from Guy Debord

To Malcolm Imrie
23 February 1990
Dear Malcolm Imrie

I understand that you are pressed, because the day before yesterday I saw Anita Blanc, and [so] I thus send you right away what I imagine you call a "blurb."[1] And I beg you to excuse me if this snark is a boojoom.[2]

I completely approve of your idea for the cover[3] and notably the use of an equivalent of the title of the French edition, without any photo.

Like you, I think that the only true problem for the translator is mastering his own language. I find that I am, perhaps, the only contemporary European who can't read English, but yours is (quite opportunely) clear and concise.

We are agreed that the notes should come at the end of the volume. Ask me about what seems useful to you later on. I believe that Mithridates is attributed to Racine. Nevertheless, the verse seems to have come from Corneille. Where? The portion of my library that contains the classics is far from here, and I do not think that the matter merits too much research. Simply say that it is an allusion -- long current in France -- to an Alexandrin from a tragedy from the 17th century: "Rome is no longer in Rome; it is everywhere I am."[4] You sense the renewal of the irony if one evokes the Mafia and the parallel government[5] of the Italian Republic. Something more important: I must indicate to you that the alliteration on page 38, line 13, is an imitation (an improvement, I hope) of a celebrated verse by Racine: "Pour qui sont ces serpents qui sifflent sur vos tetes?"[6]

Quite cordially,

The critique that Debord has made of the "spectacle" has been remarked since 1968, but as astonishingly extremist; in the 1970s, as true and useful (on the condition that one took care to meticulously extirpate its pessimistic or malevolent side); and in the 1980s, as if it had become entirely true. Debord has observed that it wasn't his book that changed direction [de sens], but simply the world. He has illustrated this opinion in Comments by several examples:

"I obviously cannot speak in complete liberty. I must especially take care to not instruct just anyone too much . . . Certain elements will be voluntarily omitted; and the plan must remain quite unclear."

"The generalized secret stands behind the spectacle, as the decisive complement of what it shows and, if one gets to the bottom of things, as its most important operation."

"The movement of the spectacular demonstration proves itself simply by going round in circles: by coming back to the start, by repetition, by constant reaffirmation on the unique terrain where anything can be publicly affirmed, and be made believed, precisely because that is the only thing to which everyone is witness."

"More profoundly, in this world which is officially so full of respect for economic necessities, no one ever knows the real cost of anything which is produced: actually, the most important part of the real cost is never calculated; and the rest is kept secret."

"It is, in the final analysis, the particular development that has been chosen by the economy of our era that imposes everywhere the formation of new personal links of dependency and protection."

"Formerly, one only ever conspired against an established order. Today, conspiring in its favor is a new and rapidly developing trade."

One must rejoice in such a book, if it presents itself to us in the manner of Swift's Predictions for the Year 1708. The misfortune is that it is true.

Guy Debord was born in Paris in 1931. After having directed the journal Internationale Situationniste, he published The Society of the Spectacle in 1967. On the same subject, he added the Comments in 1988.

[1] Translator's note: English in original.

[2] Allusion to Lewis Carroll's "The Snark." [Translator's note: Debord's joke is that "blurb" seems to be a word made up by Carroll.]

[3] Translator's note: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle.

[4] Sertorius (Act III, Scene I) by Corneille.

[5] Andromache (Act V, Scene 5). [Translator's note: "Who are these serpents who hiss at our heads?"].

(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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