Eremos has quite a history now. Book project rejected by Verso (this is what we call falling from a high horse), and now Vienna. But that's nothing. I always tell myself that prof. R., at my age, was a persona non grata in nine countries (nine is of course used here in its symbolic value of "worldwide"), and that proved to be just his bumpy ride to Oxford. Surely there is also a decent highway leading there, and people arriving by this highway, but I simply got no reference of them...
Well, this is just a joke, but the serious question is how far should I stick to my absurd idea of transcultural condition instead of doing so called normal science like everyone else.
Yeah, I know the answer. Those who do normal science obtain their local recompense. They get money, and they become grant managers, and they are greatly admired in such a place as the University of Warsaw, where many people use the mere quantity of research money, especially if it comes from the European Union, to gauge the value of ideas. Grants seem to have the advantage of being "objective" criteria and save the effort of understanding what the whole thing is about. By the way, it also explains the great popularity of big, cumbersome budget projects that all my colleagues dream about, and the relative lack of interest in individual fellowships, that are much easier, lighter, and offer comfort to advance with a real intellectual work. But the kind of prestige they bring doesn't fit our customs and usages.
I don't imagine our grant managers to last long in the history of humanities... yet few people here would really care. This is not the perspective one usually has in mind.
Sometimes I think those great books that stay in the history of humanities are not financed from public money in any case. They are private venture, and the fabulous advantage they utterly offer assures that unsupported individuals shall try over and over again to make them, no need to channel it through any public financing system. On the other hand, as I often say, emergence is out of control, so no one can reasonably take the responsibility that such a book will actually be written during a given period of time counter the payment of a stipulated amount of money. Institutions such as highly ambitious universities may nonetheless be keen to host such initiatives, accepting the risk, to bask in the glory of having such things born on their lap. And this is how the things are done, semi-privately and as discretely as possible, away from the big European machine of research financing, advertising loudly the money that is to be spent before a single item of valuable research is actually achieved. And this is roughly what stands behind this enigmatic formula: "exclusively on invitation". It used to make me discard such fellowships immediately, but now I start to feel I should be keenly interested precisely in those places where I see the word "invitation" written in bright red on the entrance door.
Oh, those hyper-privatised manners of the upper class, translated into academic reality... I start to understand how deeply the social skills are implied in the intellectual work, in building the so called academic excellence. It follows the universal rules of prestige and symbolic advantage, widely exemplified in elites and aristocracies of the world...
I've been away of this logic, dull and hard-working, and remaining in the shadow, and caring quite little about self-promotion (the existence of this website is a counter-example; the mess to be found on it reinforces the above-stated observation). But if I want my things done in the shape they should be done, my messy nature must be controlled. Someone, a younger colleague, told me quite bluntly: "This is just a misunderstanding that this book [Empire and Nostalgia] has been published in Polish, on grey paper, by an nonexistent editor". The girl went straight to the point.
No more grey paper, thus. I do consider replacing my cheapest, Chinese-made notebooks and pens. Small steps for a big change. And making better friends.
I love exquisite stationary, by the way.