from Guy Debord

To Gerard Voitey
22 March 1990
Dear Gerard:

Upon returning a little later yesterday evening, I found your letter. Our president [Francois Mitterand] has shown the depths of his culture by responding so teasingly to the worst and most useless of the translators: a pitiful Frenchified Spaniard who is a professor at the University of Aix. Since our work now begins, I will type this letter, because it costs me dearly to render my handwriting legible from a certain distance.

You are right: I have gotten a copy of the complete catalogue,[1] dated 1988. By slimming it down, I do not exactly claim to select what is excellent or to suggest to people what they must read first. But in sum this is what one wants to encourage them to do. This is also why it is useless to collect the images of the complete work. One knows well that those who are really interested in an author will end up reading all of his books, without displaying this insistence with respect to each one of them. To recommend all of them would in fact be to recommend none, just as one says that to want to defend everything is to lose everything.

On the unfortunate question of the complete works: fortunately two are already finished (Saint-Just and Cloots) and a third will be completed by force (Bakunin); the announcement of the collection by Vaunenargues was only a piece of disinformation; it has long been obvious that it is no longer necessary to think of [publishing] Gracian (there remain several hardly readable slabs). By lengthening the continuation of Orwell to the maximum, it is virtually finished. I see the usefulness of making a slight exception for Clausewitz: when one has already published his masterpiece, On War, and four other books, it is surely worth the difficulty of once again taking up the Russian campaign (a short book, already translated at the beginning of the century, but suffering from stupid deletions). For the catalogue, I struck very hard, because at the beginning of a new period[2] it is necessary to make the difference felt. My principal criteria was obviously the importance of the author, but also the importance of a book in the works of the author when several of his books have been published. I have kept in mind several annexed considerations concerning the general impression, especially around the beginning of the catalogue, and have aimed for a certain variety. I will explain two precise cases of exclusion. The Borkenau is a very good book. But it is shameful to publish a book in France with an English title, which is also obscure.[3] This title says nothing other than "Spanish outpost," that is to say, the placed of advanced surveillance from which one could in 1937 see the danger that soon threatened everyone. And now the book is re-translated in Spain under the laughable title La Cabina Espanola.[4] Jean de la Croix is a very great poet, and his verses are admirably translated by the Jesuit Lavaud. Nevertheless, this book is without any value if it is not published in a bilingual edition, which had, naturally, been anticipated.[5] Floriana was desolate because she ceded to the extravagant insistence of Lewinter, who has a pathological horror of this form of publishing. This is a very bad sign for a translator of poetry, who this time seems to want to diminish the merit of a third, but who also perhaps thinks that it will be necessary for him to hinder what one measures to be his. If these two books are one day printed in an edition that suppresses these problems, they must be reintegrated in "the illustration."

It is well understood that no title or author should be suppressed, but kept in lower case; the two indexes must also be kept and completed exactly. One must not try to efface traces of past errors.

I believe that the format of the preceding catalogues was better and that it could be printed a little better. Perhaps it will be necessary to increase the size of the Champ Libre logo -- called "the stupid part" [la part de tarte] by the initiated -- and quite certainly to diminish the size of the phrase "Editions Gerard Lebovici." It reminds me of an epitaph.

I have met my historian[6] and I believe I have succeeded in appeasing his indignation.[7] Although it is not pleasant to expose the defects of the [Lebovici] family, and even more embarrassing when these defects appear to be so incredible, I am quite constrained to do so. My best argument was that this hateful arrogance was quite obviously not directed against him, but simply against me. He was very surprised that I literally learned about this attempted putsch against the publishing house in the newspapers. I could only say to him that I was a little less surprised than he was, because it is in the nature of dementia to be unforeseeable. Nevertheless, you render me great service by pressing for the production of his book.

I have still not yet received the letter from the New York gangsters[8] that you quoted, but they worry me greatly. On this subject, I beg you to make restitution to that casual secretary,[9] by recalling to her that I do not tolerate anything that has the air of censorship or even, in the nice words of our era, the retention of information.

I propose that you come to dinner on Tuesday the 27th at 8pm. We will speak more then.


[1] Of Editions Gerard Lebovici.

[2] In April 1990, Gerard Voitey controlled the majority of the capital of Editions Gerard Lebovici, thereby assuring its management.

[3] Spanish Cockpit.

[4] Translator's note: "the Spanish cockpit."

[5] Published by Editions Gerard Lebovici in 1986, thereafter reprinted as a bilingual edition.

[6] Pascal Dumontier. [Translator's note: author of The Situationists and May 68.]

[7] Translator's note: see letter to Dumontier dated 6 March 1990.

[8] Concerning the announcement (without asking for the rights) of a translation in the United States of The Society of the Spectacle, which the publishers estimated had "fallen into the public domain." [Translator's note: the publishers in question were Zone Books.]

[9] Anita Blanc.

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

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