Why so few translations of Simondon?

The politics of a scholar’s work after (or even before!) their death and how one interprets their wishes (often unclearly expressed) is difficult. Likewise, there are plenty of people with ‘vested interests’  in how that work is communicated. This is a particularly thorny issue in translation.

I do not pretend to have any special insight but the following excerpt from an excellent interview conducted by Andrew Iliadis (whose work is very much worth exploring) with Jean-Hughes Barthélémy perhaps offers some clue about why we have seen so little of Simondon’s work translated into English:

Iliadis: You are the editor of Cahiers Simondon. Who else is involved in that project, and do you see it growing? Where is it heading?

Barthélémy: I created the Cahiers Simondon in 2009, thanks to the Maison des Sciences de l’homme de Paris-Nord and the editor Jean-Louis Déotte. My friend and collaborator Vincent Bontems and I decided to establish each year a selection of papers, among them those that were presented at the Atelier Simondon, derived by Vincent at the École Normale Supérieure. But some papers come from proposals that are external to the Atelier Simondon. Sometimes, I have to translate – or at least to correct –the papers in the French version. My criterium for the selection is only the seriousness of the work of exegesis, and that’s why it is difficult, each year to have enough papers. Interest in Simondon is really growing in the world, but the seriousness of Simondon’s studies is still a dream. Young researchers that are not French get an excuse: there is no English translation of Simondon’s books, and some partial translations are quite wrong. I must add that when I worked with Arne De Boever, I corrected the American translation of L’individuation psychique et collective–I spent many hours on this passionate and voluntary work. But Nathalie Simondon asked the editor to publish the entire text of L’individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information. Therefore, I have no news concerning the translation of L’individu et sa genèse physico- biologique. I just know that this part of the main thesis is the most difficult: its translation into English needs one or two philosophers of science that are also specialists on Simondon! Now, about the current translation of Du mode d’existence des objets techniques: here again, the information we have had does not make us optimistic.

It is tempting to see a kind of intellectual policing going on here, but I simply do not know the institutional and legal contexts of what Barthélémy is saying… Nevertheless it is tremendously sad (and rather frustrating) that it appears likely that Anglophone scholars will have to wait some time before they have access to an ‘approved’/ published translation of Simondon’s major work(s): L’individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information.

I am given to understand that The Mode of Existence of Technical Objects (Du mode d’existence des objets techniques) will be published by Univocial, which is associated with University of Minnesota Press, at some time in the latter part of 2015. I have also heard that another of Simondon’s lecture courses will be translated and published by Univocal, I do not know the likely time-frame.

I welcome any clarifications or comments from those ‘in the know’…

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