Text by Valentin Pelosse
Preface to an anthology of articles by Joseph Déjacque
Extracted from his newspaper, Le Libertaire

I have long hesitated to publish this anthology of Le Libertaire: if the translator is a traitor, what about an anthologist? A crazy surgeon like Frankenstein, cutting this from that. . . . At the origin of this hesitation was the impossibility of finding a publisher who would take the risk of [publishing] a complete edition; the use of the formula “better than nothing” to excuse the anthology-compromise would involve me in something laughable, because what could be the value of “better” if the standard is “nothing”? And what’s “nothing”? If it is only between “better” and “nothing” that the conditions for the production of the current volume is placed, namely, within the realm of necessity, my material survival, the 6,000 francs allotted by the publisher and, for my social survival, the non-negligible utility of the marginal prestige attached to this type of publication: slight laughable dizziness [léger vertige de dérisoire], aggravated by a somewhat nagging feeling: [then] which claim to knowledge will hold [better] when confronted with a notion like that of the “libertarian” than the historical conjunction that, each day, makes an ironic “to be or not to be” chime in our ears?

Thus, this work offers a selection of articles published in Le Libertaire, journal du movement social, a remarkable periodical published in New York from 1858 to 1861 by Joseph Déjacque, who was practically its only editor. In addition to Humanisphere, utopie anarchique and several articles, which were collected five years ago under the title A bas les chefs!, this anthology includes around half of the texts from Le Libertaire, which, arousing an age-old enchantment, thus becomes accessible. Lacking a complete edition, I have sought to supply a critical apparatus that concerns the totality of Le Libertaire (notably a detailed analytical table).

For information about the life of Déjacque, one should consult the preface and notes to A bas les chefs! The same with the socio-historical context, the men and events – the Revolution of 1848 and the Second Republic, the United States at the beginning of the Civil War – to which Déjacque constantly referred. Likewise, the bibliography hasn’t been repeated here.

With the exception of the articles published over the course of several issues and regrouped together here, the texts appear in their chronological order of publication in the newspaper.

The collection of Le Libertaire utilized, the only existing one, to my knowledge, is the one kept at the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam (and this is the occasion for me to thank Maria Hunink for her help).

December 1976
Valentin Pelosse

Champ Libre to Valentin Pelosse
Paris, 4 January 1977

In the introductory note to the texts by Déjacque that you’ve chosen and that you’ve given to us in manuscript form, you make a somewhat depreciating judgment of the work that you performed in conformity with the contract with Champ Libre [you] signed on 7 October 1975.

Thus I now know that it was due to not having or not knowing how to find a publisher courageous enough to publish the complete edition of Le Libertaire that you had to content yourself with Champ Libre, but this has condemned you to act like “a crazy surgeon like Frankenstein, cutting this from that,” to put together an anthology that you describe as “better than nothing.” Incapable of responding to this questioning of the value of “better,” of which “nothing” would be “the standard,” you shift the emphasis of your problematic to announce to us – without saying so directly – that the real motives for your anthology-compromise were two very clear necessities:

(a) your material survival (your contract with Champ Libre, based upon 10 percent of the net generated from sales of the book, anticipated a minimum of 6,000 francs guaranteed); [and]

(b) greater value in “marginal prestige” that the publication of this work wouldn’t fail to bring you.

Your explanations are so pertinent that they have immediately discouraged me from reading the texts that you have assembled.

I maintain that, by informing the reader so complacently about your soul-searching, your hesitations and the real reasons why you accepted this work, you mock Champ Libre, the public and, what is more serious and scandalous, Déjacque, who can’t do anything about it.

Consequently, I have decided to abandon the publication of your work. To avoid any more or less legitimate legal claim that you might be able or might have the right to make, I include with this letter a check in your name for the balance of the anticipated amount, a sum of 4,000 francs, which represents 2,000 francs when the manuscript was handed in and 2,000 francs when it was [to be] published.

So as not to harm you, even momentarily, we agree, starting today, to send the entirety of your work, as is, to a publisher who will know how to satisfy you.

Gérard Lebovici

P.S. Your manuscript is enclosed.

Valentin Pelosse to Champ Libre
14 January 1977

The P[ost] and T[elephone services] and I have determined that the check for 4,000 francs, representing your compensation for the cancelation of my contract with Editions Champ Libre concerning Le Libertaire, wasn’t signed. . . .

Was this an unconsciously deliberate mistake [un acte manqué]?

Valentin Pelosse

P.S. Your check is attached.

Mrs. Chauvet to Champ Libre
7 February 1977

I was visited by Mr. Valentin Pelosse, who has informed me of a dispute between your publishing house and him.

By a letter dated 4 January 1977, you sent to Mr. Pelosse a check representing what was due him following your refusal to publish his work (contract signed 7 October 1975).

The check wasn’t signed. It couldn’t be deposited and was returned to you by registered letter on 15 January 1977.

To date, Mr. Pelosse hasn’t received any signed check in return.

He has tasked me with defending his interests in this affair, which is why I would like you to make known to me your intentions or the name of your attorney, with whom I could get in contact.

I hope that this affair will be settled amicably.

I ask you, Sir, to accept the expression of my distinguished sentiments.

Nadine Chauvet
Attorney at law

Champ Libre to Ms. Chauvet
Paris, 20 February 1977

Returning to me by registered letter dated 15 January 1977 the non-signed check for 4,000 francs, made out in his name, Mr. Valentin Pelosse naively wonders if it was an unconsciously deliberate mistake [un acte manqué].

Tasked with defending the interests of your client, Mr. Pelosse, you would like me to tell you my intentions. I did indeed commit an unconsciously deliberate mistake when I addressed a non-signed check to Mr. Pelosse, but I have also achieved a success: Mr. Pelosse no longer has the check.

I have transmitted the dossier on this affair to our attorney, Mr. Georges Kiejman, Attorney at Law.[1]

I ask you to accept, Madame, the expression of my very distinguished sentiments.

Gérard Lebovici

[1] Address and phone number deleted.

Notice of Seizure delivered by Mr. Marcel Dymant, bailiff for Valentin Pelosse, to Editions Champ Libre[1]

15 December 1977.

By virtue of the copy in due binding form of an injunction to pay, handed down by the President of the Parisian Court of Commerce on 28 September 1977. –

And at the request of Mr. Valentin Pelosse, researcher residing in Paris (…) –

Electing address for service at my chambers

I, Marcel Dynant, Bailiff of Justice, stationed at the Tribunal of the Supreme Court in Paris, residing in Paris,[2] undersigned, do make iterative command to the Company Editions Champ Libre, whose offices are in Paris,[3] represented as a corporate entity by its legal counsel, to pay to me, Bailiff of Justice, carrier of the papers, the principal sum of 4,000 francs, with interest, expenses and the costs of execution deducted from the paid deposits, declaring that, failing to do this, I will immediately proceed to seize furniture and moveable objects in the presence of the Police Commissioner, [who is] required by me and undersigned, and a locksmith.

The party subject to the seizure has declared to me that it doesn’t benefit from family assistance or child assistance under the terms of Article 593 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

Consequently, I have seized and placed under the hand of Justice the following objects: two modern aluminum desks; a small metallic desk; a Remington typewriter; two glass desks on cube feet; a wooden coat rack; two folding chairs with chrome feet; and a batch of 500 diverse bound books.

I have established as the guardian of the seized objects Mr. Maurice Eskenazi, Paris,[4] in proportion to the refusal or absence of the seized portion.

Then, for the sale of the aforementioned seized objects, I have indicated that the sale will take place on 20 January 1978, all day, at the Hotel des Ventes.

Concerning all that happened, I drafted the current Notice of Seizure, a copy of which I left the seized party, speaking as above.

Cost: 100 francs, apart from completion or reduction.

Used for the copy, 1 sheet of paper stamp format at 7.50 francs.[5]

[1] Rather than pay Pelosse in legal tender, Lebovici preferred to pay him in the form of mundane office furniture that would be seized by the court and sold at auction.

[2] Address deleted.

[3] Address deleted.

[4] Address deleted.

[5] The rest of this “Notice of Seizure” consists of changes to Articles 592 and 593 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

(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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