1.15 Venice has Vanquished Ralph Rumney


Translated by Ian Thompson, August 2015. Proofread and Edited by Mehdi el H.

   The British Situationist Ralph Rumney, who had conducted psychogeographical forays [1] into Venice in the Spring of 1957, subsequently set out with the goal of systematically exploring this municipality [2], hoping to be able to present an exhaustive account around June 1958 (cf. an announcement in Potlatch #29). At first the undertaking proceeded favourably. Having succeeded in creating the initial elements of a map of Venice, whose notational technique clearly surpassed all previous psycho-geographical cartography, Rumney shared his discoveries, his early conclusions and his hopes with his comrades. By the month of January 1958 the news took a turn for the worse. [3] Rumney, grappling with innumerable difficulties, becoming more and more bound by the terrain [4] he had attempted to cross, had to abandon his lines of research one after the other, and in the end (as he conveyed to us in his moving message of 20 March) he saw himself brought to a complete standstill. [5]

Diagram of all the routes taken in one year by a student living in the 16th Arrondissement. Published by Chombart de Lauwe in “Paris et l’agglomération parisienne” (PUF).

The explorers of old knew that a high proportion of losses was the price by which one came to the knowledge of an objective geography. Casualties must be expected amongst the new seekers – the explorers of social space and of its instructions for use. The hazards are of a different kind, just as the stakes are of a different nature: it is about succeeding in making a passionate use of life. We will naturally crash into all the defences of the world of boredom. And thus, Rumney has just vanished, and his father hasn’t yet set off on his search. The Venetian jungle has proved stronger [6]; and it closed in on a young man, full of life and promise, who disappears, who dissolves amongst our many memories.


As this new translation was being produced, I cross-referenced it to an existing translation made by Reuben Keehan available on-line here. I would like to acknowledge the work done by Reuben Keehan, and the real assistance his translation provided to me. However all final decisions (for better or worse – which is for the reader to decide) in this translation are mine alone. 

[1] “reconnaissances”

[2] “agglomération” – quite a formal word for city, thus translated as “municipality”

[3] “les nouvelles devinrent mauvaises” – literally “the news became bad”

[4] “milieu” – literally “environment” or “surroundings”

[5] “une position purement statique” – literally “a purely static position

[6] “a été la plus forte” – literally “has been the stronger”