge”—which, as already noted, was the last major Carrefours chapter yet to appear in book form in English.15
(TO BE CONTINUED)
by Cornelius Castoriadis**
translated from the French and edited anonymously as a public service
**A Paul Cardan (active 1959-1965) was a pseudonym for Cornelius Castoriadis (1922-1997).
13On the unwillingness, on the part of the few people opposed to this electro-Samizdat publication, to engage in factual and substantive discussion, see below.
14Glaring is the irony that a member of a group that brought together workers and intellectuals into the most significant revolutionary organization in the postwar period would become a scab replacement.
A professional translator, Arnold had over three-and-a-half decades between the dissolution of S. ou B. (1967) and 2003—a majority of that time when Castoriadis was alive—to volunteer to translate any one of his S. ou B. or later texts, but she chose to do so only when a labor dispute arose.
15The literary executors had designated Whitebook, the noted psychoanalyst and seasoned Castoriadis commentator, to edit another Castoriadis tome, one focused on the author’s psychoanalytic writings.
Curtis was asked to furnish the translations for this projected volume (Whitebook does not himself read French). With his statement in the Chronicle article, Whitebook appears to have abandoned this project.
RTI(TBS) now includes, anyways, many of Castoriadis’s psychoanalytic writings not previously published in book form in English, and FT(P&K) largely completes that list.
The present volume is offered to readers as a public service in the hopes of encouraging reflection and action aimed at deepening,
and realizing, the project of individual and collective autonomy on a
worldwide basis in all its manifestations.