Notes on the 1992 Revision of The Tales

The Revision of The Tales

[An Excerpt from To Fathom The Gist, Vol 2 – The Arch Absurd]

What Were They Thinking?

Initially, for this volume, we did not intend to expend so much time analyzing and discussing The Revision. However, while writing the second chapter of this book we realized we would be obliged to do so. We uncovered the references to “six groshen” (1931 manuscript) and “two cents” (1950 publication). Out of curiosity, we checked The Revision just to see which of these two possibilities it had chosen. We were completely astonished to discover that it had gone with neither.

We pondered this, concluding that there might be some students of The Tales that mistakenly placed some faith in The Revision. And so we chose to investigate more deeply.

Our methodology for this follows the text of this chapter precisely. We first investigated typographical aspects, then content aspects (the words themselves) and finally poetic aspects. Our conclusions are unambiguous.

The Revision obscures Gurdjieff’s intended meaning in the following ways:

  • It fails to use full capitalization, thus confusing references to GOD with many other lesser individualities or concepts.
  • It uses initial capitalization in a confusing manner that is inconsistent with Gurdjieff’s use of this typographical feature.
  • In some places it may confuse French capitalization rules with English ones.
  • It does not use hyphens as a means to cluster words and hence loses the meanings that Gurdjieff achieves in this way.
  • Its use of hyphens is particularly confusing—we could not identify any specific policy.
  • Its use of quotation marks appears to derive, primarily although not always, from the French text. It often appears to be arbitrary. We could not identify the application of any specific policy.
  • Its use of footnotes appears to be based on the French text, but only for the first half of the book, after which it abandons footnotes. There are some content differences in the footnotes where it appears to follow the French text, rather than the English or German.
  • There are cultural disparities. Where Gurdjieff clearly chose words that would have cultural meaning to the English reader, The Revision seems to repeat French colloquialisms in the vain hope that English readers will resonate with them.
  • There are obvious cases of poor word choice where the revision team chose clearly inappropriate words, even avoiding the word chosen in the French version. Meaning is damaged accordingly. Sometimes it is destroyed completely.
  • It is clear that no attention has been given to philology and thus some word choices in The Revision are philologically wrong. This is a very serious defect as the key to the meaning of some parts of The Tales is to be found in the philology of Gurdjieff ’s chosen words.
  • In a few places completely new text has been added. Where this is the case it appears to have been patched in from the French version.
  • At times The Revision makes the style error of adopting the passive voice whereas Gurdjieff ’s original used the active voice.
  • The rhythm of the words in The Revision is different to Gurdjieff’s chosen rhythm. This is the case throughout the whole book.

We did not “cherry-pick” the examples we have described that expose the differences between Gurdjieff’s original and The Revision. We simply happened upon them when carrying out word comparisons between the two texts. We have little doubt we could identify many more examples of every kind of defect we have recorded here. We note, en passant, that there are over a thousand instances where The Revision chooses a different word to the one Gurdjieff chose.

We also note that it is hard to find any paragraphs where the two versions are actually the same. Even where word choices are aligned, the sentences in The Revision are stubbornly different, not even adopting the form of the sentences in the French version. We encounter a multitude of differences in the use of capitalization and hyphenation and quote marks, and in the spelling of neologisms.

We are unable to avoid the conclusion that the revision team were, at best, amateurish in their literary skills.

The Advocacy of The Revision

We observe that those who advocate on behalf of The Revision seem only to repeat or extend its misconceived marketing narrative. As far as we know they have never provided evidence that demonstrates, or even argues for, the superior quality of any example of The Revision’s text over Gurdjieff ’s original work.

If The Revision had any intrinsic value whatsoever they would be able to present such evidence.