from Guy Debord

To Morgan Sportes
13 January 1989
Dear Morgan:

[Jonathan] Swift was assuredly "happy" to concern himself with the "eternal" imbecility of educated pedants. [Gustav] Flaubert attacked the more historically dated imbecility of the Napoleon III-reigning-style of the bourgeoisie. And Bloy[1] subsequently came very close to a prophetic (in the sense of "realistic") conception of the crumbling of the world already legibly inscribed within the "manufacturing" language to which the petit-bourgeois of 1900 adhered with all the frankness of personal conviction. It falls to you, much later, to show the terrible progress of the era of ultra-modernized machinism, which can be considered to be truly telematic: that is to say, the bearer of instantaneous obligation. Remark how, in the brilliant group of negators whom I have just mentioned, there appear to be no similarities between their personalities or their "positive" subjective preferences. But there is the same tendency that, at its different historical stages, has been described, made fun of, condemned.

I find you a little hard on [George] Orwell. It seems to me that he had to write this book[2] quickly; the pure opposite of "testimony," according to Sartre, for example: that is to say, worn-out lies redeemed by the ton, at the cost of one's friends, and dogmatically regurgitated with a very [self] satisfied pride.

Without wanting to appear to you as favoring a resurrection of the [Aristotelian] rule of the three unities, Orwell appears to me to have been right to limit his text to a single subject, already vast and so surprising to his readers, who had been violently conditioned in the opposite direction; a subject about which he himself was ignorant six months previously. Orwell knew how to see and say the truth; and he knew to make it believed (at least by those who wanted to read it). I find an encouraging example in him: his style [son art] of writing allowed him to see. And if his book is an instance of reporting, one must agree that there had never been an assignment so difficult. The honest and daring reports of Albert Londres are very conventional when it comes to the values that he shared with the majority of his readers; the reports of John Reed are mistaken concerning 1917 and he was far from having understood everything in his more sympathetic remarks about the Mexican Revolution.

You say about Orwell: "What could he do in this hell?" Sure enough, given the result. . . . But he was drawn by Spain in revolution. It is in this that he informed us, indirectly, about himself. The argument about "hell" seems to me similar to reproaching Bonaparte for imprudently going to Moscow, at the risk of returning quite lamentably. But it was this monarch's pleasure to do so! He had 300,00 men of income to play with each year. His budget was only seriously unbalanced after this unfortunate move, which could also have proved to be successful. Would you say of a man who became sick with AIDS in a brothel in Timbuktu that you don't understand what led him there? There are very beautiful Negresses in Timbuktu.

Finally, I understand that you would like it if we could deepen writing once more. If we do so, it would be noble compensation for the disappearance of readers.

Since you loved the Vin des rues,[3] we will return there. You can find me at the Rallye, 6 rue Daguerre, on Wednesday the 18th, 7:30 pm.


[1] Translator's note: Leon Bloy (1846-1917) was a French author.

[2] Homage to Catalonia [in French translation].

[3] Bistro on the rue Boulard.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 7: Janvier 1988-Novembre 1994 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2008. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! November 2008. Footnotes by the publisher, except where noted.)

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