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Sunday 20 August 2006

Why Moretti is down to two

Back in mid-July, I mentioned that I had asked Princeton University Press why they had republished Franco Moretti's massive, groundbreaking, five volume critical history of The Novel in an English-language version of just two volumes. I was concerned that this important work of scholarship was being worryingly emaciated. Well, just as I'd landed in Crete for my holiday, Caroline Priday from PUP kindly got back to me saying:

Our vision in contracting with Einaudi [the Italian publisher] to redact their 5 volumes to 2 volumes was driven by the desire to produce a work that would, effectively, portray the scholarship contained in the original for the broadest possible array of English-language readers around the world -- scholars, critics, and students alike. This I think we have done, and more successfully than might have been the case with a 5-volume work, whose appeal would have been limited, inevitably, to academic libraries.

Did we de-emphasize the international aspect of the work? If anything, I think we have effectively preserved the work's international appeal. Indeed, it is a tribute to Professor Moretti's editing of our two-volume edition that the book is as broadly cross-national in its scope as it is. Our two volumes include more than 40 contributors from universities outside the US -- from countries such as Italy, Germany, Cuba, India, Turkey, China and Brazil -- out of a total of 100 contributors. And more than 40 pieces were translated from their original language. So we feel our edition of this book comprises an impressively international scholarly enterprise.

As noted, our original conception for the English-language edition of this book was for a two-volume work, and this was based on our publishing vision and our sense of how to get this book out to a large audience. We certainly do not, as a press, decline to publish works on the grounds of their being multi-volume. As you will be aware, we hardly shy away from multi-volume works, and for over a century have in fact published many multi-volume works -- some of them extending into thirty or forty volumes and more -- and continue to do so.

We're confident that, with the superb direction of editor Franco Moretti and the collective efforts of our colleagues, we've published what will be a landmark book on the novel for years to come.

If, as Caroline says, the decision to reduce the Moretti down to two volumes was to "portray the scholarship contained in the original for the broadest possible array of English-language readers," rather than publish a book that was destined only to remain unread in libraries, I don't see why a single-volume "taster" could not have been published alongside the full, five volumes for those interested readers who require access to the full text.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Omens, after Alexander Pushkin

I rode to meet you: dreams
like living beings swarmed around me
and the moon on my right side
followed me, burning.

I rode back: everything changed.
My soul in love was sad
and the moon on my left side
trailed me without hope.

To such endless impressions
we poets give ourselves absolutely,
making, in silence, omen of mere event,
until the world reflects the deepest needs of the soul.

-- Louise Gluck
Averno (Carcanet Press)

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