from Jaime Semprun

To Guy Debord
17 December 1976
Dear Guy :

No doubt you know that I proposed to Champ Libre a text on Spain,[1] and that [Gerard] Lebovici refused. Actually, I do not think that he took the initiative to refuse such a text without having consulted you as a preliminary, which renders it practically impossible to publish in French (he is well placed to know that, with the Summary,[2] I have quite joyously burned all those in Paris who are usable publishers; all this doesn't oblige Champ Libre to publish all of my writings ad vitam eternam,[3] but gives a rejection all of its importance). If however by extraordinary chance you have had absolutely no role in this decision, and it was solely the caprice of Lebovici, this letter will of course find itself, if not completely without subject, at least reduced to a useful anecdote [mise au point] about an editor who shows himself capable of such caprices.

Your agreement with this refusal seems highly impropable, it would only be possible if Lebovici at least kept you informed of the presentation of the manuscript. I make it precise to you that I do not recognize myself in the hypocritical moralism of Khayati, Vaneigem und alii,[4] as one says in Dusseldorf. For my part, I have found it very good and continue to find it completely justified that your historical merits have permitted you to acquire sufficient influence on the spirit of a publisher that he publishes revolutionary texts in the best conditions. And expecting that a new International will know to take charge of its publications and their distribution, this isn't mythifying the pirate edition, lending it a purity and efficacity that it doesn't have, which would allow one to do without more officially commercial publishers.[5] But it isn't less than your activity on behalf of Champ Libre (publicity, editorial notes or letters in the name of Lebovici), quite identifiable to anyone who knows how to read, places you in the position of being considered co-responsible for what this publishing house does or does not do; because of this and by reason of the authority that is widely recognized in you, in matters of subversion, it is no longer completely a normal, "competitive bourgeois" publishing house, without frankly claiming to be a revolutionary publishing house, selecting the texts that it publishes on the basis of well-known political criteria. There is an ambiguity, of which I suppose that you must be aware. The prestige that you have greatly contributed to creating around Champ Libre now surrounds in the eyes of a certain public -- unfortunately still the essential here -- any text published as a kind of Debordist imprimateur (to the point that the most imbecilic faction of this public squarely attributes to you the paternity for almost all of what Champ Libre publishes, the Summary, among others). And what I have believed to be your position, only intervening positively, getting texts published, and not negatively, getting texts turned down, is no longer tenable since you can be held to approve equally all of the texts with revolutionary intentions that this publishing house has published, and reject those that it refuses.

Thus I come to your refusal. Lebovici argues that it is a question of a "work of combat," a "militant" brochure, as opposed to an exhaustive and scientific book -- he strangely gave Censor[6] as as example -- which suits a serious publishing house such as Champ Libre; he also advances a curious quantative preoccupation: again a short book, after two others (this is droll, coming from the publisher of Gracian, who seems to estimate books by their size, as if they were made to charge arms, rather than to exercise spirits); finally, he affirms that the subject merits better, evoking the importance of tactics, Spain, the European revolution, etc., so as to arrive at the conclusion that publishing the text would not be "good for Champ Libre." As for me, I think that it is very bad for Champ Libre to lose me as an author. But in any case what is striking in the grounds for this condemnation, beyond the comparison, always in bad faith, with something else which would be better but which doesn't exist, that is his imprecision, since the content of the text isn't in question: in fact, it is its principle that seems to be rejected as inadequate. Me, I thought that this publishing house was only interested in "works of combat" recovered from the patina of the years or covered by your caution. Apparently I was wrong. I was also wrong about Lebovici, since I accepted discussing with him a first version of the text and bearing in mind his observations on its "incomplete" character, thus showing the great naivete of taking seriously the annexed pretexts of what was rather a decision of principle. It is now a question of knowing what principle. Although you think that, in the second and last interview, before the definitive refusal, I had not lowered myself to haggle over the terms, or to embark upon I don't know what political discussion (for example, on this strange division of labor between works of combat that indulge in skirmishes on a terrain, while the Great Headquarters thinks in the calm of Champ Libre); nor to make myself ridiculous by appealing to the global proletariat or universal history. In what concerns me, I consider my relations with Lebovici and Champ Libre to be terminated, and I have no taste for the quite Parisian little polemics that interest no one.

What, on the contrary, is not ended is that I have reason to believe that the "principle" that underpins the cloudy Lebovician critique is your hostility to the publication of the book. This hostility can have two types of reasons: either political, as serious disagreement with the defended positions, or with the manner in which they are defended; this appears unlikely to me, but it is nevertheless possible. Or ad hominem, as negative judgment on the ensemble of my life, such that it condemns in advance all that I can write. In the last case, one hopes that this judgment is founded on facts that are better-established than those concerning the identity of Manchette,[7] for example. But as this hypothesis is all the same the most probable, it is necessary for me to go back to the turn taken in our relations and your most recent letter. You responded to my request for explanations concerning your silence after the delivery of the Summary and a word of hello by affecting to believe that I was soliciting something like the approval of a Political Bureau, or that in it I show an antiquated concern for "formalist politeness." What appears to me as completely stamped by formalist politeness is the method of wanting to distance someone with whom one has amicably associated oneself by saying, as you told me through Alice [Becker-Ho], that one found oneself too occupied at the moment to see him. I do not believe that you are subject to whims in matters of friendship, nor in any other matter, and I think that only a quite precise and serious reason can make you suddenly put an end to relations that were up until then quite warm. This is what has made me very deliberately not treat as said what has not been said, and neglect the inferences of formalist politeness by simply taking Alice's letter of explication literally. But in responding to me on 11 February [1976], you have not been clearer on your reasons for putting someone off, simply alluding to "personal tastes" and "preferences" among the individuals that one meets. And what can one actually say in response? (Is it necessary to say it? If I haven't responded to you, this isn't because of any susceptibility to your critique of the Summary, which I quite appreciate.) But, if I can understand your fatique in the face of explaining your motives more amply, all the same I can not approve of it. It seems to me that one can not so abruptly invoke his personal tastes, which until then had appeared to coincide with those to whom one addressed oneself, without saying how and in what they suddenly differ so irrevocably. I like the fact that you showed me this last mark of friendship by telling me why you will not make others. And it still appears to me that this could have been clearer. The quite enigmatic side of your letter was accented by the fact that in refusing me this clarification, you give yourself the burden of precisely exposing to me your critique of the Summary (which you have without doubt not done, if you have seriously thought that my request expresses a certificate-seeking follow-ism or a demand incongruous with politeness) and you communicated to me a letter to the Portugeuse [revolutionaries],[8] thus ranking me in February among the "persons concerned," of whom in November [of that same year] I was not a part. You understand my perplexity, and also that I have found that it would be undignified to demand supplementary explications, as if I would like to convince you of something. But this last editorial affair, which surpasses questions of "personal tastes," obliges me now to ask you for this complement of information.

In brief, this too-long letter can be summarized by this question: I have understood that I am no longer one of your friends; must I understand that it is necessary for me to count you among my enemies?

Companero, salud.
Jaime Semprun

[1] Trans. See A Manuscript Found in Vitoria, which is a chapter in this book.

[2] Trans. Semprun's Summary of Recuperation, illustrated by a number of examples drawn from recent history was published by Champ Libre in 1975. It was followed in 1976 by The Social War in Portugal.

[3] Latin for "For all eternity."

[4] Trans. German in original: "and all."

[5] Trans. Here Semprun is referring to the Proletarians' critique of Champ Libre.

[6] Trans. Debord's French translation of the "Censor" pamphlet (written in Italian by Gianfranco Sanguinetti) was published by Champ Libre in December 1976.

[7] Trans. Jean-Patrick Manchette was a writer of detective stories.

[8] Trans. See letter to A. Monteiro dated 15 November 1975.


(Published in Editions Champ Libre, Correspondance, Volume I, Paris: 1978. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! February 2006.)



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