The missing question mark

Publishers don’t like question marks on front covers. Looks messy. That’s what we were told when the original title we had proposed for our collections of essay – France’s Last Revolution? Rethinking May 68 – was rearranged to give May 68. Rethinking France’s Last Revolution. Last? Latest? The final version is not totally clear that revolution is a thing of the past, but it is clear that it was a thing, identifiable as such, a revolution. One reviewer at least pointed out that such a designation is eminently questionable. Ambiguity slipped back in where the publisher wanted to edit it out. But it would have been better if it had borne its question for all to see. And if the fact of rethinking May 68 today could have kept the implicit connection to the idea of revolutionary possibilities still lurking somewhere. But publishers are probably inclined to find those messy too.

Since then I came across this section in Leslie Kaplan’s Miss Nobody Knows. It puts the question mark back into “ce qui se passe” and the uncertainty into what we’re thinking about when we rethink May 68:

« Ce qui se passe ». Quand je dis cette phrase je vois toujours les mots sur l’affiche:
–          Qu’est ce qui se passe ?
–          Il ne se passe rien.
–          Qu’est-ce qui s’est passé ?
–          Il ne s’est rien passé.
–          Pourtant, j’avais cru comprendre.
–          Il ne faut pas comprendre.
Cette affiche avait été tirée et collée sur les murs après la reprise du travail, à la fin de la grève et des occupations d’usines. Des lettres blanches sur fond bleu nuit. (p. 8)

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