from Guy Debord

To Gerard Lebovici
17 April 1975
Dear Gerard:

I have read Le Manach.[1] It seems to me that the book's faults (weak construction and a too-maladroit and distant imitation of the tone of science-fiction; the principal error of the contrast between the rather facile pleasantries and the vehement seriousness of the political thesis; finally, a tendency formally homologous to that of [Gerard] Guegan -- although in a completely different spirit and much more sympathetic -- that is to say, the pretense to support an entire book on nothing but a superficial method that consists in rapidly evoking some revolutionary catastrophe and turning the reader around) have the upper hand over the good qualities (an authentic voice of the current revolt, frequently good humor, several successful pages).

For the first time, I understand one of the worst difficulties that publishers face. I believe that, when refusing a manuscript, it would only be due to politeness that they would say that it had many merits but needed to be profoundly transformed. Here, this is clearly the case. But how to persuade an author of what he himself has not seen? Moreover, in all the books in which the author sets down, in a certain disorder, all that came into his head -- the most recent book by Voyer[2] is of this type -- one cannot bring out the important points that organically impose themselves and that one could thus oppose (in the name of the author's proper project) to the weaknesses or inconsistencies. Consequently, it is quite fortunate that the "Free Fall" series exists as the "free port" for the unbridled fantasies. This book by Le Manach corresponds quite exactly, and in certain aspects more brilliantly than others, to the criteria of this series, that is, if one sets aside the quality of the writing, which seems to be a little below the acceptable minimum. But I would dissuade you from publishing it outside of this series: it would instantaneously start again the recriminations of the spectators who are still attached to the deception that, with an unreasonable passivity, expects from Champ Libre nothing less than an epic of the Spirit of the Times. And it is nevertheless true that the fastidious Bricianer[3] is more interesting than the quarrel over "councilism."[4]

My copy is missing pages 46, 47, 48, 49 and 65. But I hope you have them in the original.

I attach to this letter my classifications of the most remarkable books, in the two senses of the word "remarkable" [marquants].

The subtitle of our The Game of War might be "Strategy and Tactics of Military Conflict (according to Clausewitz?)"

Concerning the publicity for the publication of Internationale Situationniste 1-12, I believe that one can use this phrase, without any other reference: "Before, it was the subversion of existing society that appeared improbable; now, it is its maintenance."

(Quote taken from issue #12.)

I have received Buchet's accounting, which you transmitted to me; I thank you. The principle is thus safe. Nevertheless, since he claims to have sold less than 300 copies[5] in the last two years, we must conclude that his last printing allowed him to have the book modestly present on the market for a dozen years.

Could you also send me the accounting of Champ Libre for the past year? You told me that our cinematographic adventure had made some progress [in the sales of the book].

I am considering leaving Paris in the first two weeks of May, for around three months. In the meantime, one can sign the contracts that you judge to be useful.

See you soon. Best wishes,

On the titles published by Champ Libre

In fact, the principal weakness does not reside in a large number of the books to reject absolutely, but rather in the excessive percentage of mediocrities. Out of almost 80 titles, more than 20 are assuredly very good, and perhaps 30 are not truly crucial: that is to say, there is no doubt good reason to firmly refuse this or that one, but this accumulation, which is so manifestly harmful (as much for the "qualitative image" of the publishing house as for its finances), leads one to the conclusion that these 30 books, en bloc, are rather too many.

Moreover, one can isolate a dozen titles that appear to me to be models of what should not be published in any case. These evaluations are obviously only orderings of greatness; moreover, I am far from having read all of the books that, perhaps, merit being more severely judged or judged a little better.

The two worst titles, truly beyond competition in their ridiculousness, are Confucius[6] and Night Without Sleep.[7] I would place at the same level General Essay on Strategy[8] and How to Make War[9] (this last one for its very nature as a selection of "chosen morsels" and also for the manner in which it is realized).

Almost as bad are The Communist Movement[10] (pretense, dishonesty, stupidity) and The Baader Gang[11] (in which journalistic mistranslations border on provocation). The State Massacre[12] is almost as false, which is serious, given the extreme importance of the subject. (The Irish Rumor[13] is hardly better, but it is not as clearly a book to drop.) The Electronic Revolution[14] seems to me to be miserable bottom-scrapings from a false avant-garde, itself obsolete. One has already said everything needing to be said about The Breton Mole.[15] Finally, The Rocker-Arms from Hell[16] is so boring that it is out of place in "Free Fall" (in general, I do not envision [the continued existence of] this special series, which in the best case would have a hard time attaching itself to the spirit of Champ Libre and which it would thus be better to exaggerate to the maximum).

Inversely, I note here the best titles. Bearing in mind the different situations, those that principally establish the importance of the publishing house appear to be: the Prolegomena to Historiosophy,[17] the Complete Works of Bakunin, Down with the Bosses,[18] The Man from Court (if one admits that the prior publication of Gracian was already long-ago and now unknown). Without hesitation, I would have added The Society of the Spectacle if [the] Buchet [edition] had not unfortunately previously existed, thus making us the shadow.

The other good books are: the two by Korsch,[19] the two by Clausewitz,[20] The Hero,[21] the Report Against Normality[22] (despite many weaknesses, but given the subject matter), Forms of Time,[23] The Real Schism,[24] The Horse's Movements,[25] The Last Painting[26] (in this case, I have confidence in the people of taste, because I still have not read it), Story of the Moon Not Extinguished,[27] Journal of an Educator[28] (despite several facile passages).

I would certainly add to this list The Nine Habits of President Mao,[29] if there were not the unfortunate detail of the Maoist transcription. I cannot personally reconcile myself with this, because it clashes too much with my minimum requirements as a reader and my conception of the Champ Libre publishing house. One can also add two or three of the Russian novels, perhaps Daisy Miller[30] (a little thin), perhaps the most recent book by Voyer, and The Constitution of Germany[31] (but only with respect to the complete works of the author.

Thus, I count 22 good titles, more than a quarter of the catalogue, and I do not believe that one could find another publisher that approaches such a high percentage.


[1] Manuscript by Yves Le Manach.

[2] Translator's note: Jean-Pierre Voyer, Introduction to the Science of Publicity (Champ Libre, 1975).

[3] Cf. Editions Champ Libre: Correspondance, volume II, p. 138, note 1.

[4] Translator's note: see Debord's letter to Yves Le Manach dated 4 November 1973.

[5] Translator's note: of Debord's The Society of the Spectacle.

[6] The Paradoxical Political Destiny of Confucius by Luo Mengce (published in Chinese in the "Asiatic Library" collection).

[7] By Manz'ie.

[8] By Jean-Paul Charney.

[9] Fragments of Napoleon's writings, collated by Yann Cloarec, alias Gerard Guegan.

[10] By Jean Barrot, alias Gilles Dauve.

[11] Texts translated from German.

[12] Texts translated from Italian.

[13] By Jean-Pierre Carasso.

[14] By William Burroughs.

[15] Translator's note: see Debord's letter to Gerard Lebovici dated 7 March 1975.

[16] By Roger Zelazny.

[17] By August von Cieszkowski.

[18] By Joseph Dejacque.

[19] Karl Marx and The Anti-Kautsky.

[20] The Campaign of 1814 and The Campaign of 1815 in France.

[21] By Baltasar Gracian.

[22] By the Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action.

[23] By George Kubler.

[24] Public Circular of the Situationist International.

[25] By Victor Chklovski.

[26] By Nikolai Taraboukine.

[27] By Boris Pilniak.

[28] By Jules Celma.

[29] By Simon Leys.

[30] By Henry James.

[31] By Hegel.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 5: Janvier 1973-Decembre 1978 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2005. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! March 2007. Slight correction made March 2014. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted.)

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