Patrons lacking for Debord's manuscripts

Bruno Racine, the president of the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BNF) hosted 200 potential patrons on Monday, 15 June, at a dinner gala in the Hall of Globes. The dinner guests were encouraged to give as much money as possible to help the BNF acquire the archives of Guy Debord, the leader of situationism. According to Mr. Racine, these archives constitute "a unique collection for the literary avant-gardes."

But the patrons didn't jostle for position to make their donations. Nearly 180,000 euros [$234,000] were raised, less than one-tenth of the sum that France must pay in the next two and a half years.[1] "Its a good start," estimates Mr. Racine, who looks forward to a more favorable situation in 2010. The Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel (who was present at the dinner), can tap into the French kitty through the Funds for the National Heritage. But American universities, Yale, in particular, are waiting in ambush. . . .

To tempt the dinner guests, three spiral-bound notebooks -- two on small-squared graph paper, one on large-squared paper, each with rose-colored strokes marking the margins -- were exhibited during the dinner. Classified a "national treasure," they form the [handwritten] manuscript of Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle. The text is full of annotations in blue and black ink that follow the meticulously enumerated paragraphs, which indicate the pages of the book to come.[2]

Among the dinner guests was Philippe Sollers, who won the BNF's first prize, worth 10,000 euros and matched by a research fellowship of 10,000 euros that will be awarded to a student who will write a work about his oeuvre. Sollers took the occasion to render homage to Guy Debord, an "exceptional reader."

(Written by Alain Beuve-Mery and published in the 17 June 2009 issue of Le Monde. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! 17 June 2009.)

[1] Translator's note: this means that Yale University offered Alice Debord, Guy's widow, at least $2,340,000 for his archives.

[2] Translator's note: it seems the author has confused the manuscript's numbered theses (221 in total) with its pages.

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