UNPUBLISHED CORRESPONDENCE TO SEAN WILDER. 1965-1967. THE FOUNDATIONS OF STUDENT POVERTY. 19 autograph letters signed by Guy Debord, including 7 cards and a postcard, 30 pages in-8 or in-12, some on the letterhead of the Situationist International, from November 12, 1965 to October 8, 1967, envelopes preserved.
Historical correspondence between Guy Debord and American student Sean Wilder concerning the translation of Debord's text into English: Le déclin et la chute de l'économie spectaculaire-marchande sur les émeutes de Watts (August 13-16, 1965). 17 of the letters are unpublished, the letter of November 12 is reproduced on page 81 in the correspondence (volume 3) but with inaccuracies, and the letter of March 29, 1968 is published only very sketchily (page 135).
This correspondence is of capital importance for understanding the setting up and genesis of misery in the student environment. The brochure Le déclin et la chute, published at the end of December 1965, was conceived as a supplement to No. 10 of the Situationist International magazine.
In the fall of 1965 Guy Debord began looking for a translator who could take care of the English version of the text, which would be Sean Wilder, a young American student.
The meeting between Debord and Wilder is recounted by André Bertrand in his correspondence: "I was in Toulouse in 1965-1966, where I was, among other things, seeing Sean Wilder, an American student I had met the previous year in Strasbourg. I had written to Debord as early as 1965. Sean, who was a subscriber to IS, had been asked to translate into American the text on the revolts of Los Angeles in June 66, Sean and I met Debord in Paris; in a letter written at the end of May, I had informed him of the seizure of power of the Strasbourg section of the UNIF by certain comrades with whom I was still in close contact. It was during this meeting in a café on the Place de la Contrescarpe that the very informal agreement between the AFGES office and the SI was sealed through my intermediary and that the beginnings of the Strasbourg scandal were put in place. Debord had at that time already thought of the telescopic title of De la misère... and suggested the broad outlines of its contents".
Letter of November 12, 1965: ... "We will soon publish a number 10. There will be an article on the revolt in Los Angeles. We are thinking of translating it into English, to make a separate edition. Could you do this translation? It's 11 typed pages of a rather difficult text I'm afraid".
Letter of December 6, 1965: Debord wants to implant his movement in the USA and Sean Wilder could be the intermediary on the spot "... I hope that the perspective you mention, for an extension of our contacts in the USA will be realized. It seems that the present atmosphere is not too unfavourable for a first stage. I have been given some addresses of the officials of the Free University of New York, but I am not sure on what basis they are developing their seemingly sympathetic experience."
Letter of January 2, 1966: Debord is more committed to intellectual practice than to active activism, and he doesn't forget that situationism is just another ism... "I agree with your judgment of the narrow-minded activists. Of course we must not try to convince them to "militate" for a newer "ism. Our "success" in these cases would also be a failure."
Letter of January 12, 1966: Debord comments and returns to Nicholson-Smith's English translation of The Decline and the Fall. "According to our English comrade, there is nothing else but "transcendence" used for the English translations of Hegel - despite the idealistic origin of the term, which would be less mystical in its resonance in English than in French. Obviously he was unaware of the pejorative American distinction between negro and black, which are equivalent in English. The English comrade in general had a tendency to vary the often identical words in my text, no doubt to make it more literarily elegant, following this tendency that our Flaubert imposed in a terrorist way on French writing: not to bring the same word to a short distance... the distribution of the booklet is quite satisfactory the only defect is that it has hardly touched black Americans and it is to them above all that we would like to have this text read.
Letter of January 15, 1966: Debord wants to introduce situationism into black society ... "thank you for your efforts to find radical blacks. Wouldn't King Jones be more violent? Many black intellectuals who have these sympathies for extremism could be saved by developing possibilities that are even more violent than those that utopically agitate the Bs. M. (Black Muslims). They only want to separate themselves from white society and we say that it is wrong for them to do so.
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