Night Awakeners

Awakener, masculine noun.
1. Refers to a night guard who, in some towns in France, travels the streets at night, announcing the time and crying, “Sleepers, awake!”
2. Species of bird that sings at night: the Cassican Awakeners.

(Emile Littré, Dictionnaire de la langue française)

One knows that, during his lifetime, Arthur Rimbaud only published a small number of his writings: a few rare poems in journals and Une Saison en enfer, published by the author himself. His other writings, which remained in the manuscript stage, were generally shared with his close friends. Several of them disappeared and, today, haven't been found. One only knows their titles. In Les poètes maudits, Verlaine mentions “Night Awakeners” among the lost pieces. One has occasionally, and with probability, identified the Night Awakeners with the Communards, who won Rimbaud's sympathy during his “bohemian” period. By introducing this collection with the double invocation of Rimbaud and the Paris Commune, we intend to publish works that demonstrate that “changing life” (Rimbaud) and “transforming the world” (Marx) are the same project, as Andre Breton wanted.

Some may estimate that giving the name of a lost poem, of which one only knows the title, to an editorial collection reveals a kind of editorial Dadaism. We think, instead, that there's no better way to illustrate the chief catastrophe of our times: the disappearance of the perspective of a collective emancipation that refuses the conception of life that is permitted within the frameworks of the dominant system. To put the phrase “night awakeners” back into circulation is not a museographical step, but a manner of manifesting our editorial will to once again take up the lost thread of past attempts at emancipation by publishing or reprinting texts, out of print or unpublished, that seem to us to be bearers of perspectives for the present. Other contemporary writings will testify to the singular presence of night awakeners among us.

The acceleration of the disastrous development of globally unified, modern society allows one to affirm that, from now on, it is the midnight of this era.[1] The awakeners are all those who, through their past or current writings, trouble the hypnotic sleep of our era, which is plunged into its theatre of shadows. But it is not solely through their lucid reports, which allow them to brighten our lanterns, that the awakeners hold our attention. Because they understand false life in the light of the true,[2] these night birds also point us to the possible route of a surpassing.

It is in this spirit that the first flight of this collection, devoted to social critique, will be the January 2012 publication of the only journal published by the American section of the Situationist International, never before published in French. One will see how, at the end of the 1960s, a handful of adventurers sought to awaken the American night from the spectacle. Subsequent publications will complete this North American exploration of the territory of alienation.

[Translated by NOT BORED! on 30 November 2011. All footnotes by the translator.]

[1] An allusion to S'il est minuit dans le siècle (“It is midnight in the century”), which is the title of a novel by Victor Serge.

[2] An allusion to Guy Debord’s film, in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (1978): “[w]e found ourselves capable of understanding false life in the light of true life” (translation by Ken Knabb).

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