from Guy Debord

To Patrick Straram[1]
[June or July 1954]

I have received the response from Crescent Beach[2] and I thank you for it.

Several specifications must be made.

1) Ivan [Chtcheglov] has distributed to certain people – and newspapers – a text of disavowal and resignation [from the Lettrist International] signed by you. I have sent this text to you. On the other hand, when Ivan gave the paper to Midhou,[3] he vowed that he [Ivan] was going to “shake Goldfayn’s hand”[4] as if this would mean almost nothing to us. As a result, it was impossible for us to continue to use your signature without a denial from you. I hope you can recognize this. The sole fact of having placed your name in issue #2 of Potlatch (published before we found out about your disavowal, transmitted by Ivan) caused Ivan – to whom we no longer send copies of Potlatch – to send a more or less obscene letter to Conord.[5] This is why we MUST pose to ourselves (and you too) poor questions without pressure from the outside. Understand that we have nothing to reproach you for, especially not writing to Ivan, but the usage that he has made of it and your allowing it to happen.

2) The word “forger” can indeed be applied to an individual who renders public a fragment of a personal letter that speaks of third parties. This [comes] after so many other lies. Obviously if this was Ivan’s precise intention – if he hadn’t forced your hand by making you take a public position against us all – the word forger wouldn’t be justified, but your last letter [would] no longer [be].

3) I wrote to you[6] because I believe that we are both quite evolved enough to be able to communicate beyond petty reproaches concerning “skill” and “dictatorship.” [Gil] Wolman didn’t have the little intelligence that was appropriate [indiqué] when he wrote to you “himself,” precisely because we do not use our intelligence to force the hands of those who we can consider to be our friends; because between us there exists a trust that you appear to have had no idea about. When this trust failed, due to simple lack of elegance, pleasantries became accusations and friends became rivals (with respect to what?) or leaders (of what?).

As for the love of young women or royalty, I indicate to you in passing that I am married and that this royalty has for me only signified the reign of a new SOCIETY – a society of princes, if one wants to speak like Pascin[7] and not more or less emancipated boy-scouts.[8] In this society that can only be egalitarian, it seems to me that you [would] have your place and that you have now chosen the party of the street urchins impassioned about details.

I am sure that you recognize that, if my ambition was to collect yes-men, I would rather have kept those who were born for it: people like [Jean-Michel] Mension, [Gaetan] Langlais and the others.[9]

Your letter bizarrely testifies to a conception of the lettrist group that is close to that of [Serge] Berna. I think that you have understood what preoccupies us. A new comportment is more difficult to live than the attitudes at Ibiza or Storyville or within correspondence.

You appear to accord great value to certain experiences, which moreover Ivan hasn’t had (cutting trees, for example).

I don’t think that these experiences authorize you to reach conclusions about ideas that determine the butchers as well as the journalists and physicians of an era.

To get you to grasp the futility of this order of thought, permit me to ask you if you have been a deep-sea diver? test pilot? bus conductor? Chinese torturer? prime minister? No? And yet, despite these picturesque scenes that escape you, I have esteemed them to be your thought and your life.

4) You will end up learning that certain currents of ideas surpass your “family quarrels,” which are uninteresting and completely personal.

“[André-Frank] Conord cannot replace” Ivan, just as you have not “replaced [Jean-Louis] Brau.” [Henri de] Bearn’s opinion of Conord in 1950 interested me as little as the Left’s opinion of [André] Malraux in 1937, for example. You have clung to your totally tiny advantages FOR FOUR YEARS NOW. A sad tendency for people who want to drift. You change continents more easily than feelings.[10] But will people like Conord or Henri de Bearn be [even] somewhat interesting in 10 years? You well know that a passage among us doesn’t fail to open certain perspectives – whatever the usage to which one puts them subsequently.

5) You have failed your era, that of poetic images and “well written” pages: Orient-Express, Amazonia, Childbirths. What you lack are general ideas.

6) Concerning what people are permitted to live “better, a notion that must mean nothing to me,” I confess to you that I am more engaged in a collective action that adheres to this goal than to the quite comic individualist who had for too long been and now once again has become Patrick Straram.

7) I call upon you to stop your insolence. You do not know what you are talking about, and [yet] you write in a pretty style. Nevertheless, the letter that I send you today can be – on the condition that you know how to read it – as useful to you as to Bearn, if you truly want to obtain from the world as much as you have affirmed to us – as much as ourselves [want it].

8) You haven’t been excluded – thus, you know well that to suggest to us “motivations for the exclusion of P. Straram” is a stupid provocation – you have resigned of your own free will – and you are the only one to have brought it about. I do not judge you. You will play something else, that’s all. I beg you to excuse the length of this clarification.


[1] Real name Patrick Marrast (1934-1988). A member of the Lettrist International.

[2] In Canada.

[3] Mohamed Dahou, a member of the Lettrist International and later a member of the Algerian section of the Situationist International.

[4] Translator: I cannot determine the context for this remark. Debord’s letter to Georges Goldfayn dated End of 1953 refers to Francois Dufrene, not Ivan Chtcheglov.

[5] André-Frank Conord, then editor in chief of Potlatch.

[6] Translator: and so a letter from Debord to Straram has gone missing. It would have been in Straram’s response to this prior letter from Debord that Straram would have spoken of “forgery,” “skill,” “dictatorship,” et al.

[7] Translator: Jules Pascin (1885-1930), a Bulgarian painter who emigrated to France.

[8] Translator: English in original.

[9] Excluded from the Lettrist International.

[10] Translator: Straram had moved from Europe to North America, in particular, Montreal.

(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.)

To Contact NOT BORED!