from Guy Debord

To Raoul Vaneigem
Monday evening, 8 March [1965]
Dear Raoul:

A little late, the praises come raining down!

Without even bearing in mind the specifics of your most recent letter, the Treatise [on Living for the Younger Generations] is a success, which goes beyond legitimate hopes. Quite superior, I believe to Banalities[1] (which was already very good). More clear and readable, by far. Also more complete, in the development already traced or announced. I believe that this will be very accessible to someone who doesn't know much about our bases (whereas the journal, in this case, is inaccessible). At the same time, it is at the highest level.

It is perhaps the first re-appearance, in book form, of the tone, the level of critique, of the revolutionaries called "utopian," that is to say, of the basic propositions for the overthrow of the totality of a society: what necessarily precedes practical organization, which was quite unfortunately called "scientific" in the last century.

I am particularly charmed by the success of the tone. Completely in the line that you have searched for. The passage from the extreme subjective to theory, which is no longer "serene." From Nietzsche, from Fourier, there is the legitimate heritage of philosophy in the best sense of the word.

I believe that the publication of this book -- hardly doubtful, to my mind, bearing in mind the situation and its uncontestible value (even according to "their" criteria of the serious intellectual) -- will mark the end of the "prehistory of the SI."

Another good thing: our two works, obviously treating the same problem, coming together in the same perspective, will pass on this terrain without confounding it; crossing each other many times and always supporting each other. Like the flying buttresses in ogive construction? All the same, a lucky hit for two texts so little planned in the details. But also successful counter-proofs of coherence.

I annotate my copy. I highlight the few obscure points (in the expression). I have hardly any remarks to formulate, except for a good number of commas that have deserted [the text] and several trifling corrections, such as Pierre Francois Lacenaire.

I think that here we have won an important battle. One sees proof of what we didn't doubt, but that the communal intelligentsia will hold as uncertain until its last breath. Thus, we should immediately begin to drive in the nail of sufficient size.

I can not say it better to you: the beginning of this reading (which the continuation confirms) was for me one of the greatest joys of the current period. One can say, returning a phrase from page 32[2] (as Lautreamont and Vaneigem have shown, all true expressions of sadness can be reversed immediately):

"The joy felt on the occasion of a sign of victory . . . does not come from the exterior, but comes from me like a fountain liberated by a drop in the terrain. Joys, desires, the program of childhood remaining armed, in partisans hidden in the uninhabitable forests of the adult empire. Life does not cease to attain the moment of its counter-offensive."[3]

It is impossible for me to come on the week-end [English in original] of the 11th-12th. I would like to come during the last week of the month, either the 24th or the 25th of March.

Responses to your questions:[4]

a) 80% of the votes, abstentions being few at best -- around 20%? -- this appears to be about sixteen million votes. But I must verify this.

b) Enterologue, probably. The gastrological term sounds very bizarre to us.

c) Crinex: three flasks absorbed together, keeping the infamous liquid as long as possible on the tongue. Theory still disputes its efficacity at the limit, nevertheless we have known certain reassuring examples.

For a month, although I find myself quite happily occupied, I have subordinated many of the charms of everyday life and errancy to the completion of the critique of the spectacle. I have absolutely stopped drinking, until the last line is written. A dignified example from Antiquity! [Dignified] to the Thermopylae, and to the Spartans. . . . In the best case, I still have six weeks or two months more. Which weighs upon me. But the trap I've caught myself in is clever.

I see that this is in the margins of the exact laws of the [Treatise on] Living, but it is exactly a question of promulgating them.

I approach a very dry form,[5] a suite of theses probably fatiguing [assommantes] to read, but which will give much to think about. They will be -- almost surely -- divided into a dozen "chapters":

1/12. Generalities on the spectacle. Its omnipresence.
2/12. Economic foundations of the spectacle.
3/12. History of the workers' movement.
4/12. The environment of objects, and its perfected control (limiting-case: urbanism).
5/12. The representation of man in the society of the spectacle (the role, the star).
6/12. The relations of the spectacle and of time.
7/12. The internal contradictions of the "spectacular message."
8/12. Spectacular study of the spectacle (modern critical sociology).
9/12. The supercession of culture.
10/12. The survival of culture (= culture of survival).
11/12. The conditions of contestation in the society of the spectacle (here, the experience of the SI).
12/12. Limits of this book (of all books?)

Of course, the majority of these titles are very provisional. I will perhaps reduce the entirty to ten "chapters"[6] by the fusion of 1/12 and 12/12 into their neighbors. But the theses will be very numerous.[7]

I hope to bring you several developed pages. And more explanations on the complete development.


P.S. This afternoon, a Zengakuren student, rather Kurodist [in orientation], but speaking French and certainly intelligent, came to my place. He was a little empty on the schism [within the Zengakuren] because he had passed the last two years in Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela. Spoke Spanish and Portuguese well. Good atmosphere at the beginning, which had chances of becoming even better if he quickly developed his critique of the Cardanists.[8] Had seen the near collapse of the Left (including the Peasant Leagues) in Brazil, which he compared to the passivity of the Germans in '33.

[1] "Basic Banalities" by Raoul Vaneigem, cf. I.S. #7, p. 32, and I.S. #8, p. 34.

[2] In the manuscript's pagination.

[3] Detournement of a phrase from the Treatise: "My sadness experienced at the time of a rupture, a failure, a sorrow, does not reach me from the exterior [...] The tears, the cries, the screams of childhood remain imprisoned in the heart of men. Forever? In you also the emptiness does not cease to grow."

[4] "a) The approximate number of the votes received by de Gaulle in the referendum. b) The name of the specialist who occupies himself with the diseases of the stomach. I have indicated 'stomatologue' but this is wrong, as Rene remarked to me. c) The name of an effective product -- of which you spoke to me of one day -- that precipitates the return of menstrual periods (this is not for the Treatise)."

[5] Note added in the margin: "Upon re-reading: it is the unconscious that chooses the term, not a voluntary pleasantry."

[6] The definitive version would have nine chapters.

[7] Two hundred and twenty one theses [in the final version].

[8] Partisans of the thought of Cornelius Castoriadis, alias Cardan.

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 3, 1965-1968. Footnotes by Alice Debord. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! August 2005.)

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