from Guy Debord

To Raoul Vaneigem
Thursday 25 November [1965]
Dear Raoul:

I expect news of your meeting in Brussels and especially the corrected text of the "Notice" that I sent you last week. Seeing that nothing has comne, I write to you concerning [the publisher] Correa.

As the friend of Lungela[1] has told you, it [the Treatise on Living for the Younger Generations] was finally rejected, but for reasons at the antipodes of those of Seuil, and full of positive aspects, if, that is, a rejection can contain any. We say: positive for elsewhere or later on.

1) Buchet, and Chastel too, really loved the book (as did their reader, who concluded favorably: it is someone named Mallet, but obviously not Serge[2]). Their only reservation, concerning the summary utopian part, leads them to regret that you have not more fully developed this utopia with the same literary talents as at the beginning -- because, of course, they do not publish from within the literary framework of utopianism, and can only envision it thus. In brief, they are "in favor" [of publishing your book]; they would like to publish it, and even the SI now "interests" them. The difficulty is elsewhere.

2) Confirming Bernstein's[3] baleful foreboding, the mortal blow for them is the weight -- the material weight -- of the book, its cost price. They avow it frankly. "Independent publishers" (it is, alas, true that the authors are less than that), their means are very limited. The sum to disburse for the fabrication prevents them from envisioning any publicity. They think that the book, which goes against the current of all of the reigning fashions (which they admire . . .), will have hardly any reviewers, or at least very few reviewers who are not themselves part of the counter-current, with very small readerships (one can not honestly refute this analysis). They thus calculate that they would be able to sell five hundred copies, and that the guaranteed loss for them would be two million old Francs. They have no illusions on the deletions or quantative modifications that they can demand of an author such as yourself (this would dishonor even the "men of culture" that they would like to be). The only real overture is thus for the next book by you, which would be welcomed with open arms if it is less thick. In short, our audience among these publishers has really increased, which is a paradoxical thing after a rejection.

3) Because, in truth, here is what one can think. Five hundred copies appears to us to already be a very good thing! And, with them, in the conditions of sale that they actually offer to such a book (no publicity, the absolute misery of their "public relations" [English in original]), such a number is quite probably its economic fate. Surely Gallimard could do better -- and Buchet and Chastel mentioned Gallimard to us -- but would Gallimard want it? The fact that they plan the economic failure at two million and qualify that, at their level, as a "catastrophe," leaves us without any argument: except to summon them to act like patrons or militants! Bernstein even has the impression that these two noblemen, although they have never practiced the "author's account," would publish the book if we proposed to give them a million or a million-and-a-half Francs (which, in these conditions, would certainly be a lost sum). Furthermore, I believe that this would be worth such a loss if we incurred it. But that is another story. They affirm that they would be willing to publish the book without gaining anything or even losing a little money. But not much.

4) We will now see the responses of the others.[4] It still appears to me that the tests that constitute the preceding responses render rather probable one or two acceptances by publishing houses that have not made such tight financial calculations. Since it has now been received by Albin Michel's firm, Lewino[5] -- who is discouraged by nothing -- sings the same song: his "recommendation" is only enough to get the manuscript read sooner and by qualified people. It is always this way.

I have finally met with Andres, with whom we had a very interesting discussion; he is much better alone than he is in the familial atmosphere of Mitzi's place. Anton[6] also seems to be evolving well. We are about to send a little girl to the bed -- in a manner of speaking -- of Rene [Vienet]: thus, one can think that his appropriation of the dialectic will deploy itself in the more favorable conditions of a present passion.

Cordially yours,

P.S. Anticipating a harsh theoretical debate from Buchet, Bernstein has been armed to perfection with my help (including the sentimental quotation of the last phrase of the last political article by their old friend Vailland: "So as to bring the current Left, which lacks a realistic politics, out of the emptiness, a good utopia would already not be so bad"), and she will even propose a meeting with me so that I can explain the rest. Unfortunately, the bone is elsewhere.

[1] Ndjangani Lungela, Congolese situationist in the French section.

[2] Serge Mallet, author of the book Worker's Power.

[3] Michele Bernstein, who presented the manuscript to Buchet-Chastel/Correa.

[4] Translator: Before it was finally accepted by Gallimard, the book was rejected by thirteen different publishers.

[5] Walter Lewino, a journalist and novelist, and friend of Michele Bernstein.

[6] Anton Harstein. [Translator: Romanian, Harstein later became a member of the French section of the SI.]

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 3, 1965-1968. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! August 2005.)

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