from Guy Debord

To Paolo Salvadori
Sunday 12 November 1978
Dear Paolo:

Hoping that you have reached the via delle Caldaie[1] without difficulty, I quickly send you urgent news.

I have read Gianfranco's manuscript.[2] Although there are several good pages and a generally acceptable intention, and certainly courage (if this is to be published soon in Italy), it is necessary to say that the book, when considered as a whole, constitutes an irreparable and monstrous disaster. Everything is lacking: in the strategy of the discourse, in the "literary" construction of the text as a whole, in its very style, which is at once maladroit and pretentious in the extreme, in the figure that the author puts forth everywhere and that succeeds in being vividly antipathetical and, at the same time, completely ridiculous. To summarize the fundamental error of the author, one can say that he has, so as to surpass "Censor,"[3] stupidly reprised this glorious personal, with all of his idiosyncratic expressions, but debased because he has passed over to the side of the proletarians, with the result that the discourse takes on an aspect that evokes the beards of the old, autodidactic, anarchists of the end of the 19th century. And to summarize the error of the man, it is necessary to say that the most lamentable sides of his personality, which once a month or so express themselves by inept comportment in a restaurant, are spread about without limits in the language of historical action.

Thus I have telegraphed [Gianfranco], without explanation, that our meeting in Geneva has been canceled. As you know, I have shown him extraordinary patience on the personal level because he merits it for several reasons. And, though I have interrupted all relations on that level for nearly three years, I would still like to think that there still remains a chance for him to manifest his talents in an autonomous manner in the general activity of "our party." The question can no longer be posed. Three years of solitude, or solitude with Scott,[4] have not really ameliorated the problem: indeed, it has produced the opposite result. Thus I advise you to keep him firmly at a great distance, whatever he does, because it is no longer doubtful that he will grow even worse, and that someone who has too often been malevolent when he had not lost everything, will become even more malevolent, now that he has.

[Gerard] Lebovici telephoned me the day before yesterday to say that the Italians at Editions Arcana[5] are asking Champ Libre if they can buy the translation rights for an Italian edition of my Complete Cinematographic Works, even though the book will only be published at the end of this month; and while only a dozen people at most were informed, ten of them have obviously said nothing to anyone. The Italians have said, quite pertinently, that they would like to act quickly against the pirate publishers, who will not be lacking. We know nothing of Editions Arcana. They will be here in Paris, until Monday, awaiting a response. I have told Lebovici that he can sign a contract with them on the sine qua non that it is you who does the translation. Thus, if you discover that they are Stalinists or any other kind of displeasing cunts, you can say to them that you do not want them and, as the author wants no other translator, their contract will simply be canceled. If you can accept this publishing house (and, naturally, you must demand the maximum price that is paid for the most difficult translations), no doubt there will be another small difficulty. They seem very pressed for time. And I know that you have another, actually more important job to do.[6] I believe that you must promise to deliver the manuscript in, say, five or six months, by making them observe that they can announce that they will publish this book, thus instantaneously paralyzing the pirates, and that no one could make a serious translation in such a short period of time in any case (they do not know that you have already translated a third of it and, in any case, you can keep them to your wishes because they are obligated to work with you). Beyond that, you are not ignorant that, in book publishing, any delay that does not exceed two months is considered to be extraordinary well-respected. Tell me what you think: I would like things to go this way, because otherwise it is true that any pirate could publish a "Dedonatized"[7] version.

Lebovici also told me that he has verified that there has been no French translation of the book about the Ciompi.[8] He has asked for the rights from the Italian publishers. They certainly have them and so Genevieve[9] can translate it into French, and there would be no obligation to complete it in a short period.

I note that this letter is, for once, dominated by literary and commercial questions, but you know that we fortunately have many other preoccupations. And, to cite only one, I am still charmed by meeting Genevieve. You can assure her of that.

I hope that you return soon. Affectionately [yours]. Alice and Elisabeth embrace you.


P.S. Champ Libre will send you all of the Bakunin that has been published. We leave tomorrow for a dozen days, for Geneva and Arles. But, given the speed of the mail, you can write me at Champot or telephone after the 22d.

[1] Translator's note: the street in Florence upon which Gianfranco Sanguinetti lived.

[2] Which would appear under the title On Terrorism and the State. For Sanguinetti's answers to Debord's objections to this book, see his letter to Mustapha Khayati (December 2012).

[3] Translator's note: The aristocratic personage Sanguinetti invented so as to give voice to The Veritable Report on the Last Chances to Save Capitalism in Italy (1975).

[4] Companion of Gianfranco Sanguinetti.

[5] Opere Cinematografiche Complete: 1952-1978, translated by Paolo Salvadori, published in 1980 by Arcana Editrice, Rome.

[6] Translator's note: Translating The Society of the Spectacle into Italian.

[7] Adjectivization of the name of the Italian publisher De Donato (see letter dated 4 June 1969). [Translator's note: connotes badly done.]

[8] Ciompi (alteration of the word compagnoni), Florentine woolworkers who rose up in 1378.

[9] Companion of Paolo Salvadori.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 5: Janvier 1973-Decembre 1978 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2005. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! April 2007. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted. Footnote #2 updated May 2013.)

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