DAVID AMES CURTIS: OPEN LETTER TO HELEN ARNOLD
DAVID AMES CURTIS
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An Open Letter to Helen Arnold: Please Resume Good-Faith Negotiations
Scab Translator Finally Admits Guilt
But Immediately Rejects All Remedies and Unilaterally Cuts off All Negotiations
After Announcing That She Will Continue as a Scab Translator;
Still Fails to Acknowledge Conflict of Interest
And Her Deception in Writing Letter of Protest to Bill Brown of Not Bored!
November 9, 2009
Dear Helen Arnold:
It is with great regret that I write you now this Open Letter. I waited ten days after your last e-missive in the hope that you would reconsider your unfortunate decision to break off sincere good-faith negotiations.
It was so encouraging that, after refusing to meet with me for almost six years, you finally agreed to sit down twice with me last month to talk out our differences and that you did so in a calm and gracious way. I very much appreciated your first attempt to write an apology for your violation of professional ethics. And I equally appreciated your willingness to read my proposed draft for a joint Public Statement of Agreement and Resolution--which, as I told you, could be amended and altered through good-faith negotiations. I so hoped that we might both, by rational discussion and mutual sharing of views, finally put this matter behind us--a matter that need never have arisen, had you been willing to be open-minded and to hear the facts of the case six years ago, as you have since conceded when you honestly and bravely acknowledged that you were guilty of "negligence" by going ahead and translating a book I had already been contracted to work on with Stanford University Press (SUP).
Yet you now categorically refuse to consider, let alone implement, any remedies for your now-acknowledged injurious actions. Instead, you have unilaterally cut off all negotiations after having announced that you will continue as a scab translator--not only with regard to your unremedied past actions but now as a recidivist teaming up with the very same editor, Helen Tartar, who told me that she and her employer would not honor my originally signed contract! You do so by translating, under her editorship at Fordham University Press, Une société à la dérive. Surely there is a great irony involved in your continuing as a scab by translating a posthumous work by the revolutionary thinker Cornelius Castoriadis that is critical of the moral-political-intellectual drift of contemporary society.
After Helen Tartar was herself fired by Stanford University Press, she tried to place blame on her superiors, referring to one of them--Dr. Alan Harvey or Norris Pope--as a "snake." Indeed, you yourself have willingly acknowledged, in your draft statement, how reprehensible SUP can be. Knowing that Helen Tartar was, like you and me, treated badly by her employer, I gave her every chance to distance herself from SUP's actions as regards a contract SUP would not honor. She could have, for instance, publicly denounced SUP’s behavior regarding my entirely valid Figures of the Thinkable contract once she was no longer employed by them. Instead, her continued hostility has indicated to me that she was fully complicit with SUP when she informed me that, due to a mistake she had made, she and her employer at the time would not honor the contract I had duly signed in good faith with this publishing house.
Through this Open Letter, I publicly urge you to return with me to good-faith negotiations. Surely, it is by remaining open to the concerns of others and by being willing to find common ground through rational discussion that this long-standing matter can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, especially since you have now acknowledged wrongdoing on your part. Awaiting your return to good-faith negotiations, I urge everyone to boycott this scab translation coming out next January from Fordham University Press.* The memory of Cornelius Castoriadis surely cannot be served by dishonest and disreputable means.
David Ames Curtis
P.S.: Equally disturbing is that you still refuse to apologize to Bill Brown of Not Bored! for failing to reveal to him the evident conflict of interest involved in the letter of protest you and Daniel Blanchard wrote to him back in December 2003 regarding the posting of the electro-Samizdat volume The Rising Tide of Insignificancy (The Big Sleep), many of whose texts were to be included in the expanded Figures of the Thinkable volume SUP had contracted me to translate. Such deceit--your concealment from him of your role as scab translator at SUP--requires a public apology to him by you and Daniel Blanchard.
*I follow here your urging not to limit my criticisms to you as scab translator but also to the academic presses and editors who are guilty along with you in this matter. As you know, I have also been critical of the undemocratic nature of the so-called Association Cornelius Castoriadis and its current president, Vincent Descombes, along with members of its Council. You could join me in this denunciation you urge me to undertake simply by signing the Public Statement of Agreement and Resolution and abiding by its fair and reasonable terms.
N.B.: As with most extended e-mail correspondence, the exchange is here presented in reverse chronological order.
October 31, 2009
The very reading of your proposed "statement" has confirmed me in the realization that there can be no understanding between us. I have nothing more to say to you, and do not intend to pursue this exchange any further. Don’t expect an answer to any other missives, which I will in fact not read.
Thanks for Your Reply; Let's Move Forward Together and "Get to Yes"
October 29, 2009
Thank you for your kindness in agreeing to meet with me again yesterday, for your thoughtfulness in beginning the conversation about how we might find common ground for a statement by your drafting your own initial version thereof, and for your willingness to discuss together gracefully with me yesterday both drafts, yours and mine. I am sending you a copy not only of mine but also of yours, typed up now in an electronic format, both of them saved in Word format as attachments to the present e-missive. If I've made any mistakes in yours, please let me know; my apologies in advance.
I fully appreciate your reticence to get involved or embroiled in the "irrationality" that has come with the aftermath of Cornelius's death and the question of how to relate to his literary heirs, as you mention in your draft. I think that I have shown myself to be capable of reasonable discourse, as exemplified now in our two meetings, which might go some considerable length toward dispelling the impression you might have had that the "irrationality" involved in my dealings with the CC literary heirs would have come from my side.
I now ask that you yourself give proof of the rationality you say that you desire. Your draft states, in a term with both moral and legal connotations and consequences, that you have been guilty of "negligence," a serious matter to be sure. When an act of negligence is committed, rational, moral beings work tirelessly to repair fully the damage created by their action. We were just starting to get to the point where we could reason together to determine the facts of the matter surrounding your negligence and related issues and to discuss in a reasonable manner, by sharing opinions and ideas, what might be the appropriate remedies. I already made, during the meeting, several constructive suggestions to accommodate your concerns. Yet you have not effectively disputed any single factual point raised in my draft version, which I can therefore take to be an accurate account unless you have some specific, reasonably argued objections you would like to share with me and hold up to mutual scrutiny.* Please recall that you did misunderstand a few things, as with the evidently preposterous idea that I would be asking you in particular to "authorize" my translating S. ou B. texts. As you see, your fears or the things that upset you emotionally often turn out to have no rational basis in fact, as we also saw when we were able to examine together calmly your misapprehension about what I was proposing in regard to S. ou B. translations and S. ou B. scans, your having conflated the two separate and distinct projects and then reporting patently false information to others, again to my detriment by painting me as incapable of good and reasonable judgment, based on nothing more than your emotional prejudices which make you make up stuff time and again.
So, let's not confuse what you feel like you want or what you feel comfortable about acknowledging with what you are obliged morally to do, now that you have admitted "negligence" and recognized that you have repeatedly misconstrued my words, actions, and writings and misrepresented these to others in ways that repeatedly do me injustice. You cannot just live in a moral vacuum where you do harm to others and then walk away from the consequences. Moreover, in your draft, you misrepresented your own previous thinking, for now you claim that it was in order to avoid becoming embroiled in a conflict with the Castoriadis family that you did not meet with me in December 2003, whereas at the time what you said was that your actions had nothing to do with the Castoriadis family and concerned only Stanford University Press. I told you at the time that you were making a huge mistake that you would regret forever, but you deliberately ignored me for whatever irrational prejudicial reasons you are now coming to recognize as such.
By refusing to meet with me then, you committed negligent actions to my detriment. You see now that that was a mistake. Why go back to committing mistakes by avoiding a rational confrontation between your emotional leanings, hurt feelings, and fears, on the one hand, and what you must still do to lift the moral cloud of opprobrium you have placed over your own head, on the other? And why do so just at the moment when you have recognized a series of past errors of appreciation and conduct? And why avoid rational discussion just when you have complained that you want to avoid irrationality? Moreover, you wrote to me that the thing you really wanted to accomplish was to have me recognize that you are not a scab. When you saw what was involved in getting to a negotiated settlement recognizing the views of both sides through rational examination and discussion, you told me that that really wasn't so important after all. And that's not the first time you've backtracked on your words. Look at the case with Bill Brown. You said he wasn't really interested in an apology. When I told you that I was keeping him informed and that he wanted to know the results of our discussion, you then said that he was hostile to you and Daniel anyway. But why then did you and Daniel in December 2003 write to him as friendly acquaintances to protest the electro-Samizdat publication on his website when in fact there was all this hostility, at least on your part? Might that hostility have been picked up by Bill at the time, which you have then retroprojected onto him? And isn't this hostility on your part toward him now evident to you in the fact that, at the time, you disrespectfully hid from him your conflict of interest in the matter and still today refuse to make a public apology for your ethically misleading protest? No doubt, given your repeated misconstructions and misrepresentations, I too have been the repeated victim of your hostile projections. Isn't it time that you recognize what's going on within yourself?
Let's work to "get to yes" instead of your just saying one thing and then the opposite without the benefit of a rational mutual examination of the facts. You've admitted now the serious charge of "negligence" and you must come up with remedies. Your explanation now of your past actions doesn't jibe with what you told me at the time. The alternative is to place yourself willfully and irrationally in a position where you undertake negotiations, supposedly in good faith, and then cut off those negotiations abruptly just when a rational examination of the case at hand does not seem to be going your way. Isn't that just a little bit reminiscent of someone else you are very critical of--indeed the very person (Zoe) whose failure to pursue good-faith negotiations created all this trouble in the first place? You will end up becoming known not just as a scab translator but also as someone without the moral courage to confront rationally her negligence and the moral compass to recognize and admit irrational prejudices. What a bitter epitaph for the person who was, along with Richard Greeman, one of the few American members of Socialisme ou Barbarie!
I remain, as ever, committed, to helping you lift yourself out of the ever-deeper hole you find yourself in, due to your own actions. I interpret the current setback as simply a way station on the path toward a complete, mutually agreeable solution to all outstanding matters, based on rational, mutually respectful discourse. Doing the right thing is not always pleasant or even pain-free, but it is likely in the end to bring welcome relief. Remember, there was a point where you wouldn't even discuss with me at all and since then you've begun to recognize your mistakes. It is now time to learn from them and to rectify them.
*Your draft statement does not even take into account the fact that I was negotiating at the time with Zoe, representative of both the Castoriadis literary executors and the Association Castoriadis, and that she had explicitly forbidden me from having any substantive contact with Stanford University Press at the time, a stipulation I strictly adhered to and informed SUP about in general terms.
October 29, 2009
Forget it. I’m not going to "negotiate" with you or amend your statement. We have nothing further to discuss.