from Guy Debord

To Paolo Salvadori
19 December 1990
Dear Paolo:

Concerning your trip to Paouart, I would prefer the first few days of February. Tell me precisely which ones. Tell Florence that you are instead taking a trip to Alsace. Foresee that it will probably be cold (which aggravates the famine in Russia and Gorbachev's difficulties).

With respect to the publishing house, I still do not know how one should judge the future. I only know that the worst -- an immediate liquidation amidst ridicule -- must be avoided, but with extreme exactness.

In any case, the text by Lorenzino,[1] completely unknown here, is a marvel. It's extreme rigor is the same in its logic and passion for liberty. I believe that you haven't seen the French translation of 1904? Me, neither. The Apology must no doubt be in The Apologists of Crime[2] by Charles Detre (Paris, 1901), in which Sexby figures. But I only know this book from its reputation. Naturally, a more recent translation will necessarily be even worse.

I believe that Alice[3] has truly opened a new and important avenue, at the point at which all the problems of the dangerous classes and secret languages converge: you see that it is newsworthy! She continues her research. She asks you to see if you can find in Italy the three books listed in the attached note.[4]

Have you developed the Quousque tandem[5] problem? I have a sketch of an idea.

It is I who photocopied together the two articles,[6] published last year, six months apart. Each is quite extraordinary, but their meeting testifies to a novelty that only belongs to our century.

For Panegyric, I foresee two other volumes, at least, possibly more. But time risks being [cut] short, of course, due to age and other perils that continually approach. Thus, the first volume was calculated to already contain the essential, to be "clarified" as much as will be possible by the others. I would not seek to discourage you from the very adventurous enterprise of trying to translate this work. Thus I will add several generalities on the subject.

It is certainly not a personal apology, nor even a eulogy for some aspect of my actions. The epigraph from Littre[7] exactly defines the rules of the game. Everything is placed in a certain light "beyond good and evil," in the genre it-is-thus. Non aliter.[8] Without counting the habitual delirious interpretations that I hope to have saturated with information that is susceptible to the most malevolent usages, one could quite easily and rightfully discover in the book a multitude of things [that work] against me and are very real ("what could make another such hoodlum, poor but intelligent, resolve to never work?")[9] It is here, through such a subjective extravagance, that I have cynically claimed to pose the problem of the non-value of current society. And, on this last point, I have always proved to have good taste, I believe. Thus, a kind of perfidy of style was made to be present everywhere in the text. Sometimes it does not exactly constitute a veritable philological necessity for the translation, but it can, in some cases, prohibit the choice of words that, considered in themselves, seem to fit exactly, but which perhaps clash with this secret spirit. I give three examples that do not figure in the "Summary Note."[10]

The formula "Pardon him his faults," a classic of the Golden Century, politely evokes nothing other than the obviousness that any author inevitably makes mistakes, at least in the sense of what will be necessarily lacking (the Spanish word is faltas) in a detail here or there, over the course of the whole book, and that such and such a reader will precisely desire to find them. But it isn't doubtful that some readers will lead themselves astray by seeking "moral" faults. And it will be difficult for them to find the criteria according to which I could recognize and understand them. This vain problem is bottomless. And as for strategic mistakes that I have perhaps committed, one could no doubt evaluate them soundly in a century, but only if the society of the spectacle has been dissolved!

On page 60,[11] the quotations from Pascal concerning "a time proportionate to our brief and wretched duration" could no doubt give the general impression of a short short period of time, but in fact it means until death.

On page 74,[12] by having the air of mocking the three authors of the Treatise on the Rights of the Press,[13] and by mocking them effectively, I very seriously hope that they were right on the point that I mentioned. And it is quite normal that I should hope for it, since I am really writing an apology for different criminal acts.

See you soon. Cordially,

[1] Lorenzino de Medicis, Apology (1539).

[2] Lorenzino is not in fact mentioned in it.

[3] Translator's note: Alice Becker-Ho, The Princes of Jargon, published by Editions Gerard Lebovici in 1990.

[4] About the argot of the malavita. [Translator: the "attached note" by Alice Becker-Ho was not included in this volime.]

[5] Translator's note: see letter dated 12 September 1990.

[6] Liberation, 22 June 1989 and Le Canard enchaine, 15 September 1989. [Translator: in the first, Debord was said to be a CIA agent; in the second, an agent of the KGB.]

[7] " . . . a panegyric carries neither blame nor critique."

[8] Translator's note: Latin for "nothing further."

[9] Translator's note: this quotation is not from Panegyric.

[10] Translator's note: Summary Note from Editions Gerard Lebovici on the difficulties of translating Guy Debord's Panegyric.

[11] Pp. 55-56 in the Gallimard edition. [Translator: in Panegyric as translated by James Brook (Verso Books, 1991, p. 48) the passage from Pascal reads: "A period in proportion to our vain and meagre span."]

[12] P. 67 in the Gallimard edition.

[13] Blin, Chavanne and Drago (1969). [Translator: Debord wrote that these authors "concluded the chapter [of their book] concerning the 'Danger of Apologies' with an authority and experience that felicitously lead me to believe that they should be accorded a great deal of confidence: 'To vindicate a criminal act, to present it as glorious, meritorious, or lawful can have considerable persuasive power. Weak-willed individuals who read such apologies will not only feel absolved in advance if they commit those acts, but will even see in their commission the opportunity of becoming important people. The knowledge of criminal psychology shows the danger of apologies.' " (Panegyric, translated by James Brook, Verso Books, 1991, p. 60).]

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 7: Janvier 1988-Novembre 1994 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2008. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! January 2009. Footnotes by the publisher, except where noted.)

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