René Viénet

The bad boy of Sinology

René Viénet is one of the only French Sinologists to have denounced the Chinese totalitarian regime and its nihilistic Cultural Revolution, at a time when, on the Right and Left, many looked favorably upon Mao Tse-Tung. Over the course of five broadcasts, A voix nue looks at this uncommon person.

René Viénet was norn in the Havre, where his father was a dock worker. While a student, he seduced a Girl Scout who was the sister of the companion of Guy Debord;[1] when he showed up in Paris to study Chinese with Jacques Pimpaneau, he joined the Situationist International. Studying in China, he saw the beginnings of the "revo-cul" (the term is his).[2] He was expelled [from China] in 1966, and without difficulty he was among the first in France to denounce the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution."

René Viénet was fired from the CNRS[3] on two different occasions (a unique case) between 1971 and 1978, for violently attacking those who defended Mao, notably by publishing the 50 books in his "Asiatic Library" collection, moving from publisher to publisher (at Champ Libre with Gerard Lebovici,[4] and at 10-18 with Christian Bourgois. . . .)

It was Viénet who discovered Simon Leys, and first published Leys' study of The life of Su Ren-Shen, mad rebel and painter, and then incited him to publish President Mao's New Clothes and Chinese Shadows. Viénet has also translated and analyzed all sorts of studies, such as Revo-cul in Chinese Pop. This anthology of texts by the Red Guard begins with the following: "As a result of smelling the onions of the bureaucrats, the Red Guard ends up crying." Viénet follows and often precedes the evolution of Chinese politics, including Peking's Spring Texts, of which "the sixth modernization" was by Wei Jing Sheng, later condemned as a Chinese dissident ("a swallow's nest doesn't make a Peking Spring"). In Hong Kong, René Viénet has also translated and published in Chinese the texts that he'd already translated into French: The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution, by Harold Isaacs,[5] and Oriental Depotism by E. Balasz. But the craft that he claims is that of filmmaker: two films were dated 1977: Mao, by himself (short-film competition at Cannes) and Chinese! One More Effort if You Would be Revolutionaries (French selection by the "Fifteen Directors"), which Georges Charensol has claimed "is in my opinion the best film in the history of cinema." Viénet is also responsible for the more ridiculous cinematographic essays, Can the Dialectic Break Bricks? (the first "detourned" film the the history of cinema) and Panties for Summer ("at last, porno-politics[6] without artistic alibis!" in response to Poniatowski's remark that "there are no artist alibis for pornography"). These four titles, which recall the beautiful days of the counter-culture of Saint-Germain and launched Kung-Ku into the West, will soon by available on DVD.

After more than 20 years spent in Taiwan and China, involved in several different commercial activities (Framatome, Cogema, Total, etc), René Viénet returns to Europe to launch a new publishing house [Editions René Viénet], from which the first title will be the definitive bio of Olympe de Gouges by Olivier Blanc;[7] the second will be an expanded reprint of The Key by Caveau; the third a work on the many wars between France and China, etc. -- for which there will be an audio-visual extension [prolongement] that begins with an epic film about Olympe.

With this person of great color, a willing provocateur, A voix une offers the story of a perverted [hors norme] lover of China.

[1] A sister of Michele Bernstein.

[2] Short for "cultural revolution," the phrase revo-cul also suggests "revo-cunt," that is, "cunt revolution."

[3] The National Center for Scientific Research.

[4] For a view of Viénet's tenure at Champ Libre, see Guy Debord's letter to Jaime Semprun dated 26 December 1976.

[5] See Viénet's preface.

[6] Literally, cul politique, or "cunt politics."

[7] Translated into English by Donald Nicholson-Smith.

(Written by Helene Hazera and published on-line by Radio France, on the occasion of the Book Exposition devoted to China, March 2004. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! March 2006. Small corrections made January 2015.)

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