from Guy Debord

To Jaime Semprun
3 July 1975
Dear Jaime:

I believe that our publisher[1] is right to want to avoid the appearance of weakness that weak publicity[2] suggests [comporte]. But why not choose the solution of a certain “bombardment” at the right time? For a book of this type, such bombardment truly doesn’t need to be “a high level.” And this is perfectly honorable, because the book is not a novel. Some aspect of “militant” distribution is justified by the necessity of breaking a boycott that, in this case, could not have been a surprise, and that Champ Libre, in general, has solidly experienced.

I understand that Lebovici is already happy with the book’s success. I even think that, from a certain point of view, the book will find its public, over time, through infiltration. But all the same, to the extent that it can influence a situation that is evolving day by day, I obviously would prefer to see you have 15,000 readers in the first month than 4,000 between now and September.

I do not have great confidence in the rapid reprinting of books published by Champ Libre. For example, The Veritable Split[3] had a print-run of 8,000 copies. I believe five or six thousand sold in the first few weeks. And the press-run still isn’t sold out because the book [only] sells 500 copies per year. This means that Champ Libre is really only distributed to the larger public at the moment of publication; thereafter it retains the interest of a specialized stratum that grows slowly. The great “success” of several books would be necessary to multiply the number of “advanced” specialists. Champ Libre thus experiences relative success with sales numbers that are still quite small for contemporary publishing, where infrequent success begins at 20,000 copies, perhaps even 12,000 or 15,000. The failures, which are of course the general rule, represent a sale of 50 to 200 copies, and “respectable success” (which is quite rare and signifies that the publisher has broken even) is about 2,000 copies. I believe that, economically, one can see that, for average publishing houses, one success pays for 100 failures, and a second success can bring in considerable benefits. At Champ Libre, on the other hand, there are a certain number of titles that compensate for four or five perfectly unsalable ineptitudes, but are still not great commercial successes (in other words: no widespread distribution having an instant political impact). Nevertheless, this success will end up being attained (and, in a single blow, makes people read Cieszkowski[4] annd Clausewitz’s Campaigns[5]), and, at this moment, there is no better theme than Portugal.

Thus, we hope to read [a review by Claude] Roy in the Observateur. That bastard from Libération, using the repugnant tone of Charlie-Hebdo and displaying a lack of courage that distinguishes itself through its hardly casual contortions, is quite favorable to the book, it seems to me. In any case, he cites it. He was impressed, no doubt, because it has already been read and discussed in his milieu, and the other editors are probably much more hostile than he is, from whence comes his ambiguous tone. The most amusing thing is once again seeing one of the small, anonymous bearers of a “notable quantity of nothing important” hit us with the blow of the old combatant who has returned [and] with the melancholic superiority that evokes the great revolutionary illusions of his glorious youth, which was probably around 1969.

In any case, for a reprinting in the fall, it would be good to add to the book’s jacket (and in any publicity) several citations concerning recent events and commentaries, perhaps alternating with the most unsympathetic comments that have appeared in the press. Nothing infuriates our enemies like demonstrations of this type: “We told you so.” They find this atrociously inelegant, and one understands why: either they said nothing at the right moment or quite the contrary.

Apropos of the Portuguese,[6] I wouldn’t even dare to imagine how the general interests of society can figure in the heads of individuals who are already so incapable of recognizing themselves in the simplest of their particular adventures. Quite sure that Eduardo,[7] who is such an enemy of reality, and that whore[8] who loves me so much, have spread to Lisbon tons of unrestrained lies, and, since they address themselves to minds that are quite clear and consistent, these others will need six more months to begin to orient themselves. The proletariat? It will wait. But they have ended up making exhaustive critiques of Slavia,[9] Eduardo and several other stars of their intensity.

Attached is my response to Gianfranco [Sanguinetti].[10] You will admire the cruelty of “individuals of excellent merit.” It is a fact that the mediocre people in question have fraudulently postulated that we must have the modesty to support their impertinences, their flaunting of their dramatic inconsequence, and even their maladroit lies. But we cannot understand where they dream of placing the illusory source of this obligation: the kindness of an electoral campaign, or what? Since there is no longer an SI to entitle these cretins, as when they had not yet been excluded from it, this attitude is even more imprudent, as one sees.

Paolo [Salvadori] has a vivid imagination only concerning the subjects that impassion him. The beautiful, quiet one[11] must become a trap for thinkers, a spy for the dialectic, an ambush of History. Militantism, infiltration, control and provocations of a “Director for the Surveillance of Theory” type appear to him [Paolo] as categories in the slightest erotic encounter. Inversely, Eduardo never wanted to describe to us the obscurity of the strategic situation in Portugal in the conventional language of amorous passion: everything is there, with perhaps the contrary as well, but one must see it for oneself, feel it, be in it. And, after all the impoverished ruses, it simply and quite suddenly appears that their maneuvers and their loves are equally false.

See you soon,

[1] Translator: Editions Champ Libre, directed by Gerard Lebovici.

[2] Translator: for Semprun’s book La Guerre sociale au Portugal.

[3] Published in 1972.

[4] Translator: see letter dated 3 May 1983.

[5] Translator: see letter dated 20 November 1984.

[6] Translator: ex-situationists and other militants in Portugal.

[7] Translator: Eduardo Rothe, an ex-situationist in the Italian section and one of the people living in Portugal.

[8] One of the shooting stars of this milieu.

[9] One of the shooting stars of this milieu. [Apparently this is one and the same person.]

[10] Cf. letter to Gianfranco Sanguinetti dated 1 July 1975.

[11] A [female] friend of Jaime Semprun. [Anne Krief?]

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol "0": Septembre 1951 - Juillet 1957: Complete des "lettres retrouvees" et d l'index general des noms cites by Librairie Artheme Fayard, October 2010. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! April 2011. Footnotes by the publisher, except where noted.)

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