from Guy Debord

To Jaime Semprun
5 March 1985
Dear Jaime:

Thank you for the photocopy of the translation.[2] It is completely lamentable. But provide me with information about the book and the name of the incapable [translator]. The GLM[3] translation, which Christian [Sebastiani] sent me, is truly serious. Levis Mano beat me to the punch; after five centuries, he was eighteen years ahead of me. Furthermore, you will not be surprised to see me prefer my own translation. Levis Mano is more literal (with several unfortunate exceptions) and I am more faithful. The comparison of the two texts would not be without cultural interest, on the problems of translation. "But who still cares about that?" -- as your journalist from L'Observateur says, and he surely merits being reproduced on a poster; perhaps the Encyclopedists can make him eat it?

Claude Roy[4] lacks tact, even on the plane of a simple literary exercise. For once, he defends me, after so many months,[5] and still must enumerate my faults. This is not very Ciceronian! Imagine the famous gossipmonger, attacking Catilina, and having the awkwardness to recognize in him several handsome qualities and good intentions.

The criminal brigade, pursuing its indefatigable investigation,[6] has just been here to re-interview me. If the subject were not so sad, one might laugh. They said that they could write another encyclopedia on the things I do not know, the people of whom I know nothing, the questions that remain obscure to me, and my opinions on everything I do not know anything about. Along the way, [according to them] I took up all of the ideas of May '68, which entirely convinced Gerard [Lebovici], with the result that I never had to convince him of anything, since those ideas turned out to be mine.

I hope to soon send you my Considerations on the Assassination of Gerard Lebovici, a short book that is not at the printer. For your "press services," I have already suggested to you Mezioud Ouldamer (c/o Editions Lebovici), J.-F. Martos [and] X.[7]

Attached[8] you will find a pleasing document about the new forest, and I also indicate to you the recent appearance of a new concept, very rich for the future, which has perhaps escaped your notice, in so far as it arises in a narrow field -- that of the producer of waste products, which is necessary to legally distinguish from the equally socio-economic function of the "eliminator" of these same waste products, whose function of course merits a just remuneration (all no doubt subject to the TVA[9]). It was Eluard who, respect to Guernica, I believe, spoke of the work of the "ruin builders." But this was an archaic, musty smelling critique. And since then, progress. . . .

I have just read the Sketch of the progress of alienation, so well illustrated.[10] It is actually very somber. But I believe that your mission now is to say all of this, and how it in sum inscribes itself in the general catalogue of Nuisances. The weakness of the subjective, revolutionary side in fact necessarily begins. Perhaps you are, if not too severe, then a little too pessimistic with respect to the revolutionary "party." It exists without one seeing it, especially in hyper-spectacular times. Your citation of Machiavelli[11] (page 33) must be read, it seems to me, without forgetting about either side in the battle. On the other hand, your detournement of [Cardinal] Retz is unfortunately very true, and exactly characterizes this period.

Returning to the objective forces, I want to believe that class power has [not][12] succeeded in reversing (durably?) the decline of its degree of control of society, over the entire central question of repression, over the struggle against history and consciousness (which you evoke very well on page 43, second column). But I do not think that it can reestablish its control over social consensus, ecology, insecurity or even the "modernized" economy. The modernization that triumphed around 1960 appears to me to have been the last of which one can fear the "success," the profound satisfaction of its dupes, the neo-rational harmony of its calculations, etc. Today, everything goes down in spiraling water. A society without pleasures can only collapse into dust.

We are happy that Anne has escaped the grippe and, moreover, by providing confirmation of a theory that we take to heart.[13]

Best wishes to you all,

[1] Translator's note: the first anniversary of the still unsolved murder of Gerard Lebovici.

[2] Another translation of Jorge Manrique's Stanzas on the death of his father.

[3] Guy Levis Mano.

[4] Translator's note: Jaime Semprun's father-in-law.

[5] In Le Nouvel Observateur, 28 December 1984.

[6] Translator's note: into the murder of Gerard Lebovici.

[7] Translator's note: this would appear to be Jean-Pierre Baudet, who -- in protest against the fact that Editions Fayard/Alice Debord did not include in Correspondance any of the letters addressed to Guy Debord, thereby "presenting the interlocutors of Mr Debord as reduced to mutism, and incapable of having inspired, nourished or contradicted what he expressed in his own letters" -- demanded on 5 April 2006 that Editions Fayard/Alice Debord not include any of the letters that Debord addressed to him between 1985 and 1989. Not only did they comply, but they also replaced any reference to "Jean-Pierre Baudet" with the letter X.

[8] Translator's note: not attached in the version translated here.

[9] Translator's note: TVA stands for Tax sur la Valeur Ajoutee (Value-Added Tax).

[10] Issue #2 of the Encyclopedia of Nuisances: History of Ten Years.

[11] "Two armies that fight against each other can be equally mistreated; in such a case, victory will be won by the one that will be the first to be informed of the state in which the enemy finds itself."

[12] Translator's note: we want to alert the reader to the possibility of a typographical mistake (a word that has been dropped?) in this passage, because it seems highly unlikely to us that Debord would "want to believe" (emphasis added) in this success. Possible confirmation for a mistake can be found later in the paragraph: "Today, everything goes down in spiraling water" (emphasis added).

[13] The preventive use of oligo-elements, in which copper is used for the grippe.

(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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