Censorship and the Cahiers Castoriadis (Open Letter)[1]

Dear Mr. Laurent Van Eynde:

You kindly invited me to the Interdisciplinary Literary Research Seminar (SIRL) so that I might, during the colloquium entitled "The Imaginary at the Crossroads of Interdisciplinarity: Around the Work of Cornelius Castoriadis," deliver the first lecture of the "Castoriadis Days" (May 27-28, 2004), the first year of these "Castoriadis Days" now held each year at the Facultes Universitaires Saint-Louis (FUSL) in Brussels, Belgium. Though controversial, this lecture -- "Effectivite et reflexivite dans l 'experience d 'un traducteur de Cornelius Castoriadis" (Effective actuality and reflectiveness in the experience of a translator of Cornelius Castoriadis) -- was rather well received by the audience. Co-organizer Sophie Klimis was kind enough, shortly after my talk, to dedicate a copy of her book to me as follows: "For David Curtis. In homage to his autonomous translation project, and in the hope of having the opportunity to pursue a common effort around Castoriadis."

Nevertheless, you violently took me to task at the end of this colloquium, explaining to me that I should not have spoken about "controversial" subjects. "Young people," you told me regarding a colloquium organized around the work of Cornelius Castoriadis, had to be protected from "controversy"! You also feared that some of the people criticized during my talk might sue for libel if FUSL published it. And yet, you have refused to specify a single phrase that might pose a problem -- and this not just once, when you were very angry and incapable of speaking coherently, but each time, over five years, I politely and kindly made the reasonable request that you tell me explicitly what precise phrase or phrases bothered you. You have even written to a third party, claiming that I have refused to modify my text, whereas I am still awaiting the slightest indication from you about what might pose a problem therein.

While awaiting the possibility of seeing the written version of my text published in the Cahiers Castoriadis -- like all the other texts presented during the "Castoriadis Days" -- this talk is available for the moment on a French-speaking left-libertarian website, which welcomed it without any qualms: http://1libertaire.free.fr/Castoriadis45.html. No one, to my knowledge, has sued this website for libel. And this year, a translation -- "Konkrete Wirklichkeit und Reflexion in der Erfahrung eines Uebersetzers von Cornelius Castoriadis" -- appeared in the German review Archiv fur die Geschichte des Widerstandes und der Arbeit, 18: 563-92--still without anyone, to my knowledge, bringing a lawsuit. The Archiv was kind enough to ask me to report on this censorship and on the unfolding of these "Castoriadis Days," which is what I did and that report appears now in a Postscript as the second half of this German publication of my text (the original, in English, is available by contacting me at davidamescurtis@hotmail.com or clicking here for those who do not read German).

In my humble opinion, such censorship[2] must stop regarding a text that, in the spirit of Castoriadis, does not avoid controversy and seeks the truth through reflection on one's effectively actual experience. I politely and kindly ask you again -- but now in an open letter, after five years of kind and polite efforts in private -- to lift this censorship and to publish my text verbatim in the Cahiers Castoriadis or to specify to me what phrase or phrases truly pose a problem--especially now, in light of this text 's publication in German translation without anyone bringing a suit.

Yours cordially,
David Ames Curtis

[1] Translation of "Les Cahiers Castoriadis et la censure (Lettre ouverte)" (May 2009), now available at the end of my 2004 talk, published at http://1libertaire.free.fr/Castoriadis45.html.

[2] A lovely, immediate confirmation of this practice: Philippe Caumieres (one of the organizers of these "Castoriadis Days," the results of which are published in the Cahiers Castoriadis, as well as a member of the Council of the "Association Cornelius Castoriadis," which has refused to state publicly whether or not it is going to sue for defamation against a publication of the written version of this talk) removed copies of this Open Letter from half the seats before the audience arrived and then set them aside, instead of putting them back on these seats after having moved them.