A monolingual proofreader or editor isn’t always the best solution as the example of What Ever Happened to Modernism? nicely illustrates.
Let me put one thing straight right away, I have, so far, only read 16 pages of Josipovici’s What Ever Happened to Modernism? and had to frown already more than once. I think that someone who, in the early pages, mentions fellow critic’s books, labelling them as “dreadful”, should be a bit more careful when exposing his own train of thought and how he chooses to underline his theory.
To quote or not to quote? is not the key question. Crucial is how you do it. In the original language and offering a translation? Or the translation only?
I did not understand why Josipovici does in some cases quote the English translation followed by the original or in other cases followed only by bits of the original and sometimes only the translation. Let’s presume he has his reasons, that I didn’t get and let’s leave it at that but when I come upon a key expression like Max Weber’s “disenchantment of the world” and find the German original expression – in brackets – rendered as Die Entziehung der Welt and not, as it should say correctly, Die Entzauberung der Welt (p. 11), then something must have gone really wrong. There are only two explanations. Josipovicis’ editor doesn’t speak German or he himself doesn’t speak German. If the latter is the case, I have a few additional problems.
How could that happen? How could die “Entzauberung” become die “Entziehung”? The first means “disenchantment” and is the correct term used by Max Weber while the other signifies “divestment”. I think, this is embarrassing. Maybe Josipovici’s book is not dreadful but his German sure is. Entziehung isn’t even a proper noun but a noun that has been built by adding the affix -ung to a verb (entziehen – Entziehung), unlike Entzug. “Entziehen” also signifies “to withdraw”.
Additionally I’m still thinking about his definition of modernism. Modernism, as he writes, should neither be seen as a period nor a style but rather as art that makes its production one of its key themes (yes, I do simplify), self-conscious art that reflects itself, so-called metafiction. I thought that was the definition of postmodernism. To make something clear here, the term metafiction isn’t used (he is talking about art in general anyway), Josipovici is very accessible, not a complicated writer at all. He is neither a Blanchot, Derrida nor a Barthes. No, the way he writes is very Anglo-Saxon. Funny that.
To be honest, I am, among other things, a linguist with a fondness of Freudian slips and that is why I will finish Josipovici’s book. I appreciate things that make me laugh.
On a more generous note, I would say that, early on, Josipovici has, unconsciously and through a lapse, revealed what he really wanted to write about which isn’t the disenchantment but the divestment of the world. Or rather the divestment of literature. I do agree with his subconscious. I think, literature doesn’t suffer so much from being too modernist or not modernist enough but because it buys too much into consumerism.
By the way, I’m not a native English speaker and I didn’t have a proofreader. Mistakes and lapses are entirely my own.