from Guy Debord

To Jaime Semprun
11 February 1976
Dear Jaime:

I am a little surprised by your letter of the 6th, with respect to the Précis.[1] I do not at all believe that I have the obligation, under the penalty of leaving an ambiguous impression, to approve of those who critique in my sense of the word, and with obvious talent, people and practices that are manifestly critiquable: said otherwise, I have certainly not changed my opinion in the last six months about the flagrant ignominy of the people whom you attack.

To say thank you for a copy, and attaching a few general congratulations, would perhaps be a formalist politeness from another time. And, furthermore, the few reservations that I might have had about the book did not have such importance that they needed to be set down in writing. It is not a matter of objections to the theoretical or political principles, nor even, of course, disapproval of the style.

But since you have asked for it, I will summarize my critical opinion. The book, which I naturally hope will have many readers among the potential dupes of the great men of recuperation,[2] has all sorts of good qualities, which you well know. The only important fault that I find in it is that it is not "cruelly concrete" enough. It is certainly cruel to the authors who merit cruelty, but to me it is far from being sufficiently concrete. On the side of the origin of the question, the basis and the universal interests of recuperation are laid out. Opposed to this, at the other end of the process, you have irrefutably proven, through all the citations and the commentaries that they called for, that these grotesque people write pitifully, are idiots and liars, and also that they are, at base, hindered by their multiple impotencies, and finally that they do not even have the courage of the cynicism that they so chillingly affect to have. What is missing, between the origin and the result, is the critique of the process itself, the work of recuperation. By which concrete routes, by hiding what, or by falsifying what, do these people operate on diverse occasions? And, moreover, what are the various motivations that make them act: the taste for which phony glory in which phony moment, which deceptions, which disgraced attractions, which lack of capacities and time? This is what would have been unquestionably cruel, and which would have hindered infinitely more those who do not to understand by simulating deafness. In sum, you speak bravely in the name of the pure revolution and, by the same movement, you give the impression of characterizing these ridiculous people by the sole fundamental trait that they are in the service of pure reaction; as if one day all of them had, subjectively, consciously and directly accepted being stipended by some kind of C.I.A. This is also what permits the falsifiers to counter-attack by retorting, as usual, that one has never seen this supposed revolution that leads some to speak of so proudly! Thanks to your book on Portugal,[3] and to the length of time that the scandal has lasted, it is fortunately a little more concrete. With the result that, when the foul Gallo[4] said that, in this book as well as the prior one, you "saw" in [the institution of] work the movement of the Councils, so many people (outside of the French press) also saw in it their misfortune, this historian of the immediate lie did not dare to write that you saw it wrong, that you merely believed that you saw it; nevertheless, he insinuated it very clearly.

But, after all, I do not want to play the literary critic, as if I claimed to provide the criteria for a good book on a subject that is also certainly good. I willingly admit that all this is mostly a matter of personal taste. Here, as in the use of life and the preferences among those whom one encounters in it, it is certainly not a matter of expounding upon and supporting one's own tastes, but in the perfectly vain goal of rallying to them those people who have different tastes.


[1] Translator's note: Handbook of Recuperation, Illustrated by a Number of Examples Drawn from Recent History, published by Champ Libre, 1975.

[2] Jacques Attali, Cornelius Castoriadis, Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Michel Foucault, Jean Franklin (alias Francois George), Andre Glucksman, Gerard Guegan, Jean-Francois Lyotard and Ratgeb (alias Raoul Vaneigem).

[3] Translator's note: The Social War in Portugal, Champ Libre, 1975.

[4] Max Gallo.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 5: Janvier 1973-Decembre 1978 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2005. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! April 2007. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted.)

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