from Guy Debord

To Jean-Jacques Pauvert
18 September 1993
Dear Jean-Jacques:

Thank you a thousand times for your vigilant proofreading of the manuscript.[1] I thought I'd read it twice: a great illusion in this case. I have been a very good proofreader (always free of charge).[2] But certainly not today: my eyesight is failing.

I do not know if I would follow your advice on adding an explication of the word "masperizer."[3] Here are my reasons for leaving it as it is: I do not doubt that everyone has forgotten the destitute publisher named F. Maspero. That's the point. The crime is redoubled when one lets the memory [of the criminal] fade away. To witness was exactly the function of art, there where it could exist -- contrary to the hypocritical "moralism" of the current mediatic functionaries, with their selective memories that can be quickly thawed in a microwave oven.

In general, I deplore the fact that the language must be impoverished by losing several very concrete words, which political hatred spread furiously in this or that generation. For example, a jolyade (around 1650),[4] that is to say, a fake assassination attempt that anticipates an effect, but which rebounds against its author; or a ragusade (in 1814)[5] the day after the betrayal of Marmont. If history hasn't had an all-too-explicable tendency to be quite forgotten these days, one might speak of the jolyade of Mitterrand avenue de l'Observatoire or the ragusade of Pinochet against the one who brought him to the head of the army; in the same way, one must exemplarily call a gorbachevade any complete and ridiculous disaster in which a power is brought down by a spectacular optical illusion. There will be others.

For at least ten years, the word "masperizer" has had many rather comical applications in the USA, where the majority of those who use the expression are ignorant of this publisher and his crime. Thus: "the Vaneigemists in San Francisco dare to accuse us, in New York, of having masperized. We are masperizers? These comrades will understand that masperization is, instead, the deed of those . . ." I have transposed the whole into basic[6] American.

As I have used the word five or six times in a single book, it is impossible to not understand it, in all of its nuances. The question of its historical origin is distinct. "Future scholars" will have to make a close study of the history of May 1968, and this would be a necessity in this case. That a small mystery is involved isn't a bad effect for art to have, it seems to me. In this case, I comport myself as if it appears impossible that one doesn't know the [original] anecdote and impossible that someone who claims to read my works would be ignorant of this. As for Francois Maspero -- who would like to believe, and perhaps sincerely, that, just as bureaucrats are rare animals, I myself organized his bankruptcy by deliberately sending an entire generation of Parisians to steal everything from his bookstore -- I consider that I personally no longer have to explain his crime: it is sufficient that I have exposed his name to infamy. Imprudent people will be able to see that it is always a great misfortune to have attracted the justified scorn of a remarkable author. His own children will ask him how he, and not his grandfather, could shamelessly pollute the name that they, too, must bear. Have I succeeded in convincing you?

Antoine [Gallimard] has telephoned me: he is happy with "Cette mauvaise reputation . . ." and sent it to the printer.

"Les Belles Lettres" would be much less elegant than "Jean-Jacques Pauvert and Company," especially because of that burlesque Dantzig,[7] who, all by himself, condemned the reputation of that poor publishing house in a short period of time. But, finally, the costly faux pas of this publisher is still not too well known by the general public. "One doesn't look a gift horse in the mouth," expresses it. It is very true that I have always rigorously followed this kind of rule.

This time, I am precisely even more impatient to see you. Perhaps in October?

Very amicably,

[1] Of "Cette mauvaise reputation."

[2] Translator's note: see, for example, the letter to Gerard Lebovici dated 2 January 1976.

[3] Translator's note: originally coined in the late 1960s to express "the crime" of abridging or otherwise misrepresenting the contents of a book.

[4] Cf. the Memoires of Cardinal de Retz: "He was resolved that a gentleman at Noirmoutier would fire a pistol shot into Joli's coach (...) that Joli would scratch himself so that it would look like he had been injured."

[5] See letter to Annie Le Brun dated 9 October 1992.

[6] Translator's note: English in original.

[7] Charles Dantzig, Le Style Cinquieme.

(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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