Champ Libre to Ornella Volta
Paris, 18 November 1977

Below is the text of the telegram sent today to Mr. Gérard Broutin, secretary of the Creators Prize.

“Thanks to the noise that reaches us, we’ve learned that you propose to give the Creators Prize to the work Writings by Erik Satie. We inform you that we absolutely reject the principle of any literary prize and yours is particularly ridiculous. Refrain from it. Editions Champ Libre.”

Your publisher,

Ornella Volta to Champ Libre
Paris, 18 November 1977

Receiving your telegram today, I have been able to once again appreciate, beyond the elegance of its style, the solicitude with which you made me part of a decision that concerns me as much as you – and even a little more than you – a decision that, once more, you’ve made all by yourself.

It is a shame that you don’t show me the same solicitude when it is a question of fulfilling your commitments, in particular, those that have for their object contributing to the assurance of the financial means of the author (whom you have published) to pursue her work. No doubt it is difficult for you to understand that everyone isn’t occupied with books as a hobby, to take a rest from show-business,[1] and to please oneself by making so-called “beautiful gestures” at the cost of the others.

Ornella Volta

[1] English in original.

Champ Libre to Ornella Volta
Paris, 21 November 1977
Ms. Volta:

I think it quite pleasing that you now pretend to be the author of the work, Writings by Erik Satie, when I know and continue to believe that it was Erik Satie himself.

Thus I have only shown solicitude to him and, in these circumstances, it is for me alone to take responsibility for a position that he would not have failed to approve of.

According to you, I occupy myself with books as a hobby to rest myself from the fatigue of show-business.[1] At least it is not the other way around. But what is sure is that you are revealed to be a veritable professional in Erik Satie and that you count on living with a small personal prestige and [some] money.

I can reassure you where this is concerned: if you have some financial commitment to fill, you will be paid. This will allow you to pursue your “work” or, more precisely, your business of assembling and annotating texts by Erik Satie.

Gérard Lebovici

[1] English in original.

Ornella Volta to Champ Libre
Paris, 21 November 1977
For Mr. Gérard Lebovici

Given that you obviously can’t bear the truth, it’s necessary that you know that your manifest desire to hurt me cannot attain its goal at the low level at which you are situated.

Anyone can easily determine that the amount of time and effort that I have dedicated and that I continue to dedicate to Erik Satie has no comparison with what a publisher – even one faithful to his commitments – can offer me. On the other hand, I will not sacrifice my time and effort for the sole prestige of Champ Libre and the caprices of its owner.

You also accuse me as presenting myself as the author of Erik Satie’s writings. You didn’t read well; I spoke to you of the work of which I am the author; that you only see therein assembly and annotation only proves once again that the quality of a book depends in large part on the quality of the reader.

I intentionally did not speak of Erik Satie’s writings in my letter as a form of elementary discretion concerning Mr. Joseph-Lafosse, who is to my knowledge the sole representative qualified to [handle] all the effects and who will, I’m sure, appreciate the declaration according to which you only have to account for authors who cannot respond to you.

Why don’t you try the classics? Everything would be much simpler. This is the last bit of advice I will give you.

Ornella Volta

Pierre Joseph-Lafosse-Satie to Champ Libre
Paris, 11 January 1978
Dear Sir:

I was very surprised to learn of your radical opposition to the awarding of the Creators Prize to Ornella Volta for her work on the writings of Erik Satie.

It seems this is a matter, on your part, of a position of absolute principle that also legitimizes itself on a strictly personal plane, in any case only imposed on your authors, who have the right to expect from you that you will, in this matter, respect the uses of the profession. Additionally, this prize has been awarded to Ms. Ornella Volta personally, and your prohibitions constitute an already criticizable interference.

Moreover, this is a prize awarded by personalities of [high] quality, a prize that is at the margins of the current great literary prizes with which one could find fault.

I beg you insistently to do your job and, from now on, add a printed band to Ornella Volta’s work as a way of making it very clear that she has won the award in question.

I take advantage of this circumstance to remind you that your initiatives in the domain of launching and distributing this book have been extremely limited, so it would be desirable if you made this work better known either through advertisements or the distribution of an advertising prospectus to the bookstores.

I would be grateful if you were to share with me your suggestions on this subject and your response concerning the band as soon as possible, for which I thank you in advance.

Sincerely yours,
Pierre Joseph-Lafosse-Satie

P.S. I count on your understanding, estimating that one must be able to explain oneself without getting annoyed, and allow me to send you this letter by registered post.

Champ Libre to Pierre Joseph-Lafosse-Satie
26 January 1978

I am not at all opposed to the awarding of compensation to Ms. Ornella Volta – whether it is the Goncourt or the Stalinist Prize for Peace doesn’t concern me – but I reject, in advance and definitively, any distinction that one would propose to give to a dead author published by Champ Libre.

I have informed the poor juror-creators and I did not fail to keep you informed of my decision, [which I did] by sending you, as well as Ornella Volta and Michel Giroud, a copy of the telegram that I sent them.

While recognizing the legitimacy of my position on the personal plane, you do not accord me the right of imposing it on authors. But when these authors are no longer there to express themselves, when no one, especially not their legal heirs, worry themselves about the defense of their interests, this formidable task falls to me and me alone – their publisher.

You are right to emphasize that the Creators Prize hasn’t been awarded to me, and that is quite fortunate for those prudent jurors. It is Erik Satie who is concerned and, along with him, it is Champ Libre that one has tried to offend.

These failed creators, who pretend to engage in their activity at the margins of the institution, by trying (without success) to enhance the gamey image of archaic practices, are the most ridiculous of the jurors and, as a result, they are the most scorned.

In this domain, as in many others, I do not respect and count on never respecting the uses of the profession. This is why Erik Satie can stand proudly alongside Bakunin, Cieszkowski, Clausewitz, Gracian, Hegel, Korsch, and Bruno Rizzi, to only cite the most celebrated of our departed authors.

You insistently beg me to do my job (a publishing house, like any individual, defines itself as much by what it produces as how it produces it) by taking advertising initiatives and by placing a band around Erik Satie, and me, I beg you to let me publish Erik Satie as he would have demanded, that is to say, as I am doing it.

Thus I reject any criticism or compliment coming from people who have not totally approved of my conduct in this affair.

You want me to value the advantages that Ms. Ornella Volta could draw from a literary prize that neither the music, the life, nor any of Erik Satie’s writings would accept, and you do not even once dream of noting the aggression of which he is the object.

I recognize the merits of Ornella Volta, since her name is mentioned on the cover of the work by Erik Satie. I have defined their limits in the correspondence that I’ve exchanged with her. Enclosed please find copies of it.

In the post scriptum to your registered letter, written in your own hand, you justly remark to me that “one can explain oneself very well without getting annoyed,” but one can also get annoyed without explaining oneself. It is, nevertheless, the first solution that I have chosen and to which I am making an effort to hold myself, considering the last name that you have and the few meetings that we’ve had until now, which is something for which I can only congratulate myself.

Sincerely yours,
Gérard Lebovici

(Published in Editions Champ Libre, Correspondance, Vol. 1, Editions Champ Libre, Paris, 1978. Translated from the French and footnoted by NOT BORED! June 2012.)

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