Posted onOctober 3, 2013
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On Saturday we are visiting Brazil–Vitoria first, then Rio–for a conference organized by Profs. Veronica Tozzi and Julio Bentivoglio–on the 40th anniversary of what Veronica calls “the existence of Metahistory,” the book not the concept. They have arranged for a number of my former students, friends, and “metahistoricistas” to gather in Vitoria and discuss whatever it is about history they want to discuss. Hans Kellner, Ewa Domanska, Wulf Kansteiner, Claudio Fogu, Robert Doran, Veronica herself, Maria Ines La Greca, and a number of people I do not know but am looking forward to meeting, will be there. They have planned, or so it seems, not only good discussion but good entertainment, including a visit to a Samba school. The conference itself will be at the University.
As I wrote in an earlier post, I no longer feel that I have any particular stake in Metahistory, the book, although I have much stake in the concept. I think the book is known more in translations than in the original. With each new translation (with the exception of languages I cannot read, such as Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Czech, etc.), I have experienced a change in the “atmosphere” of the book. For example, “emplotment” in the German version comes across as “Modelierung.” The French bought up translation rights years ago, but have avoided translating Metahistory altogether. But the reason I mention the French is that in French “emplotment” comes across as “mise en intrigue,” which sounds rather sinister to my ears. It is like that other French term for “corporation”: “societe anonyme” (I dont seem to have diacritical marks on this keyboard.) But isn’t “anonymous society” perfect for the modern corporation? It is like Manzoni’s villain: “l’innominabile.” “The Unnamable!” The Germans left the title Metahistory in English; the Italians changed it completely: Retorica e storia. The Italian version is a disgrace, bearing almost no similarity to what was written in the English version. It does not bother me, frankly, since I believe that, as Terence said, “Habent fata sua libelli,” adding “according to the capacities of their readers.” Lately I have been reconsidering some of the issues raised in Metahistory in the light of Deleuze’s The Logic of Sense. This is a profound book, difficult to conjure with but worth the effort, no matter what one’s field. It modernizes the Epicurean-Stoic gamma, is radically materialistic and immanentist, and celebrates the differences between differences. Among other things, it shows how “surface-depth” gets transformed into “high-low.”