from Guy Debord

To Anagrama Editorial (Barcelona)
Copy to Editions Gerard Lebovici
Paris, 7 June 1989
Dear Sir:

I have received, without any other explanation, a rough sketch of the translation of my book[1] by Editions Anagrama. I am for the moment limited to an examination of the first three pages of the manuscript and to foreseeing a difficulty for page 61. I make the following observations immediately:

1) The translation of the title is unfaithful and maladroit. It is necessary to speak sobre.[2] If I had wanted to write comments "on" The Society of the Spectacle, it would have been comments on my preceding book on the subject; but I have wanted to deal with what this same society has become, twenty-one years later.

2) In the dedication, the term emboscada is not suitable. It might be applied to a military ambush, to war. But I have employed the word that evokes banditry, the style of the hampa.[3] It seems to me that the word asechanza[4] would be better.

3) One page 1, it is not necessary to make me say that I am someone of entendido![5] I have said that I am considered to be a conocedor.[6]. As for the unhappy epoch, I have intentionally employed the classical expression "the unhappiness of the times." The Castilian equivalent would be la desdicha de los tiempos or perhaps las desdichas del tiempo. I do not believe that one must translate "lures," originally a term used by hunters and that evokes a lost trail, by the brutal trampa[7] (there is no false information, which might make the reader "fall into error," in my book): the general term engano[8] would be best.

4) Page 61. The book by Gracian is actually entitled El Oraculo manual y Arte de Prudencia.[9] Gracian did not write what your translator imagines, basing himself upon the French, but this well-known phrase: "El goberno, el discurrir, todo ha de ser al caso. Querer cuando se puede, que la sazon y el tiempo a nadie aguardan."[10] I assure you that the respect I have for Spanish culture in its best eras is great enough that I absolutely refuse to appear to have taken responsibility for humiliating it in this barbaric fashion.

I now beg you to let me know if you are in agreement with my current observations. And, if so, I would ask you to send me a little more elaborate version of the translation. Finally, I would love to know the name of your translator -- the current one or the next one, if you believe it to be efficacious to make a change. Because I believe that anonymity can often lead translators to take imprudent liberties with the text with which they are tasked, wrongly thinking that they have nothing to lose.

Please believe, dear Sir, that I will accord the most lively attention to the continuation of this affair. I beg you to accept my sincere best wishes.

Guy Debord

[1] Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, first published in French by Editions Gerard Lebovici, May 1988.

[2] simply.

[3] underworld.

[4] trap.

[5] skill.

[6] expert.

[7] trap.

[8] deception.

[9] The Oracular Manual and Art of Prudence.

[10] "Governing, discoursing, everything must be done with purpose. Love when you can, because neither the season nor time wait for anyone." Compare with: "Whether action or discourse, everything must be measured according to the times. It is necessary to desire when one can, because neither the seasons nor time wait for anyone."

(Published in Jean-Francois Martos, Correspondance avec Guy Debord, Le fin mot de l'Histoire, August 1998. Translated from the French and, where necessary, from the Spanish by NOT BORED! July 2007. Footnotes by the translator.)

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