from Guy Debord

To Floriana Lebovici
Tuesday, 20 November 1984
Dear Floriana:

I believe that the Clausewitz[1] will be very good.

1) At first glance, one discerns the great superiority of the translation by Lieutenant-Colonel de Vatry over the remake[2] by Denise Naville. Gerard [Lebovici] was right to say that this was, in 1955, an instance of the decomposed language of today's L'Observateur, of which one has seen such grandiose sequels since then. Plus the eternal tendency of re-translators to distinguish themselves for the worse.

2) As a general rule, our own translator seems to me to have made several welcome modifications to Vatry and with a just moderation; that is to say, when he was restrained in this (naturally, I suppose, by following the German text -- which I do not have here -- and by adding the omitted passages). His translation of the good forward by Marie de Bruehl also seems good to me. He must certainly have also encountered what the Naville edition ([published by] Minuit) presents as "the Author's Preface" (two pages).

If the news concerning Clausewitz is thus excellent, I believe the contrary about the most recent work by [Francis] Pagnon.[3] I would say to you, without beating around the bush, that this book does not merit being read, still less published by Editions G.L.,[4] in any case, in this form. The imbecilic and pompous title is the easiest thing to correct. The presentation as a series of theses, always dangerous as I have told you, if one is not [Baltasar] Gracian or [Karl] Marx, has never been, to my knowledge, so monstrously employed by a pro-situ. Because I do not perceive in this pretentious erudition, which has the air of pummeling the reader with the great blows of the "Que sais-je?" collection -- and this is a very clumsy weapon for a folio edition --, any kind of enunciated theoretical thesis. There are obviously several banal guiding ideas, at least today and for people like Pagnon, but they do not even constitute six theses, and they would not be Pagnon's, but the people whom he neglects to cite, because, if he did, one would discover that Pagnon has plagiarized in a scholarly manner a thousand small historical works of the "digest" style, without finding a single original thesis and certainly not two of them! His book is an imposture of a lamentable clumsiness: he uses the form of "theses" exactly because he does not have a single idea. Instead he dogmatizes in the most laughable manner on universal history, revisited in the present-day and with chisels in hand. He dreams of being dazzling by accumulating as many crumbs, pilfered from as many historians, that the author seems -- at the center of time and the universe -- to have been there and to have understood everything. This pedantry is horrible because it does not know how to hide its ambition, nor the failure of its ambition. It hopes to drown the fish, but lacks water. Certainly the author has evoked many good things, only there is not a book in which to gather together and place under a certain precise light so many good things, neither four times as much, nor three times less. This is an example, not only of an absolute failure of a book, but a book that could not be successful since it has no necessity [to exist], nor mastery of the subject. I will return the manuscript to you as a registered letter.

Do not forget to punish Resnais,[5] unshakably.

We embrace you.

[1] On War. [Translator's note: German to French translation of Clausewitz by Jean-Pierre Baudet.]

[2] Translator's note: English in original.

[3] Whose By evoking Wager was published by Editions Champ Libre in 1981.

[4] Translator's note: Editions Gerard Lebovici, founded in 1984 to continue the work begun by Gerard Lebovici's Editions Champ Libre (Lebovici was murdered on 5 March 1984 by unknown assassins).

[5] The filmmaker Alain Resnais had taken for his film L'Amour a mort, which he only began shooting the day after the assassination of Gerard Lebovici, the formula "Gerard Lebovici presents," which had been exclusively reserved in 1981 for Guy Debord's film In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (see Considerations on the Assassination of Gerard Lebovici). [Translator's note: see pages 27-28 in the English translation of Considerations (Tam Tam Books, 2001).]

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 5: Janvier 1979-Decembre 1987 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2006. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! May 2007. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted.)

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