from Guy Debord

To Gil J Wolman
Thursday evening [June 1953]
My dear Gil:

It is strange to write you from Paris, but we see each other very little at the moment, and it seems to me that you manifest a worrisome discouragement, as one says.

A curious dialectical movement leaves me to total discouragement in the presence of works that get made and that I obligatorily scorn because of their character, which is limited and extremely foreign to what truly matters to me. And, inevitably, the tendencies to disillusioned mediocrity among us incites me to give reasons to act.

I am frightened when I discover that, of us all, I am perhaps the most irreducibly decided upon a certain position of revolt, if one wants to say things stupidly – just as stupidly, one could say: avant-garde.

So long as I live, I do not want to place myself outside of this scandalous faction, wherever it finds itself. It is uniquely this revolutionary spirit (to be defined, to be redefined, by each generation) that has led me to lettrism and that will remain with me beyond lettrism, if we can establish this beyond.

Thus, a certain activity is to be maintained. All things considered, and despite the reservations that I might have concerning the interest of everything that I’ve known, I am satisfied with having participated in the Chaplin affair (although repulsed in the external shadows)[2] and with having made Hurlements. In this respect, I know everything that I owe to you.[3]

I truly do not much love the arts – even as “aesthetic” sensations – but I believe that these domains of the intelligence are those in which several subversive and isolated types have power and consequently derive more of it than, for example, in crime or politics – this despite the collective opinion.

Isou certainly has had his place* in this adventure, because he has introduced views of rupture into it and has given us weapons. (We make History, thus History is only that . . .). Nevertheless, I find his notion of “artist” (works, eternity, etc.) false from the beginning.

Cf.[4] For me, poetry only represents one of the many MEANS OF BEING IMMORTAL . . . a duration beyond – in UR […].[5]

One can laugh at these phrases, as at the religious and their God. It is also “good” if one wants, and laughable.

Thus, I am finished with Isou’s sermons. Their “Bossuet-like” tone has always greatly pleased me because it denies the given world and scorns it. But it is done in the name of a transcendence almost as pathetic as that of Bossuet.

Our route is to be defined. At this moment, we do not quite know where we are going. This is what will allow [among us] people who are “essentially troubled” (Serge),[6] outdated aesthetic beliefs (Brau),[7] and lamentable, extreme nihilism. (The men who, concerning their respective times, please me are named Saint-Just and Arthur Cravan, but we are in an era of sub-Cravans. We must be profoundly different.) But insofar as we do not have a clearly defined line (Isou has one), we will be in this vague situation, which is painful. But we must remain here rather than support a restrictive line (of the Brau type) that would eliminate the future. All attempts can fail, this one more than others. If the situation of the “Lettrist International” becomes unsupportable, I will go elsewhere (in any case, I am quite certain that the “Lettrist I[international] moment” is good and [represents] progress due to the sole fact of leaving Isou-Bismuth[8]), but naturally I am a partisan of the greatest possible comfort, and the group is our only possibility of immediate action: you know that I do not believe in [the presence of] inevitably permanent individuals. You speak a great deal of dislocation. It can also exist between us.[9] Nevertheless, at the moment, we have quite similar functions. At least I think that we understand each other well. It is only a question of establishing a LIMITED BUT NECESSARY background of shared opposition, against which our lives play themselves out – lose themselves – alone. I would like to know if we are in agreement on this, between the nothing and little thing, which is exactly where Jean-Isidore will situate our acts.

Very amicably,

* [Author’s] note: Marc,O., Bismuth-Lemaitre, [Francois] Dufrene – NO PLACE even if they are intelligent, because they only exist in the Isouian perspective. And I think that the future will see Isou but in a different perspective than that of Isou. Systems never manage to pass through in their entirety. This is an historical truth that is forgotten each time.

[1] At the top of the letter: “This letter has a quite Isouian appearance. This is by accident.” [Debord is referring to the bad quality of his handwriting.]

[2] During the intervention, Guy Debord and Serge Berna were repulsed by the police when they tried to gain entry through the Ritz’s kitchen.

[3] Allusion to Gil J Wolman’s film L’Anticoncept, which Guy Debord admired.

[4] Translator: what follows is a quote from Isou’s writings.

[5] Illegible word.

[6] Serge Berna, member of the Lettrist International and one of the organizers of the Notre Dame scandal on Easter Sunday 1950.

[7] Translator: Jean-Louis Brau, a pro-Isou lettrist.

[8] Translator: that would be Maurice Bismuth Lemaitre (1929).

[9] Translator: four years later, in between the Alba Conference of 1956 (at which Wolman represented the LI) and the founding of the Situationist International in 1957, Debord somehow managed to get “the LI” to expel Wolman. Since “the LI” had long primarily consisted of its co-founders, Debord and Wolman (over the years there were other members, of course: Michele Bernstein, Jacques Fillon and Alexander Trocchi, among them), Wolman’s response to his exclusion was “the one doesn’t exclude the other.”

(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! February 2011. Footnotes by the publisher, except where noted.)

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