from Guy Debord

To Gianfranco Sanguinetti
Sunday, 26 October 1975
Dear Gianfranco:

In the last two or three days, I received your letter #3 of 16 October and the issue of Domani:[1] the latter constitutes a very favorable event, a test (because this journal does not customarily publish book reviews, the enthusiasm frankly displayed by the editors is only better emphasized), and no doubt an inducement for all the cretins of Italy who are or dream they are owners of industries to publicize your book.

I finished my translation the day before yesterday and it will be completely typed on Wednesday or Thursday. Not that we need such rapidity to publish it immediately (I will return to this question), but it is fortunate that this work, which is long, no longer demands so much time -- and thus we are in a position to utilize it at any moment. I have verified almost all of the citations (but not the majority of the detournements of T[ocqueville], whom it is better to leave a little hazy, in any case), even succeeding in translating the "epitaph" of the Gonfalonier[2] in non-rhyming decasyllables that have a bit of the atmosphere of the epoch, and I have translated the monologue on hierarchy from the English with the maximum of perfidy.[3] Plus I have weighted the book in its details, strengthening, on the one hand, the art of the author, and, on the other hand, the stupidity of the Italian intelligentsia in its entirety.[4]

I am quite aware, with respect to the decadence of the world, and I do not doubt the fact that Italy, like France and the majority of the other countries, are ruled by imbeciles. Nevertheless, the degree this is true is almost frightening. I believe that this is the principal revolutionary conclusion that one must try to make known[5] to the maximum (more than many points that are particularly instructive for the workers, certainly, but certainly less central).

I believe that from now on (and with prejudging what follows) the success of the experiment provides information that will be necessary to theorize, as much on the mechanism that is completely central to the spectacle as on the degree of despair in the thinking of the dominant classes, without speaking of the degree reached by the dissolution of Italy [in particular]. I would say that, on this last point, at this moment we have access to a measuring tool that is obviously lacking among the [other] revolutionaries, but which is also lacking among the intelligence [services] of power! The fact that nothing or almost nothing surprises in the theses of C[ensor] (according to the principle: "He who says nothing consents"[6]) confirms the fact that the multiple instruments of the intelligence [services] of power characterize the situation less clearly but to a quite similar degree.[7]

We now pose the problems of what follows. I would not have believed there would be such a long period (almost three months already, or two months since the appearance of the phenomenon in the press) of such a complete and monstrous error. But now one can begin to pose the question, "Until when?" No doubt, if the popular edition surpasses 50,000 copies, we can be assured that there will be a certain number of people who will have doubts, at least, about the content. And I also imagine that "la dore si puote"[8] will begin by process of elimination that the author is not A, B . . . nor Z. But to this degree and as people have firmly espoused the error in public, there can be a very long discussion about the matter without a clear conclusion. What do you think, especially given the most recent information? This almost poses the question: when should we publish the French edition, id est: before or after Saint Anselm?[9]

I find the text[9] you have sent me to be very good (except for the title, which I believe is better without the ending, which evokes "public opinion"). Everything is not in it, but the essential already is. I am also of the opinion that the order should be changed a little and especially clarified -- by referring one or two points to endnotes. It is necessary that this text is very easily readable, in its movement, like the demonstration of a theorem. I also believe that it is not necessary to add too many things addressed to the workers (who may have little knowledge of it, in any case). It seems crueler to me that the author, like a titan, puts his foot on the head of all the incapable intellectuals employed by the unfortunate bourgeoisie. It is thus that you can seize the position that will subsequently allow you to address the most useful discourse to the workers. Said otherwise, and supposing -- absurdly -- that the entire affair is known in detail by all Italians, those who will be the most struck will not be the revolutionary workers (and still less the moderate workers, of course), but the men of power and the experts who have authority over opinion. Thus it is down this road that it is necessary to apply the blow, because the greatest short-term consequences will be there. "As a revolutionary," you are no longer the carrier of an opinion (more extreme and "utopian" than the others) for these people, but an author, who has had the talent to ridicule and annihilate them and whom they have praised, you are the terrifying synonym for their rout, the proof of their nothingness. Thus I think that it is necessary that the passage from "the explication of revolutionary motivations" is very rapid and all the more terrible.

All these considerations make me think that, as a tract, Saint Anselm risks being "made poor": being suffocated and hidden, creating a kind of comfort of the "July 1968" kind. Of this type: "Ah! This was only that. A dirty blow, but it is fortunately finished." Obviously, after a while, one sees that the trouble has a future. But we must try to avoid the suspension that unconsciousness so generously accords.

Of course, if one cannot do better, a tract or a pamphlet (perhaps sent from outside Italy) would still be possible.

Thus I wonder of one cannot envision, for example, a new edition by the Cousin[10] (a slightly less costly edition), which includes Saint Anselm as a preface. And in case the Cousin has already ceded the rights in Italy, perhaps even the "successor"[11] who seemed intelligent in this affair could publish it? The weaknesses of the operation with the involvement of the Cousin (especially depending upon what he has become at the end of this affair) would be these, in any case:

1) for his part, he is atrociously and stupidly compromised (but he already has done much and perhaps he was not fully advised?);

2) he can be affected by sabotage at his printing house and pressures that can be brought to bear upon him (meanwhile, the saint Anselm text, from the moment that we have a perfect version,[12] will act as a threat that make noise even before it has been distributed and we will hear it, inevitably).

And so, the Cousin's motivation is simply that he can earn money from the distribution of another direct edition. This affair can thus, perhaps, be taken up -- a little later and with more difficulty -- with the second publisher.

In any case, you see -- with my remarks above -- the advantages that he has for us:

1) distribution to bookstores;

2) not "furthering Leftism," but [the career] of a horrible and glorious author;

3) not "being furtive" -- as if you have, in a certain way, deceived -- and soon thereafter lost -- your first publisher. You see the reassuring image for the intelligentsia in this: the subversive has returned to his cellar, from which he should never have stepped. One can forget about him. In this sense, it would be good to not allow one to separate -- materially -- Saint Anselm from the C[ensor] text. Because the worst deaf people are those who do not want to hear, and those do not want to put into play the [last] two pieces of this puzzle can affect to ignore the big picture -- and the complete meaning of those two pieces.

It is beyond doubt that a "second edition" published by the Cousin would be a commercially profitable affair (it is first editions that appear to be books that "lack something" and of which it is necessary to buy the definitive version, the ne varietur[13] edition).

Another question: is it necessary (and when? I still believe that the longer the current period lasts, the better) to remove the mask from your own movement? Wait for some revelation -- or at least public discussion -- that comes from beyond? On that case, it would naturally be necessary to evoke it in the first few lines of the definitive version of Saint Anselm.

Meditate on all this, I ask you. Except for an error (if I am contradicted by information that has appeared since your most recent telephone call), the tempo of the entire affair has good chances of being slower than anticipated. Which is excellent.

It is very difficult -- and tiring -- to evoke by letter[14] a strategic situation that is so open, and when my impressions are a little fluid about this or that option.

Thus I propose that Niccolo takes a trip here for three or four days, for example, between the 15th and 20th of November. One can set practically everything (or anticipate precise variants) and, at the same time, finish Saint Anselm in the two languages. Until the end of this year, will I be occupied with the project of the French edition, or enriching Saint Anselm, or something else?

Telephone when you receive this letter.

Best wishes,

P.S. If you can lay your hands on a fragment of sunken ship or some other ecrase-merdre,[15] tell Niccolo to cut me a slice of pizza.[16] I feel that I am a small professional shipwrecker stricto sensu and it is a satisfaction that I have not had recently, although no one contests my quality as a shipwrecker in the general sense of the term.

P.S. again: For the moment, I have the impression that a preface might be useful along with Saint Anselm in the French edition. But we will see according to subsequent developments (in any case, I think there should be a rather long text on the "fourth [back] cover" and the best extracts from the press on the flaps). But one can also envision a superb film on the "Censor Affair," exposing "the goals and means,"[17] the results -- and the book's theses, which have been so well received. All this, through the procedures than you begin to become acquainted with. And even "a great spectacle": it is the occasion!

[1] Europa-Domani, 15 October 1975.

[2] The epitaph for Pier Soderini by Machiavelli.

[3] Long speech by Ulysses in Troilus and Cressida (Act I, Scene III) by Shakespeare.

[4] Which successively attributed the pamphlet to diverse political or financial personalities in the dominant class.

[5] Written in the margin: "And show it as heavily as possible."

[6] Translator's note: this is how decisions must be reached in high-speed military operations, such as those conducted by NATO.

[7] Written in the margin: "No one even dares to respond hypocritically so as to keep face: 'But no! The Historic Compromise is only an affair conducted by a healthier political administration and is "democratic justice" without any connection to a so-called "social crisis" that is not so serious and in which, moreover, the P.C.I. [Italian Communist Party] works against us!'"

[8] "There where one can" (Dante).

[9] Proofs of the Inexistence of Censor by his author. [Translator's note: Saint Anselm (1033-1109) produced an ontological proof for the existence of God: God is "that than which nothing greater can be thought."]

[10] Sergio Scotti Camuzzi.

[11] Ugo Mursia.

[12] Written in margin: "And the most precious addresses."

[13] Translator's note: Latin for "it must not be altered."

[14] Written in margin: "But worse by telephone."

[15] Translator's note: "sunken ship" refers to the money that Gianfranco Sanguinetti's grandfather was able to get from the Italian government after World War II, during which five of his ships were sunk. The phrase ecrase-merdre, or shit-crushing, comes from the dramatic works by Alfred Jarry. By crushing shit, one produces money.

[16] Dough. Translator's note: money, as in: Can you give me some?

[17] Translator's note: a reference to "Our Methods and Goals in the Strasbourg Scandal," in Internationale Situationniste #11, October 1976.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 5: Janvier 1973-Decembre 1978 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2005. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! April 2007. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted.)

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