New York, Febr. 13, 47
Dear Dr. Federn:
I thank you, indeed, for your letter of Febr. 6. It is not so that Macmillan signed with me a contract; they only wrote letters to me promising a contract. They showed interest and negotiated with O’Neill, and with me; their editor also visited me. But sometimes I think that at the end they may discover that I brought a sack of dynamite into their mill, and it is not flour. Then they will become frightened. And then, it may happen, that I was lifted high in my hopes only to be thrown down from a higher floor than in the case of other publishers, all of whom are afraid of revolutionary ideas, in science even more than in politics. They live on conservative college books, and colleges live on the science of the foregoing generation, when the present teachers absorbed it in their student years. Under these conditions to be a reformator equals to being a heretic. In the attitude of Macmillan I see two contradictory trends: they try to persuade me to make the book more popular, so that the general reader of the Book-of-the-month-club type could read it, and to limit it to two parts (which you read), omitting the story of early catastrophes and the entire paleontological and geological material; and on the other hand they have received already the inkling that my book is a heresy, and they inquire whether it is academical as a book published by their reputable firm must be. Which is a worship of God and Mammon simultaneously (Mammon is the Book-of-the-month-club). They even tried to persuade me (through O’Neill) that reworking the book (to some unclear plan) I could have forty thousand of royalties; I refused rewriting, and O’Neill, who spent with me an afternoon at my studio, was apparently impressed by that my stand. I agreed only to reediting but not to rewriting. I shall inform you what further development will be.
I feel with you the importance of starting a career of an academic lecturer. But I think that you overestimate the work of preparation to the lectures you have to do. You know much more than what you have to give to your students, and the task, as it seems to me, is not in increasing details, but omitting them. Think that your students know nothing; and in the beginning, in order not to frighten them, a series of lectures, or better plauderies about Egypt, the Nile, the pyramids, the discovery of a clue for reading hieroglyphics, may make the students better prepared to listening to the texts. The finenesses should be left for the advanced students, who already listened to you a couple of years. May be, I should not give you any advice; but you know that sometimes the cow is prepared to give more milk to the calf than the calf is able to take.
I take this occasion to repeat my thanks expressed in the telephone conversation for the explanations given in your December 11 letter. Most of the works you mentioned there, like those of Cumont, Bousset, Chwolson, I knew already, and I disagree that the quoted books are “für Sie ohne Interesse.” I have found there and used many details in the third part of Worlds in Collision.
Also the Heraclitus work was already earlier in my hand, but I could not read it. That the idea of the Ilias is a battle of planets I found independently, as you read it, and my agreement with the old commentators is agreeable to me. Boll speaks of “Zusammenprallen der Planeten,” real collisions, and you translate “Zusamenkunft.” If, at some occasion of your work in the library, you could make a translation of Heraclitus 53, so that I could quote it, it would be of help to me.
My daughter enjoys her life in Palestine; she would not like to miss such a time there.