Champ Libre to Hanna Mittelstadt (Editions Nautilus)
11 September 1980

You were quite stupid to send me your strident circular of 25 April 1980. And I never would have responded – why respond to stupidity? – if you weren’t even stupider, you and the other poor devils at Editions Nautilus, by insisting on sending me your most recent and quite stupid catalogue.

Thus I will respond to you with the simplicity that I hope will be accessible to your minds.

You were quite stupid – after I granted you, and without charge, the rights to publish La Société du Spectacle in German – to introduce and then leave in, without any embarrassment, a number of typographical mistakes in the excellent translation by Jean-Jacques Raspaud. If you weren’t so stupid, you would have understood that, after this, Champ Libre considers you to be the most irresponsible and miserable of the “pirate publishers.”

We leave complete freedom to all the pirate publishers to make all their stupidities, which do not implicate us. But it seems that you want to have a finger in every pie; to be simultaneously unrestrainedly stupid, like the least talented pirates, and to play at being responsible and serious publishers.

Thus you “now” propose to publish the manifest stupidity of your “sub-realism.” I do not want any part of this; it is too stupid!

All “the radical thought in West Germany” finds you to be extremely stupid, and, in France, everyone ignores you. How could I want to pollute the public with your stupidities? Because here the public knows Champ Libre, and I know you.

Your stupidity is not at all alleviated in my eyes because you mix the writings of the vile Dupuy-Vaneigem[1] with five or six authors whom you’ve pirated from the Champ Libre catalogue and, furthermore, by having the foolish casualness to not even send them a single copy so that they could ascertain the incompetence of your translations.

Your pretentions are stupid. Do not dream of making anyone believe that you have any connection with us. If someone believes it, we understand how much this would please you, you poor beasts. But such a belief would make us sad. And so we will try to prevent such an unfortunate error by publishing this letter in the next volume of our Correspondence.

Go graze in peace.

Gérard Lebovici

[1] “Dupuy” was one of Raoul Vaneigem’s many pseudonyms.

Hanna Mittelstadt, Editions Nautilus, to Champ Libre[1]
Hamburg, 16 September 1980
Dear Mr. Lebovici,

Since receiving your letter of 11/9/80, we have undertaken to translate it – an extremely defective and bad translation, in conformity with our custom, totally altering the meaning of the text – and after having read it – obviously through the filter of our innate stupidity – it seems impossible to us to render suitable homage to its profound content. You are in fact several miles ahead of us in the domain of the transformation of what is collectively denounced in our historical era as a pseudo-activity into an appropriate source of supplementary revenue. This is what we have been told by several employees of the Paris Stock Exchange, speaking as experts in the most recent volumes of your edition of Clausewitz, warmly vaunting your grandeur – there you will find bitter [vif] assent. Nevertheless, even if you estimate that we owe you something, this would only be a certain [kind of] respect for the manner in which you were offered this prestigious hobby, the object of the desires and efforts of more and more numerous pseudo-individuals, such as fiscal advisors and advertising managers who seek a superior standing, you seem to forget that we have never asked you to give our cigarette butts back to us.

For these varied reasons, and to treat your sensitive nerves gently, we didn’t believe we had to transcribe this letter into French, all the more so since your knowledge – which, judging from your judgment of our translations, can’t be sullied by presumptuousness – will easily permit you to read it in the original German. This is the language in which two of your authors have already expressed themselves – Hegel and Clausewitz, whose merit is nothing other than being translated [into French] by Champ Libre, for which they are, in truth, as little responsible as you are, even if you apparently claim to have acquired the certitude of being able to invert this relationship.

Your intimacy with theory, which you claim to possess due to your activity as a publisher, essentially rests on the void that the simple responsibility for a financial transfer represents. But wanting to be the work itself, the authors of which are only the scenery, you claim to represent the minds of your authors without managing to surpass their simple market value. Hoping to materialize the role that you play, you try to make it believed that you are the one to whom your authors owe everything and, in the final analysis, that you yourself are your authors, as the complete truth of Champ Libre.

In this world, your one-man-show[2] represents the dosage of agitation that maintains the cultural spectacle that has reached the point of collapse at the edge of the tomb where it has collapsed. Champ Libre is the inversion of radical theory, of human praxis in human actions, into a commercial practice in which mankind is only a spectator who buys [something]. Such is the “French public” of which you are obliged to be proud in complete contradiction with several of your authors. Parade yourself in peace in front of this public that knows you, because it pays to know you and to participate in your pleasures. With Champ Libre, the dialectic degrades itself into paradox, since it isn’t History that gives its endorsement to theory, but Champ Libre’s clients. A sophist perpetually gnawed by chagrin in the face of reality reduced to the bacterial dimensions of your offices, you believe it is enough for them to have one day given their endorsement to what is in the heads of everyone so as to then be able to delude yourself with the illusion that it [theory] is once and for all securely in place at Champ Libre and put on sale in an infinitesimally quantified manner as accomplished History.

No doubt the world of tricks responds too weakly to your pretentions, with the result that, if it wasn’t possible for you to find revolutionary all that can only be lacking for you, you believe yourself able to find compensation in your administrative theoretical work, which nevertheless will not let it be forgotten that you are not the master but the object of this critique, even if you sell it. At least stop this miserable game when you address yourself to us, who have never been stupid enough to confuse the false light inherent in the commercial distribution of revolutionary theory with the radicalism of an attitude that lives without this commerce. Or do you truly believe that historical action is born to the world through the intermediary of books published by Champ Libre? Presumptuousness has a very good effect in the cultural pages of a newspaper, but it is nothing other than contempt in the heads of those who draw their revenue from it.

We will not deny you credit for having published excellent books, or for publishing others in the future, but we contest any judgment of what concerns us, even if, on the basis of unique facts – the defective correction of the proofs of La Société du Spectacle and the absence of Champ Libre’s copyright notice, an absence that you would no doubt never tolerate, which indicates your true grandeur – you believe that you are obligated to invent, for the 20 years to come, a series of lies, none of which seems to you to be too unworthy to be published to the sound of trumpets in the Parisian underworld. Your stupid insults are the proof of a miserable stupidity, in which a small existence can only acquire some grandeur in the light of streetlights. Perhaps you manage to worry your cinematic extras, but spare the proletarian public, which is accustomed to something else. You resemble the plumber who arrives first, completely anguished to find that someone has stolen his W.C.[3] pipes from him.

We recognize without beating around the bush that it is interesting to page through a Champ Libre catalogue, but don’t you go so far as to confuse this pleasure with all those that are possible today and come before it. You must also have remarked, albeit in passing, that we only reprised three Champ Libre books (and one only in part) and have salvaged a fourth from the inevitable critique of the mice by redeeming it from bankruptcy. We have also published, independently of you, several titles also published, among other publishers, by Champ Libre. The profane character of your own role seems to incite you to use the pathetic and pretentious tone of the owner where we are concerned, thereby proving in a very simple manner how much it is necessary for you to give yourself over to a self-glorification that makes you, in the eyes of the spectator, not the publisher of a praiseworthy program, but the possessor of theoretical truth to his pupils, who are transfixed with admiration – a title that falls to you as the new constitutive element of accessory rights, instituted by editorial contract. In other words, you truly imagine and want everyone to believe that this theory, provided by your exclusive ownership clause, makes its entry into the world with the publication of each Champ Libre catalogue. Thus History made by all becomes property acquired by decree. Don’t make yourself more droll than you already are when you advance the ridiculous pretense that we are condemned to find our ideas in your catalogues.

It surely would be too much to ask you to know a little more about the situation in the provinces subordinated to Paris – as much during the era of your author Cloots, for example. You must nevertheless allow yourself to admit that our program holds its rank quite well, despite the massive blockade that the intellectual battalions of this country have established against radical theory. As for your reproach concerning the Subrealist group, it isn’t at all different, on its level, from the one addressed for years to the theses of the Situationists, published by us in their entirety. Your offensive remarks about our editorial abilities and, beyond that, our theoretical abilities, uniquely speculate upon the specific mediocrity within which the “French public” – with you at its head, as its owner – hardly represents more than a purchasable truth in which, as everywhere [else], nothing is more unreal than the very quality of which you feel it is your mission to speak.

Be assured that, with the revolutionaries in France, we have several more connections than you do in the opposite direction. In the future, abstain from arbitrary revelations if you wish to avoid us placing them at the free disposition of the authors of the Muppets-Show[4] to whom you are qualitatively connected and, quite simply, cease wanting your stories to take the place of History. Your series of insults are only the measuring tape of a failed grandeur that no longer grows, even if it isn’t like the one in platinum.[5] Do not reproach us for something we can do nothing about and that leaves us indifferent, moreover.

Hanna Mittelstadt, Lutz Schulenburg

P.S. We think that the readers of Champ Libre, being always in intimate terms with “German thought” thanks to their indefatigable work, will find the original [German] version of our response in the second volume of your Correspondence. If you nevertheless find it necessary to produce a French translation of it, we are naturally – as colleagues – at your service for the solution of any possible difficulties.

P.P.S. We here once again expressly state that we have never claimed to have amicable relations with Champ Libre, having assured anyone who wants to know that we would fall into disgrace upon the [very] first contact.

P.P.P.S. You can without fear continue to send us your catalogue. We do not suffer from a lack of ideas.

[1] The original German text of this letter appears at the end of its translation into French. Note that, although we have (of course!) attempted to do a good job of translating this text into English, it is very poorly written, and so we have tried to translate it in such a fashion as to make this clear.

[2] English in original.

[3] Water closet.

[4] English in the original.

[5] The German here is wenn sie nicht wie jenes aus Platin ist.

(Published in Editions Champ Libre, Correspondance, Vol. 2, Editions Champ Libre, Paris, 1981. Translated from the French and footnoted by NOT BORED! August 2012.)

To Contact NOT BORED!