from Guy Debord

To Malcolm Imrie
8 September 1990
Dear Malcolm Imrie:

I am responding immediately to your letter of the 3rd. I knew that the ignoble editors at Zone [Books] were disappointed in their intrigues.[1]

They began, a long time ago, by writing to my publisher to inform her that they had the intention to translate the book, and that they would consider a failure to respond as a pure and simple acceptance! The insolence of such practices, which are illegal even in the "mail order" sales of the most negligible commodities, merited no response, and my publisher[2] did not respond. Months later, they complained, and ten times afterwards, about the first absence of a response, and they simultaneous sought to maintain that my book was in the public domain, due to the sole fact that it had been pirated twenty years previously[3] and that, nevertheless, their generosity went as far as offering me I-don't-know-what paltry sum of money. Each time they have had the response that I do not want to speak to them under any conditions; and they have sought to ignore me. In vain. I have a vivid antipathy, if not against all good-for-nothings, then certainly against those who have sought, stupidly, to intimidate me, and even more when they pretend to hide behind the law.

I know, without having seen it, that the translation that they have made[4] is necessarily better than that of the anarchists in Detroit.[5] But is it good enough? If you think so-- or, if not, if you persuade Verso [Books] to task you with revising it -- I would ask that my current publisher[6] give his permission. It will be necessary to avoid a situation in which Kwinter,[7] or the disquieting person who maneuvers behind him, draws any excessive profit from the operation.

Their true intentions remain obscure to me, but I am fully assured that they are very shady. I do not believe that they are really interested in money, but in the prestige: it is not money that they lack.

Cordially yours,
See you soon,
Guy Debord

P.S. I love the proofs of the Comments. Your notes[8] on what risks remaining "unnecessarily obscure"[9] manifests a perfect understanding of the spirit of the book.

[1] In 1994, Zone Books eventually succeeded in bringing out a translation of Debord's The Society of the Spectacle.

[2] Editions Gerard Lebovici, then managed by Floriana Lebovici.

[3] The Society of the Spectacle, Black & Red, Detroit, 1970 and 1977.

[4] The translation they published was done by Donald Nicholson-Smith.

[5] Black & Red Books.

[6] Editions Gerard Lebovici, then managed by Gerard Voitey.

[7] Sanford Kwinter, a co-founder of Zone Books.

[8] Publisher's note: Translator's notes that, unlike the French edition, clarified that which risked remaining uselessly obscure for English readers.

[9] English in original.

(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. Footnotes by the translator, except where noted.)

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