from Guy Debord

To Gerard Lebovici
11 March 1981
Dear Gerard:

The fundamental reason for my definitive refusal to be involved in any project concerning the disk[1] in the conditions that one has dared to propose to you naturally follows from the rapid, clear and unquestionable evolution of the political situation in Spain. I can obviously not be completely assured of the quality of these texts and thus their effect, which, nevertheless, by itself, due to the content, appears quite guaranteed. But, unfortunately, I am a very good judge of the changes in strategic moments and perhaps even the only one on that entire poor peninsula. The case of the prisoners in Segovia is suspended due to more vast and terrible events. To record such a disk at the end of April, and thus distribute it down there in June at the earliest, is a lugubrious pleasantry in which I will not be an accomplice. This would be something like the situs printing [and distributing] in January 1969 the analyses and appeals that they had widely distributed in May 1968. Even Vienet[2] would not envision such an extravagance. Such an exercise would only be a detestable "artistic" exploitation of an affair that I have the weakness to consider serious. As long as I defended the people of Segovia, I defended them with dignity, that is to say, with dignity for them and for me as their defender: I did not permit anyone to appear offhanded about this question for even an instant.

We made marvels in the history of Segovia thanks to our relative rapidity, when there was still time. And this was barely enough, since Suarez fell exactly two months after our success, which was one of the last manifestations of his politics of semi-moderation. We will not continue in farce[3] and thus we must remain here.

Even on the "artistic" plane, the species of Iberian nonchalance -- which covers over the most profound anguish -- has surpassed all bounds and can only be compared to the most fabulous examples reported by General Napier. Everyone has found it normal that a single foreign person, or two at most, task themselves with everything in such a domain. All that is lacking is asking us to teach the usage of dynamite to the Asturian miners!

One demands that we concentrate fire on the situation of the workers at S.E.A.T.,[4] another desires that here should be more lyrical songs, etc. May -- who did not make a move, say a word, nor offer a single address at the moment we distributed our tract in September [1980][5] -- and who stupidly claims that none of the songs can be sung because the rhythm is always too long or too short, is completely wrong. Mara [Jerez] always herself to admit that the ensemble of the songs is too long for a disk or cassette (I am sure that it is a little too short and that there must be one or two more songs) and that one could be tougher concerning an affair about which she was previously complete ignorant and yet, from all the evidence, these are the toughest songs that have ever been made in that country. Hola!

The Iberians often react with such delaying sabotage to what they find "too beautiful" and what thus risks offending the incapacity that they secretly attribute to themselves (and, most often, wrongly). But nothing equals the audacity of this excellent singer, unknown and a failure in her career from all points of view, who makes you a golden bridge on the political, artistic and financial planes, and objects to you proudly that, for the moment, she has better things to do because she sings[6] for a mouthful of bread in two or three Swiss or Belgian dance halls. She has not read Gracian and does not know that "neither time nor the seasons wait for anyone." As far as the liberated prisoners, I have remarked that they place a strange insistence on inviting me to come to Madrid immediately to speak with all the others, but without making precise the concrete and useful purpose that warrants such discussion. And, at present, I suppose that they are still waiting impatiently, by keeping a noble silence, for me to come take the leadership of their autonomy.

In sum, all these charming people are naturally carried to leave you the care, like a pure monopoly, of taking the reality of the situation into consideration. Through such responsibility, one gains their sincere and affectionate, but worried and even slightly bitter admiration. One finds oneself at last the only one responsible for the result, for which one has generally refused us the means for accomplishing it.

Thus, in writing, you must thank to Mara for her agreement in principle, but inform her -- without further discussion -- that the people whom you represent have decided to not make the disk, given the delays that are in contradiction with their perspectives. You must also make it clear that they will not have these songs sung by any other singer. (Give a copy of your letter to Mara to May.)

It is necessary for you to say to May that you are obligated to have her come as far [north] as Paris because your friends in Arles are now "traveling." You must add, by thanking her for her efforts, that the project of the disk has been canceled, because Mara -- who had the kindness to give her agreement -- has asked for a delay of seven or eight weeks, which is incompatible with the precipitous and baleful evolution of the situation in Spain. Having thus set aside the redoubtable annexed questions diplomatically -- and it is necessary to do so, for sure! -- you can only return to being a simple publisher and to try to save the project of publishing the complete works of Durruti.[7] If you see that this project has begun on the wrong foot, would it perhaps be better to renounce it, rather than let it sink into the delirium? I do not know: see for yourself, but expect anything and everything. Due to a discrete and light allusion that someone made to me, asking "if I had seen her work" -- and I immediately said that I was not involved in it -- I have detected doubts about May's capacities at this level and the fear that this would provoke some new fury on my part. But what I have since discovered about the frightening poetic ignorance of May, who prides herself on knowing the complete works of Lorca by heart, greatly reinforce my doubts. Thus, I will not be mixed up with her.

You know that I have seen, and on the whole admitted to the existence of diverse and quite extraordinary things in Andalusian love. But there is also much grandeur and all of it clearly places itself on the plane of passion. By contrast, I can only irrevocably reject the sordid wanderings of Mara on the professional terrain: it is precisely on this terrain, when it is occupied, that these people feel themselves to be the least "in girum imus nocte. . . ."[8] Therefore, you have seen the debut. And I do not doubt for an instant that, concerning the sequel that is announced here, in the [professional] work as in the necessary personal relations -- delays, doubts, reproaches, challenges and missing actions -- such imperious historical conditions oblige us to stop this music here. This is the only good side that I have seen in these conditions, because they prohibit all regrets.

Tell me when you would like to come here.

Best wishes,
Guy

"The Complaint of Mara the Singer"

I
Although my voice is the most beautiful,
Since what I sing and say
Is always proudly rebellious,
I am only worth a Maravedis.[9]

I would like two, if, like the others,
I deign, under the lights,
To play the false apostle
With celebrated singers.
The Stalinists of the "Song of the World"[10]
Will make their expensive records without me.
It is here where anger growls
That I sing: "Break your chains!"

II
I want here, where one is grateful for me,
To come, for a laughable price:
Among the immigrant workers,
The Leftist of the terrible project.
Only thus do I have the right to get respect.
Paco, as much for his origins,
As for his success, is suspect.
La Magny[11] is good for the dykes.

III
It is vile to be an owner,
Without managing one's goods.
All the people of the Earth
Know well that I support them!

And it is here, in my country,
In favor of the disinherited,
One dares to speak to me of Spain,
And stupid futilities.

When I sing of the armed struggle,
It is of the people who come to the point;
But this Plebe who is locked up
For three years. Who speaks of such things?

The problem is that one will leave them there
For another twenty years.
Is it fair that one presses me
To sing of such prisoners?

We have a democracy
Under Suarez, and they want better.
Perhaps it is a rancid trifle [this democracy],
But it remains a little, at least.

A king is here, whose person
Spares us, at least, from Tejero.
He only obeys, by telephone,
The calmest of the generals.

IV
Segovia is a prison
Where are the libertarians are sent.
Mao said better who are
The real lords of the proletariat.

The unknown sing songs
To free their comrades.
And one addresses me! We pass on this.
Why would I want to fix their mess?[12]

V
All my friends disapprove of me
Being a star among such
Hoodlums, who moreover pay me
More than the customary rates!

Songs lacking political meaning,
Or a brilliant radicalism!
I am faithful to my stock in trade.
For anything else I don't have the time.

The response I must make
To those who would deputize me
Is my most sincere refrain:
"Soy una hija de puta."[13]

[signed]
Pro-prisoner Committee of Segovia

[1] Detourned songs in favor of the prisoners in Segovia.

[2] Translator's note: Rene Vienet, whom Debord considered -- based on his actions in the 1970s -- to be an opportunist. Vienet was also the only situationist to sign his name to the book about May 1968 entitled Enrages and Situationists in the Occupations Movement. The implication is that the book's other authors (Debord, Vaneigem and Khayati) didn't like the fact that it took until October of that year to get it published.

[3] Translator's note: Though this phrase is awkward in English, we have left it as is to highlight the pun in force / in farce.

[4] An automobile factory.

[5] Translator's note: "To libertarians," written by Debord in August 1980.

[6] The Maoist version of armed struggle.

[7] May's never completed project to collect and reprint all of the speeches by Asasco and Durruti that were originally published in the anarchist press.

[8] Translator's note: Not so much a reference to the title of Debord's 1978 film, but a use of its meaning to describe these particular people who, without purpose or sense of direction, "dance round in the night."

[9] Name of the restaurant (nearby Saint-Etienne-du-Mont) in which Mara first started singing in the 1960s. [Translator's note: in Spain, a maravedi is a small copper coin. Thus this line says suggests: "I am only worth a penny."]

[10] Which produced Mara's recording Songs of Spain, with accompaniment by the guitarist Paco Ibanez.

[11] Translator's note: Magny-Cours is a place in central France, best known for its motor-racing course.

[12] Translator's note: literally, Why would I want to sell their salads? (Pourquoi vendrais-je leurs salades?).

[13] "I am the daughter of a whore."


(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 6: Janvier 1979-Decembre 1987 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2006. Translated by NOT BORED! Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted.)




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