Editorial Politics

The large publishing houses tied to huge financial groups have no interest in making known the original texts and the currents of thought in which the most troubling aspects of the mode of socio-economic organization that permits these groups to exercise their influence are exposed. Nevertheless, after such texts or currents have managed to be diffused by other means, these same publishers find it more advantageous to pick them up and drown them in the gelatinous mass of their gigantic production rather than leave them to a more modest publisher with less common publications. It is, of course, not a question of them earning minor (and uncertain) profits, but of making the rare publishers who are capable of distributing such novelties disappear as fast as possible. It is also a question of ostensibly placing themselves above all conflicts by presenting their own enterprises in the light of benevolent neutrality that no one would be in a position to contest.

As a simple example of an operation that, today, concerns other texts and other editorial groups, we can mention here Editions Fayard,[1] the simple subsidiary of Editions Hachette, which owns 48 French newspapers, which is quite convenient for a publisher and its authors. This gigantic enterprise nevertheless only constitutes the communications branch of the Lagardere group, of which the other sector (Matra) equips the armed forces of more than 50 countries with short-range earth-to-air missiles (the worldwide leader) and airborne missiles (the European leader). Editions Fayard has naturally not believed it fitting to respond to a letter of intent dated 1989 that ironically proposed to publish The Time of AIDS.[2] This was a very precise but somewhat insolent letter ("if the title doesn't suit you, we can propose to you [Jean-Marie] Le Pen: Does he have AIDS? or Tintin among the HIV-positive.") Ten years later, after this book and those that followed it were more naturally published by Editions Allia, Fayard made indiscrete propositions in the pleasing terms that we report here -- the comic effect obviously resulting from the pompous insincerity of this editorial assistant.

Paris, 31 March 1999
Dear Sir:

When reading your books, I often think of the verse by Rene Char: "Lucidity is the closest injury to the sun."[3] Your work is actually of a rare power, an unbelievable effectiveness. Your denunciation of the system is implacable and, by expressing the decomposition in medical terms, confers upon it an almost definitive character. Editor at Fayard of the works of Guy Debord, who is close to you, I have wanted to meet you to express several wishes to you. Not having your address, I allow myself to let you have mine (...). Hoping to receive news from you, I beg you, dear sir, to accept the expression of my best wishes.

Henri Trubert

This praise in terms of "power," "unbelievable effectiveness," "implacable" activity and "definitive" character would be better suited to the performance of missiles (stop your R. Char, Lagardere![4]). But my refusal to make a reply to such a miserable move (in the sense of "two-faced" and "this was a dud") obviously was not a matter of an affective choice in favor of small businesses and against hypermarkets. Above all, it was a question of knowing to which readers this kind of text is addressed, [readers] who will know how to read it and make use of it, [unlike those] who -- on the contrary -- find themselves immunized over a long time against what the author wishes to communicate. Perhaps it is a question of knowing if the terms of compromise still have meaning and what there is to gain by getting rid of it (how much?)

[1] The publishers of (among other titles) the controversial series of volumes entitled Guy Debord Correspondance, the first of which was published in 1999.

[2] Published by Editions Allia in 1990. For Bounan's response to Verso Book's refusal to publish a translation of this volume, see his Incitement to Self Defense.

[3] A French surrealist poet (1907-1988) who was active in the Resistance during World War II and in the anti-nuclear struggles of the 1960s. This line comes from Les Feuillets d'Hypnos, which was written in 1943-1944.

[4] "Come off it, Lagardere!" (arrete ton char, Lagardere!)

(Published as an annex to Michel Bounan, La vie innommable (Editions Allia, 2000). Translated from the French by NOT BORED! October 2007. Footnotes by the translator.)

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