from Guy Debord

To L.J.C. Boucher[1]
Copy to Guy Buchet
9 March 1971
Dear Sir:

In your letter of 18 January [1971], you asked me to intervene at the side of Mr Guy Buchet so that he would grant you the [translation] rights to The Society of the Spectacle in exchange for the sum of a thousand francs, rather than two thousand, which you would have to disburse in "liquid money."

The Dutch people that I know speak very well of you; and I ask you to believe that, in any case, I strongly esteem the extra-commercial quality of a publishing house that, since 1842, is always interested in saving its treasury a thousand francs and is so scrupulous as far as it payments.

Nevertheless, on principle I observe the greatest discretion with respect to my editors. With the result that I do not at all know Mr Guy Buchet. And even if I had the happiness to be his best friend, I believe that undertaking to make him renounce a claim for a thousand francs would overshoot my talent by far. I will let myself say that a Spanish edition was not made because a publisher from Barcelona had wanted to pay two thousand francs, whereas Mr Buchet, in verve on that day, asked him for three thousand. You see that your case isn't the most unfortunate.

I must say to you that a point, at the center of the somewhat archaic discussion that you carried on with Mr Guy Buchet, surprises me even more: you tell me that you would like to buy from him, and that he sets his price to sell to you, "the English rights" to my book. It so happens that an English translation of the Spectacle has already been printed, several months ago, in a "pirate edition," by I do not know which more or less extremist American group, in Chicago or Detroit,[2] and that this English-language edition has been reproduced in offset [English in original] several times in other regions of the United States. Without doubt, you know that modern techniques of printing and reproduction, already fallen within reach of nearly everyone, and all the more that such machines, as well as the paper for them, abound in the multitude of universities, laboratories and companies that, at every moment, are in use in Europe and America, have already in fact suppressed the right of the author and the copyright [English in original] for any book that currently interests the underground [English in original]. One thus practically falls back into the conditions of the 17th and 18th centuries. For my part, I certainly do not complain, and it seems to me that Holland has a quite notorious tradition on this point. Thus, what good would it do, seeing that your funds are so tight, to give three thousand and two hundred francs (which is, in any case, very little for such work) to your translator, so as to obtain an English version that already exists? It is obvious that these American "pirates," who have never given anyone a single dollar, would also let everyone freely dispose of the translation that they have established: you can, for example, make a copy of it at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam.

I hope that this demystified examination of the real conditions that exist today concerning the publishing of books of this type will lead you, and Mr Guy Buchet as well, to neglect infinitessinal chicaneries concerning three pennies, so as to go quickly, when it is time, to the works for which commercial publishing can keep a certain base.

If you envision a Dutch version of my book, I will be completely in agreement provided that it is entrusted to Mrs Carla Termeer, whose meritorious efforts in translating Enrages and Situationists in the Occupations Movement I am acquainted with.

Please accpet, dear Sir, my distinguished salutations.

Guy Debord

[1] Dutch publisher.

[2] Guy Debord Society of the Spectacle, a Black & Red translation unauthorized [sic], Detroit, 1970 [footnote entirely in English in original].

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 4, 1969-1972. Footnotes by Alice Debord. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! June 2005.)

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