Tuesday, January 11, 2005

mulling wine

Writing, or wishing to write, "without affectation or fatigue, as the most natural and easiest thing in the world," Debord begins. A book that is as painless and easy to read as it is unsettling, provoking, resist/desistantly enigmatic. A beautiful economy of words, re-calling Benjamin, Blanchot, Agamben, Nancy and, again in his own way, Derrida. But what remains of Guy Debord? He published so little, and so much.

Having certainly, thanks to one of the rare positive features of my early education, acquired a sense of discretion, I have sometimes known the necessity of demonstrating a discretion still more pronounced. A number of useful habits have thus become like second nature to me; this I say while conceding nothing to malevolent persons who might be capable of claiming that such habits could in no way be distinguished from my very nature. No matter what the subject, I trained myself to be even less interesting whenever I saw greater chances of being overheard. In some cases, I also made appointments or gave my opinions through letters personally addressed to friends and modestly signed with little-known names that have figured in the entourage of certain famous poets: Colin Decayeux or Guido Cavalcanti, for example. But it is quite obvious that I have never stooped to publishing anything whatsoever under a psuedonym, despite what some hack libellers sometimes insinuated in the press, with an extraordinary aplomb, though prudently confining themselves to the most abstract generalities.

It is permitted, but not desirable, to wonder where such a predilection to challenging all authorities could positively lead. 'We never seek things for themselves but for the search'; certainty on this subject is long established. 'One prefers the hunt to the catch...'

Our era of technicians makes abundant use of the nominalized adjective 'professional'; it seems to believe that therein lies some kind of guarantee. Of course, if one contemplates not my emolulments but only my abilities, no one can doubt that I have been a very good professional. But in what domain? Such will have been my mystery, in the eyes of the blameworthy world.


The greatest difficulty, however, is this: this book naturally contains a fair amount of information that must be rendered accurately in translation. But in the final analysis, the question is not one of information. For the most part, its information resides in the very manner in which it is expressed.

Each time--and there are frequent instances of this--that a word or sentence presents two possible meanings, both of them must be recognized and retained, for the sentence must be understood as wholly veracious with regard to both meanings. This also implies that the sole truth running through the entire text is the sum total of the possible meanings to be found therein.

To give a very general example of this effect, all the epigraphs to the chapters must first be understood, of course, as ironically levelled against the author. But the reader should also be aware of the fact that he is not apprehending merely irony here: in the final analysis, should they be perceived as truly ironic? The doubt surrounding this question should remain intact.

Different types of vocabulary (military, legal) are used conventionally according to the particular subjects touched upon, at the same time that the tones of quotations from very diverse epochs are blended into the text. The translator should not lack the ability, nor for that matter be surprised, to make out a word of familiar or even slang provenance, on the odd few occassions when these occus in the author's language. It will have been used deliberately, like salt, precisely to bring out the flavour of the others. Likewise, sometimes the irony is closely interwoven with the lyrical tone, without taking anything away from its positive gravity.

In any case, it is impossible at the present time to arrive at any proper conclusion about what the full and definitive meaning of this work will be: this remains wholly in abeyance, since it is only the first volume. The end of the book is projected outside of itself.

This continual shift of meaning, which is more or less evident in every single sentence, is present too in the general movement of the entire book....

-Debord's Panegyric (Verso, 2004)

No comments: