from Guy Debord

To Morgan Sportes
14 March 1994
Dear Morgan Sportes:

I believe that, today, no one is better qualified than you to make clear -- in so few words -- what has especially characterized my style.[1] In my most recent book,[2] in which I deal with examples from different, generally hostile observers of my complete works, I have exactly described you as a writer: whereas, for all the others, I have distributed diverse epithets, which each one quite precisely merits: mediatic,[3] expert, journalist, disinformer, functionary . . . .

If you read Italian, I recommend to you the book that was devoted to me -- somberly entitled Debord, without any first name -- by a very cultivated German man, Anselm Jappe, who seems to have found the occasion to exercise his talents in Italy. It was published by Tracce in Pescara, and very-well informed. I think that Jappe has been a little too systematically full of praise, and nevertheless gives me the impression of being the observer who has best understood me to date: unfortunately he has abstained from providing a part of his conclusions, but they are easy to reconstitute.

I have not read your A.M.D.G.,[4] but I have read several reviews of it that have made me think that you have nearly succeeded at giving France another Gone with the Wind. It also has the supplementary merit of narrating the failure of a colonial war that should never have existed. I believe that you wanted to sign the mystification with the very heaviness of the anachronisms and to play upon the scrupulous authors (so skillfully documented) by omitting the archives of the sole Minister of the Navy from your sources. It would obviously be there that the documents are kept, if the expedition took place.[5]

Of course I will communicate to you all of the possible insights that might help your "Balzacian" project.[6]

I must bring up another one of your texts, about which -- all things considered -- I have been led to keep silent. When I read your book on the Subra affair[7] (and realizing too late that you had asked me if I had some ideas on the subject, which I did not), I was filled with wonder by the terrible socio-historical implications of the story, seen in its details, and I was simultaneously sure that you had entirely failed stylistically. The subject in itself was much larger than that of Truman Capote.[8] You have almost mocked your criminals by sometimes letting the tone of the book float, and in so far as these people clearly disgust you. The grand style should have been exactly here, I think. It was a criminal trial and quite precisely of its times, alas. The crime being so scandalously stupid and bestial, you had to write a book that was also scandalous and that shocked people but in the opposite direction. Today, one must think that the true victims of the affair were the guilty ones. Thus, one must defend the guilty as brilliantly as a real lawyer would, if such a creature was still permitted to exist. But it is still permitted to several artists to make it known that they still exist (for the moment and at their own risk and peril). Thus, I suppose that it would have been necessary to cling to the article in the Penal Code that prescribes "there is neither crime nor offense" when the subjects are pushed to their actions by an irresistible force and had no awareness of the consequences of their actions. The spectacle, as you can guess, was their irresistible force, and the anti-real cretinism that the spectacle produces among its dupes was proved in all its savagery. I think that no one doubted the sincerity of the somber heroine when she wondered if she might leave prison after [only] three weeks.[9] This quite proved her sinister innocence. I know that I say all of this too late, since the defect was already without remedy when I read your book. But at least you have the assurance that I have not been indifferent to your work.

Quite sincerely,
Guy Debord

[1] Morgan Sportes, "Guy d'abord," Les Lettres francaises, October 1992.

[2] "Cette mauvaise reputation," Editions Gallimard, pp. 87-88.

[3] Translator's note: there is no adequate translation of mediatique, which not only refers to people who work for and/or appear in the media, but the spectacle, as well.

[4] "Ad Majorem Dei gloriam" ("For the greater glory of God"): slogan of the Jesuits.

[5] "The expedition to Siam, organized by Louis XIV, did indeed take place and the references to archives were authentic." (Letter from Moragn Sportes to Alice Debord, 19 February 2007.)

[6] The project of writing a "Balzacian fiction" about the last 20 years of the century, in which it "would be a question of the 'political milieu,' the 'art market,' etc."

[7] L'Appat, published in 1990. [Translator: both a book and a movie, L'Appat ("Fresh Bait") tells the "true story" of Valerie Subra, who lured rich old men into traps in which they were robbed and murdered.]

[8] In Cold Blood.

[9] During the winter holiday. Valerie Subra, condemned to an irreducible 16-year-long prison term, was freed on 23 May 2007.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 7: Janvier 1988-Novembre 1994 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2008. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! June 2009. Footnotes by the publisher, except where noted.)

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