Memoires – sources of detournements and existing English translations

I have been very surprised (and very pleased!) at the amount of interest already shown in my translation of “Memoires”. 

I have realised that it would be of value to some people to make some information available on the sources of Debord’s detournements (taken from Boris Donné’s excellent book “Pour Memoires”), and the sources of the pre-existing English translations I have used.

I’m currently tidying up my working notes to make this information available to those who are interested. I aim to upload these to the blog over the next few days.

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And Finally… Debord & Jorn’s “Memoires”

Here is the first truly significant output of this website – the first complete English translation of Guy Debord & Asger Jorn’s collaborative book “Memoires”. 

The document has been put together as a facsimile of the original – with  Debord’s detourned text juxtaposed in spatial relationship with Jorn’s “supporting structures”.

Every word of the text is appropriated – in a few cases from Debord’s own works (including “Report on the Construction of Situations” and the script of “Howls in Favour of Sade”). Other indentifiable sources are the plays of Shakespeare, the oratory of Boussett, Baudelaire’s prose poetry, Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”(!), along with snippets from Apollinaire, Racine, Edgar Allen Poe, François Sagan and de Gaulle(!!!!) amongst many, many others.

Where existing English translations existed (or where the original text is in English) I have used these sources. All other translations are my own, made with invaluable assistance from Mehdi el H.

An interesting aspect of detournment is that the meaning of phrases can be altered by the other phrases surrounding them – so in some cases this has encouraged me to deviate from the existing translations to allow for the alternative meaning revealed by the surrounding text.

As you can imagine this has been a much bigger task than the “side project” I set off on over a year ago. But I’m really happy to be able to finally present it as a finished project.

I hope you enjoy it!

Ian Thompson,

March 2015

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Debord & Jorn’s “Memoires” finally coming your way!

Over a year and a half ago (sigh…) I wrote about a side-project of producing a ‘facsimile” English version of Guy Debord & Asger Jorn’s ‘Memoires‘. 

At the time I wrote: “Most of the translation work has been done – and I’m now working on integrating the text into the pages.” Well I won’t lie – it hasn’t taken me 18 months of solid effort to achieve this arduous task! But if you wish to believe that… It suits me.

I’ve spend the last 2 weeks tidying things up and revising the entire translation – much easier today as my French is infinitely better than 18 months ago. So later THIS WEEK I will be uploading a PDF of ‘Memoires’ in English, complete with virtual sandpaper cover (as pictured below).

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An Introduction to Anna O’Meara

The internet can lead to some very fortuitous meetings.

Recently I was contacted by Anna O’Meara who had heard that I had a number of original Lettriste books. As she explained, she is currently working on translating selections from Isidore Isou’s writing for a book to be published by Annex Press. However getting hold of some of the original texts can be a problem – so she asked if I could help out in some way. The idea of having Isou’s writing available in translation was really exciting to me, so I had no hesitation in offering to help if I could.

After a bit of email correspondence, it transpired that Anna was very interested in my own project. So I cheekily asked if she could help proofread some of my translations of the IS journal. I was very pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of her response!

So for the past few weeks we have been collaborating on each other’s projects. I’ve been scanning Isou texts and she’s been (very thoroughly) proofreading my translations.

The first drafts are available (just click the IS#1 tab on the menu above) – and I’m really thrilled with the quality of the results.

Anna’s page is essential viewing for anyone interested in the 20th century French political and artistic avant-garde. Apart from the first of her translations of Isou, there are a large number of translations of the works of the proto-Dadaist Arthur Cravan and the French Revolutionary Louise Antoine de St Just (who was highly regarded by Debord).

Anna’s Masters thesis on The Marxist Critique of Religion in the Films of Guy Debord is available on the site as well.

There are also two physical books of her translation available:
The Works of Arthur Cravan
Arlequin Diogene – a play by Louise Antoine de St Just

Oh – and she has a cat too, which is always a good sign!

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Since officially restarting work on the major project of this blog, I’m happy to report that a lot of progress has been made.

I have completed about two-thirds of the work needed on the first issue of Internationale Situationniste. Every translation is being proofed and edited against the original French texts, which has resulted in some translations being only slightly modified, while others have been completely reworked.

As work proceeds many issues related to translation, English style etc are needing to be addressed. I will write some later blog posting on these subjects.

At present, as a ‘holiday” from IS#1, I am working on initial proof reading of IS#2 – and am well over halfway through.

If anyone is interested in obtaining the current working draft of IS#1 please contact me via the comments.

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Update to “The Situationists in America”

The text to my translation of “The Situationists in America” has been fully revised and independently proof-read against the original French.

This is the first of my translations that I consider to be accurate, rather than simply “indicative”. Accordingly I have renamed it as ”Draft 1.0” and removed my previous warning message!

The updated text can be found here.

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Situationniste Blog

Anyone interested in this blog will also find it interesting to visit Situationniste Blog. The remit of the site is to document interesting and unusual documents and material related to the Internationale Situationniste.

Since discovering the site via a Google search I’ve found it fascinating watching the list of documented items grow – many of them totally unknown to me before.

The site welcomes guest posts. I have just begun submitting some items myself. At this early stage the blog is a valuable bibliographic resource, and with support via guest posts etc it could very quickly become a really formidable source of information.

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A Year Has Passed…

It was just over a year ago I that I last posted to this blog. Well – I’m pleased to say that I’m back, and my original project of making the journal Internationale Situationniste available in English ‘facsimile’ is still alive.

The main reason for the pause (if an entire year can be termed ‘a pause’!) has been the vexed question of translation. Initially I was intending to use existing translations and, where there were gaps, providing my own translations as ‘guides’ to the content. But in conversing with a variety of other people the issue was raised of the validity of adding to, and of propagating, the number of less-than-accurate translations available on-line.

Reflecting on that, I decided that I would put the project on hold until I was able to ensure that my own translations were faithful to the original French texts. In my mind this had to mean finding someone to collaborate with in proofing and correcting translations who:
1) had a very good understanding of Situationist ideas, and
2) was a native French-speaker who was fluent in English.

I finally feel that the time has come when I can move the project forward, having found someone who fits the bill perfectly (the author of situationnisteblog – a site which is an excellent source of information on situationist documents).

We have collaborated on a few things already (including an ongoing project of translating Debord’s ‘Memoires’) and have built up a very good working relationship, which is turning out translations which I believe are both true to the original French, and written in very readable English.

One side-benefit of pausing for a year is that my own ability to translate French texts has improved markedly. This was confirmed in revisiting some of the translations I had drafted a year ago!

Having re-thought the timeframe of the project, it is hoped that ”Internationale Situationniste 1” will be available early in 2015. I will be attempting to make a new issue available every 2-3 months, so by the end of 2015 “Internationale Situationniste 4” should be available.

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Industrial Painting at Tate Modern

On a visit to the Tate Modern yesterday I was surprised to see a roll of Pinot-Gallizio’s industrial paintings on display. So here are a few pictures to help illustrate my translation of Activity of the Italian Section from IS#2.

Please excuse the blurriness of the photos.




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Three more CMDO détourned comics

Original detourned comic strip is printed on p.195 of Vienet, “Enragés et Situationnistes dans le Mouvement des Occupations” (Gallimard, 1968)

Original detourned comic strip is printed on p.173 of Vienet, “Enragés et Situationnistes dans le Mouvement des Occupations” (Gallimard, 1968)

Original detourned comic strip is printed on p.186 of Vienet, “Enragés et Situationnistes dans le Mouvement des Occupations” (Gallimard, 1968)

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