from Guy Debord

To Malcolm Imrie
4 April 1991
Dear Malcolm:

I have read James Brook's translation.[1] I beg you to transmit my congratulations to him. One assures me that Editions Lebovici will soon officially declare its disappearance in the following days and that the rights will be surrendered to me. Naturally, I will sign the contract for Panegyric. With respect to the text of this translation, I respond to your questions right away; then I enumerate several remarks, less assured, that derive from my reading.


1) Agreed upon the Coquillards [appearing] in French jargon, translated in a footnote.[2]

2) Perhaps James' rapidity is more appropriate for America? In France this scandalous novelty[3] merits being clumsily noted in detail, because its evolution is at once recent and comically excessive.

3) OK; it is archaic here, too.[4]

4) James' interpretation is exact. There is also an echo of Dante (Inf. V. 138), when Francesca da Rimini says: "Quel giorno piu non vi leggemmo avante."[5]

5) Agreed upon inspiring[6] (id est: it makes one think, it moves[7]).

6) Sure that it is necessary to keep "joyous" [Joyeux]. It is the word in specialized military jargon that designates this group: the origin is obviously very ironic.[8]

7) With respect to beer, I think that it will be necessary to choose the manner of saying it in English, in homage to what the beer of old England had been. (My most recent experience incites me to maintain my judgment, [made on] page 50, 3rd paragraph, 2d line.)[9]


Concerning James' translation, his page 11: "I have always been content . . ."[10] I do not know if he has understood that this formula does not express satisfaction, but rather: "It has been sufficient for me . . .," "I have limited myself to . . . "

Page 18. For "cafes, clubs, bars . . ."[11] I do not know if "club" is suitable. No doubt one can say that certain nightclubs along Saint-Germain-des-Pres have been clubs of sorts. But I am thinking of those "cellars," literally, that one finds among the wine-growers of diverse countries: you have translated the word [cave] in Comments [on the Society of the Spectacle], in which it had, moreover, a double sense.[12]

Page 22. (Isnard) "presiding"?[13] Must one not say instead that he was, on that day, the "chairman"?[14]

Same page. I strongly doubt "punishment,"[15] although this surely isn't a mistranslation. The punishment had actually been evoked several lines earlier. But here it is the subjective aspect of a keenly felt sadness. I suggest, with much prudence, [the word] "pain."[16] My phrase evokes on old saying among sailors: "He who sees Molene, sees his penalty [peine]." (Molene is an island near Brest, where navigation is perilous.)

Same page. I find "reasonable"[17] to be very moderate. Like the Bible, I evoked the two just men[18] whom one couldn't, it seems, find in Sodom and who would have been sufficient to save the town from destruction!

Page 23. I doubt "celebration." Wouldn't it be better to say "feast"?[19] Or perhaps "entertainment"?[20] I'm obviously evoking rather private orgies,[21] rather than the "festivities" that take place in the city's public places.

Same page. The "impetuous" question by the young Musset[22] in truth comes from the fact that he seems to have been completely unaware that Barcelona is [indeed] very far from Andalusia. Such collisions of exoticism certainly are not impossible, but it is naive to pretend to believe that one evokes the rule.

Page 86.[23] The epigraph from Thomas de Quincey is incomplete ("It is the opinion of my neighbors").[24]

Page 31. "First Corinthians"?[25] The pleasantry about the flight of Gondi's regiment alludes to the "First Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians," because Gondi found himself the archbishop in partibus of Corinth.

Same page. (Thucydides) wasn't at the head of a "squadron." This unlucky admiral commanded a fleet,[26] I suppose.

Page 32. The song, based on the melody of "Red River Valley"[27] -- which was the song of the Lincoln battalion (this unit, which regrouped American volunteers, constituted a part of the 13th or 14th International Brigade, I no longer remember) -- is not cited exactly.[28] Perhaps it is the truncated version, subsequently released on a disk from New York? The authentic text was cited as a note by the historian Hugh Thomas (The Spanish War).

Page 33. "Holding action"?[29] Isn't it rather "retarding"?[30] (because the failure was certain)?

Page 35. There must be quotation marks around the citation from Howitt: "Every man . . . such a time."[31]


Finally, I indicate two mistakes that weren't corrected in the first French edition. Page 77: one must say "le pont d'Antony" (without the "h"),[32] and on page 79, one must say December 1793[33] "after the victory of Savenay."[34]

I also hope to see you soon. Cordially yours,

[1] Of Panegyric, Volume I, which would be published by Verso Books later in 1991. In 2004, a revised translation was published by Verso, when it brought both volumes of Panegyric together into a single volume. James Brook notes: "I am very grateful to Malcolm Imrie, Ken Knabb, John McHale, and Donald Nicholson-Smith for their help on this revision of my 1991 translation. Errors remain the responsibility of the foolhardy translator."

[2] Pages 27-28 in the 1991 edition of 1991; and pp. 25-26 in the edition of 2004.

[3] Publisher's note: of neologisms.

[4] Publisher's note: "to reconcile him" (quotation from Vauvenargues, p. 47 in the Gallimard edition [of Panegyric]). [Translator: page 38 of the 1991 edition reads, "In order to decide that an author contradicts himself, it must be possible to conciliate him." On page 33, the 2004 version changes possible to impossible.]

[5] Publisher's note: "The day we do not read further on." [Translator: the citation in Dante's Divine Comedy refers to "That day we got no further with our reading." It is difficult to say so with certainty, but it seems that Debord is ultimately referring to the last sentence of Chapter III: "In drinking memory, no one had ever imagined that he would [one day] see drink pass away before the drinker" (p. 39 of the 1991 edition; p. 34 in the 2004 edition).]

[6] English in original. (The reference is to p. 66 of the 1991 edition: "History is inspiring." On p. 58 of the edition of 2004, "inspiring" is changed to "affecting." But it should read "History is moving.")

[7] Publisher's note: "History is moving" (p. 73 [Gallimard edition]).

[8] Page 68 of the 1991 edition; p. 60 in the 2004 edition.

[9] Unclear: "There were the beers of England, where mild and bitter were mixed in pints" or "drink [would] pass away before the drinker"?

[10] English in original. Page 17 of the 1991 edition: "Confining myself here to presenting the subject at its most general, I will say that I have always been content to give the vague impression . . ." Note: though Debord's correction was not made to the 1991 edition, it was made to the edition of 2004 ("I have always made of a point of giving," p. 16).

[11] Page 35 of the 1991 edition and p. 31 of the edition of 2004: ". . . or in cafes, cellars, bars, restaurants or in the streets."

[12] See Debord's letter to Imrie dated 28 June 1990.

[13] English in original. Pages 44-45 in the 1991 edition and pp. 38-39 in the edition of 2004.

[14] English in original. Note: Debord's correction was not made.

[15] English in original. Page 44 of the 1991 edition and page 38 of the 2004 edition: "So we have been punished with a destruction as complete as . . ."

[16] English in original. "Whoever sees the banks of the Seine sees our grief" (p. 45, 1991 edition; p. 39, 2004 edition).

[17] English in original.

[18] "So we could count at least two righteous people in the city at that time" (p. 46, 1991 edition). "People" changed to "men," p. 39 of the 2004 edition.

[19] English in original.

[20] English in original.

[21] English in original. Eventually, Imrie/Brook/Verso settled on "the revels of Florence" (p. 48, 1991 edition; p. 41, 2004 edition), which is clearly incorrect.

[22] Page 48 of the 1991 edition and p. 41 of the 2004 edition: "his thoughtless question."

[23] This is clearly a typo and "Page 26" was meant instead.

[24] Page 53 of the 1991 edition and p. 45 of the edition of 2004: "I am so classed by my neighbors."

[25] Page 64 of the 1991 edition, and p. 56 of the edition of 2004.

[26] English in original.

[27] English in original.

[28] Page 68 of the 1991 edition, and p. 59 of the edition of 2004.

[29] Page 69 of the 1991 edition, and p. 60 of the edition of 2004: "at the end of their useful holding action."

[30] English in original. Note: Debord's correction was not made.

[31] Though Debord's correction was not made for the 1991 edition (p. 75), it was made for the edition of 2004 (p. 65).

[32] Page 64 of the 1991 edition, and p. 56 of the edition of 2004. One of Debord's corrections was made!

[33] Page 66 of the 1991 edition, and p. 58 of the edition of 2004. Another one of Debord's corrections was made!

[34] Publisher's note: in the Gallimard edition (p. 73), the error concerning the month remains uncorrected.

(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. Updated March 2009. Footnotes by the translator, except where noted.)

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