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  • Beautiful Minds in DialogueThe Correspondence between René Girard and Raymund Schwager (1974–1991)
  • Karin Peter (bio) and Nikolaus Wandinger (bio)

The publication of the following four articles is the result of a Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R) session at the American Academy of Religion (AAR) annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, on November, 24, 2013.

It is unbelievable, but on February 27, 2014, Raymund Schwager, SJ, the Innsbruck dogmatics professor and first president of the COV&R, will have been dead already for ten years. Sometime after his sudden death in 2004, his office had to be cleared out, and when this sad work was begun, it soon became clear that there was a treasure to be retrieved: letters, typescripts, drafts for a book, and several articles, along with other academic material. Józef Niewiadomski, who was Schwager’s successor as dean of the theological faculty, decided to establish a Raymund Schwager archive, and Stefan Huber and Mathias Moosbrugger listed a first inventory. Among the material—and this became the reason for the session at the AAR meeting— [End Page 23] were 54 letters by René Girard dating from 1974 to 1991. It was obvious that they were half of an extensive, long-ongoing dialogue, and the question was whether the second half could be attained too. That was not too easy. Upon a first inquiry Girard responded that there were no letters. Only after some thinking and searching did he find 37 letters by Schwager in his garage in California, and he entrusted those to Wolfgang Palaver, who brought them to Innsbruck. Later on Benoît Chantre discovered more letters and delivered them to us, so that now we have in addition to the 54 letters by Girard to Schwager 45 letters that Schwager wrote to Girard. It is evident that this is not the complete exchange, but it is a large chunk of it—and it contains enough material to make it worth examining them more closely.

When we realized this, we set to work to formulate an application for a research grant to the Austrian Science Fund. This application was drafted by Józef Niewiadomski and Nikolaus Wandinger, valuable input was given to them from the Innsbruck dramatic theology research group, and the application was accepted on first submission. We later learned that one of the reviewers who made this possible had been Martha Reineke, so a report on the state of this project really belonged at the AAR, where Martha has been doing such a great job for COV&R. Mathias Moosbrugger was hired with the grant as the project’s coordinator, Karin Peter was hired as another collaborator, and Simon de Keukelaere was given a contract to translate the letters. Józef Niewiadomski directs the whole project, and Nikolaus Wandinger plays a small part in the editing of the letters. We are right now in final negotiations with the German publisher Herder to have the letters and Schwager’s final monograph published and to begin a planned eightvolume edition of Collected Works by Schwager. But for now the correspondence with René Girard is our focus.

The publication of these letters also posed legal problems. A letter belongs to its recipient; the copyright, however, remains with the author. René Girard was so kind as to grant us the right for a first publication of his letters. For Schwager’s letters we had to negotiate with his heir, the Swiss Province of the Society of Jesus. We were lucky that the collaboration here was also very forthcoming. However, we are obliged to make sure that the rights of third parties who might be mentioned in the letters will not be infringed upon.

The correspondence was conducted in French, Girard’s mother tongue and Schwager’s preferred foreign language. Simon de Keukelaere translated the letters into German, and there also exists a private working translation [End Page 24] into English, accomplished by Sheelah Treflé Hidden, which was mostly used for the presentation at the AAR.

The letters are very diverse in character. Some are typed, most are handwritten; some are long academic treatises, some short personal notes, others more organizational or pragmatic in content. Some letters...