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On Writing

I even did some work: a long book review. On the other hand, I have not written a single line of my deeply metaphysical book on death. I am not in the proper mood for such enterprises; no matter how much I wrack my brains, not a single thought (philosophical or otherwise) occurs to me. I have promised an eager editor an article on a Spanish poet who recently died and whose work I almost totally ignore. My ignorance will perhaps help, so I will probably produce the article. This is how the intellectual world goes. [Barcelona, July 20, 1960]

My book on death remains in the same state as when I left it before summer vacation . . . . such book will probably require more hours than I can afford, but I will do my best to avoid perishing in furious philosophical meditation. Should I enter a monastery (or a substitute thereto) in order to definitively complete what is supposed to be my metaphysical system? I am wondering; after all, it may be that carefree coffee conversation is a terrible sin that no self-respecting philosopher would ever indulge in. [Bryn Mawr, Sept. 1960]

You will find on your desk . . . a copy of Americas with that article of mine I wrote in Paris last June. Neither my article nor its English translation add anything to anything, but I can assure you that the original text is slightly more alive than its present rendering. For some reason, the translator thought it proper to dismiss the ironical tone of some of my remarks. God bless him (or her).

I finally accepted delivering a lecture at Syracuse U. I suddenly remembered that last year I gave a brief talk on “religious experience,” and that my notes, conveniently revised and expanded, could serve as a starting point for a lecture. I had thought of using my ideas (strongly opposed by Mr. X) on philosophical questioning, but it occurred to me that Syracusans nowadays are unlike their predecessors, and will find the question of questioning goes nowhere. So I decided in favor of a less uncanny subject.

Also I am furious, because I still have no answer from that damned publisher. My (last) letter to him is dated November 11, (1960). Well, I suppose I must be patient. But, should I be? [Bryn Mawr, Nov. 6, 1961]

I finished my report on a book (it was rather unfavorable, I must say). I will soon begin my report to the APA and have to think of my research project, although I do not know what to say. I do not seem to have anything to do research on.

I have thought a little of my course on Philosophy of History. I am sorry I have not enough time to prepare it comme il faut. [Bryn Mawr, Dec. 2, 1961]

As a matter of fact, I am still behind (as usual). . . . I must organize a little my work, lest I am so much behind that I lose contact with whatever behind I am approaching—all this being, to be sure, rigorously metaphorical.

I am going to work like mad. I have finished reading proofs (the ones I received), and have reached the conviction that I could still produce another good book. More than one, for that matter. [Bryn Mawr, Feb. 12, 1962]

With such a crisp day I should feel ready to work hard, but for some reason, I do not. I feel very, very lazy. I suppose things will change this afternoon, so I am permitted to give the final touch to my two books of essays, which, needless to say, I am beginning to hate.

This (the place and time) is very quiet and solitary; however, whereas in one way it is too solitary, in another way it is not solitary enough. As you can see, I am becoming as obscure as a Greek Sybil. [Bryn Mawr, nd]

I have been writing a few more sublime pages, and reached the conclusion that sometimes I can write damned well, although sometimes I an quite a disaster, as you know. [Paris, July 20, 1962]

I am, or have been, (a little busy) mostly in the process of preparing a number of interviews within the frame of the self-promoting campaign I alluded to in one of my previous letters. . . . The “promoter” started, finally, and the first result is enclosed herewith under the guise of a short, crisp interview published in Barcelona's most widely circulated newspaper (Sunday circulation: 300,000 copies). The drawing (or “caricature”) is supposed to resemble the original only with the best of all possible intentions. Although the interview is brief, its presentation was long, for it was necessary to ascertain “what can be said” (mostly in the sense of “what cannot be said”). It is most likely that tomorrow another (longer) interview will come out in another newspaper, and I will eventually send you a copy. Friday this week a third interview, of a somewhat higher intellectual caliber, will come out in a widely circulated weekly. Other similar or, as the case may be, dissimilar interviews will be published “in due time,” and perhaps a radio, not to say a TV appearance, will be in the offing. All this is not meant to do something in favor of my “public image,” but simply, and more modestly, something in favor of the recently published “Selected Works.” Unfortunately, copies of such “S.W.” are available nowhere. I have visited five of the most important bookstores, only in one of them could said “S.W.” be detected, after a systematic hunt, in an inconspicuous corner, almost completely submerged by copies of the Spanish edition of Manchester's monster book. In the other three bookstores there was not a single copy, and the employees had no idea of the so often mentioned (in this letter) “S.W.” In the fifth (bookstore) I spent some twenty-five minutes of hard inquiry; the salesboys (no salesgirls) asked each other about the matter, consulted various catalogues, looked behind rows of books, and, finally, succeeded in finding one single copy behind a counter. I have written an indignant letter to my publisher telling him that if he does nothing, as it seems to be quite obvious to distribute my book, he should not complain that sales are disappointing.

I am beginning to realize how hard is the life of people who promote themselves, or who let themselves be promoted. I have spent a considerable number of hours in this (frustrating) undertaking, and I am beginning to be fed up with it. It is obvious that as a “public figure” I am quite a failure.

Besides busying myself with the above promotion campaign, I have been seeing some friends. Self-promoting activities and a few friends aside, I have been spending all my time in proof reading. I read the galley proof of my book once, but started all over again, because I wish to improve the text as much as possible now that I have an opportunity to do so (page proofs must be simply read, and misprints corrected but that is about all). I have tightened up (or rather I am tightening up, since I am still in the process of proof reading) the book a little bit more—mostly by means of elimination of unwelcome repetitions; I have tried to express myself a little more trenchantly at a number of crucial points, and I have added some 12 more pages to the whole thing. The printer will hate me when he will see the result of my over-tampering with the text. It would be a pity, however, not to “do it” now that I have the last opportunity of improving what, after all, is supposed to be my most serious and/or crucial philosophical opus.

I am going back soon to proof read again—and, above all, to improve the text. I doubt that I will be able to do—work wise—much more than that during my stay in Barcelona, but at least I will leave the book in the state of the greatest possible perfection, from the author's viewpoint. I have bought a couple of books but haven't even looked at them. Tomorrow night there is an “intellectual dinner” with some of the people who belong to one of the seven or eight “intellectual Establishments” rooted in this city. This may tarnish my image in front of the other six or seven intellectual Establishments, but I am not going to be very worried about that. [Barcelona, July 10, 1967]

I am still working on proof reading, for the simple reason stated in my letter of yesterday: I want to tighten up things to a point of no return, meaning in such a way that when the page proofs do “come” I will limit myself to correction of misprints. It is a somewhat distasteful work, but one which is in tune with my “re-writing maniac tendencies.” But enough of proof reading; it only happens that I wanted to tell you something about my present “work.”

. . . despite the self-promoting campaign started last Sunday, my publisher is doing his best to conceal the existence of my book [Selected Works] I am waiting for his answer to my (justly and rightly) indignant letter, and subsequent complaints. [Barcelona, July 11 1967]

I have been working hard in proof reading; after having completed this job, I started it all over again with the charitable aim of improving the original text and reducing misprints to a minimum. If all goes well, tomorrow I will be able to mail the proof, plus the typescript; I am fed up with both, I can tell you.

Enclosed you will find a clipping containing another interview. This has been done by the very same Mr. Porcel who prepared the long interview with the 20-odd celebrated pictures. A dinner was held yesterday in Mr. Porcel's home—a very nice house, on the slope of one of the mountains surrounding Barcelona—and a highly intellectual . . . conversation ensued. . . . The debate centered on Catalonia's future, a permanent obsession among Catalans. I maintained the view, staunchly opposed by almost everyone, that unless Catalan intellectuals decide to talk about something else the future of Catalan culture will be very meager, indeed.

In a way, I look like a kind of secluded monk, despite my many “encounters,” with people—or perhaps because of these so many “encounters.” Being some sort of “intellectual” is sometimes quite a nuisance. A group of people are now preparing a “panel discussion” on the basis of tape recorders, with the aim of using the ensuing materials for a book (another book); to be sure I have been asked to participate—as a matter of fact, my temporary presence here is the reason for such panel discussion. I think that I also must talk on the radio. . . . I am beginning to get a little sick of this pseudo-publicity, which, as I explained in a previous letter, probably goes nowhere, because my “Selected Works” are still unavailable in bookstores. Some of such bookstores even go as far as denying that the author exists.

I am (as I said at the beginning) really fed up with my proof reading. I did not foresee that it would take so much time. [Barcelona, July 14, 1967]

I gave the final touch to proof reading, which took so much time not only because I read the whole affair twice, and very carefully, but also because I slashed a number of pages to be replaced by a few (up to the present) much better ones. Now, I must do something however little, with respect to selections of articles for the would-be Catalan version of a very abbreviated Dictionary of Philosophy. I don't know what happens, but I am always stumbling against some type of unbecoming work when I come to this place. [Barcelona, July 17, 1967]

My article on “Structure and History” [will be] published in La Nación, of Buenos Aires. I have just finished a couple of other articles, just in case the first one is accepted, published (and paid). I now plan to write a longer thing “On religion,” based upon lecture notes, and possibly an English text for my La Salle lecture. . . . Then I will consider my article—and essay—period to be over for a time and will concentrate on more minoritarian affairs. After all, what's the point of writing supposedly less minoritarian pieces if any piece of mine seems to be doomed to either ignorance or extinction. This last sad sentence has probably been caused by a note asking me for permission to throw away “everything concerned with Man at the Crossroads” (proofs, plates, and so on). I cannot [lay] claim to a success like that of Mr. Manchester, whose book on The Death of the President has already sold out (before publication), and is being frantically reprinted, but it is a little sad to give an account of what may be called The Death of a Book. [Bryn Mawr, nd]

I finally succeeded in writing a “Table of Contents” for my next book. It reads as follows: 1. Philosophy and Language. 2. Medium and Message. 3. Games and Rules. 4. Language as an activity. 5. Language as structure. 6. Language and the world. 7. Words and Utterances. 8. On Use. 9. On Meanings. 10. On referents. 11. A Budget of Questions. 12. Appendix: On “expressive language.” It looks pretty good. Unfortunately, I am only at the beginning, namely, I have completed Chapters 1 & parts of 3 and 4, and almost the entire chapter 8. What remains to be done is the most difficult part; at any rate, I seem to have little original to say. Lack of inspiration, as always.

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