(Paris, with side trips to Bergerac, Madrid, and Barcelona. Ten weeks.)
September 10. Shuttle to San Francisco airport. 6:30 p.m. flight.
September 11. Arrived at Paris midafternoon. Bus and cab to Christian’s place.* Chatted with Christian while Marta went to pick up Jacques from kindergarten and take him to the park. We met Marta and strolled around the neighborhood, Christian talking re types of paintings he’s been looking for at various flea markets, etc. Home for dinner (I checked email on his computer), then we watched TV reportage of plane smashes into the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
*Christian Camus: a longtime Parisian friend. I stayed with him, his wife Marta, and their son Jacques during the first three weeks of this trip.
September 12. Emails: Luis said Quim sent Magali’s translation of my second Engaged Buddhism critique to include in Voces.* I asked for a copy. Received it at 9:00 and finished correcting it at 11:00. Also a guy from Russia plans to translate The Joy of Revolution** and The Society of the Spectacle (from the English version). Walked around the Latin Quarter all afternoon. Checked out a few book and record stores, couscous lunch, Parallèles, Ivréa (talked with a German guy researching Kropotkin at the Amsterdam Institute). Back at Christian’s, dinner and conversation (re Alexander I of Russia, The Iliad, etc.).
*Luis Navarro (Madrid), and Quim Sirera and his daughter Magali (Barcelona). Luis was in the process of publishing a selection of Spanish translations of my writings, Secretos a Voces. He had already published his translation of my text The Joy of Revolution in 1999, working from the English version I had posted on my website in 1998. Though this sort of thing may now seem completely banal, at that time this virtually instantaneous international collaboration was new and very exciting. Previously, someone like Luis might never have even heard of my text except in the unlikely event that a print copy showed up in Barcelona. Now he easily found it on my website (after seeing it announced on various radical email lists), and we could send his drafts back and forth with his questions and my corrections without the long delays of snailmail. For more on this topic, see my article Ten Years on the Web.
**Eldar Sattarov’s Russian translation of The Joy of Revolution was eventually published in two different Russian editions, first by an anarcho-syndicalist group in Omsk (2002) and then by a regular publisher in Moscow (2003).
September 13. Lunch with Christian, Marta, and their Puerto Rican friend Raymond. Then out. First to FNAC-Virgin CDs on Champs-Elysées (I concluded there’s not really much of the French songs I’m interested in that I haven’t already got), then to Actualités and Village Voice bookstores, chatting with each owner (Michael Noel of VV wants to get together later). Dinner at Christian’s. We watched my Brassens video (excellent), then more TV news re the attentat.* Then longish talk with Christian re the general state of the world; and re a Napoleon bio he’s reading.
*attentat (“terrorist attack”): the term most people in France used to refer to the 9/11 attacks.
September 14. Out briefly to give some recent leaflets to Pierre at Actualités and to buy a Montero CD set. Lunch with Christian. Took them to dinner at a salsa place (we watched a dance class while eating). Called Gérard Lambert (probably won’t see him — urged him to get online) and Odile (she and Jean-Pierre are now in Dordogne) and André Bernard (date for Tuesday) and François Lonchampt (date for Monday). Skimmed a critique of Encyclopédie des Nuisances.
September 15. With Christian, Marta, and Jacques to Château de Vaux, then a late Chinese lunch, then to a park — Jacques biking while Christian and I played a little tennis (with squash rackets) and golf. Then to a store where Christian got a couple used tennis rackets. Home at 8:00 for dinner.
September 16. To Luc Mercier’s* in Meudon. Met his wife Dominique and seven-year-old daughter Alice. Chatted at their house — re the attentat, their work, their recent move, trips to London and Venice (Alice had made scrapbooks of them). Then a long walk in the town (quite charming) while talking with Luc re his recent projects. I made a sort of general critique of the turgidity of many of the things he’s translated. Back to their place briefly, then train back home. I continue to receive emails re the attentat, e.g. from Jeanne, Isaac, etc. Mateusz writes that they’ll probably shift their visit here to late October. Esther sent a new Rexroth installment, which I’ll read tomorrow.**
*I had met Luc during my 1997 trip. In early 1998 there was a remarkable unemployed people’s revolt in France, which included a wide range of direct actions as well as ongoing popular assemblies in occupied buildings. Luc had provided me with extensive information and documents from that movement, from which I had put together the brochure We Don’t Want Full Employment, We Want Full Lives!
**My Madrid friend Esther Quintana was translating my book The Relevance of Rexroth into Spanish.
September 17. Corrected Esther’s latest Rexroth installment. Mateusz confirmed that he’ll come late October, so my Bergerac-Spain plans remain the same. Sold 3 SI Anthologies and 3 Public Secrets to Parallèles. Met François Lonchampt and Alain Tizon* at a café on Place Nation, then they took me to a Thai restaurant. Talk re Web, the attentat, Rexroth, Zen, my Autobiography, their lives/projects/diverse views. Alain is a history prof, somewhat older than François and also more talkative (re religion, the Beats, history, etc.). He was less familiar with my writings than François since he doesn’t have a computer.
*François Lonchampt and Alain Tizon had sent me a copy of their recent book, Votre révolution n’est pas la mienne, and François had already begun revising my draft French translation of my Autobiography (which I had posted on my website).
September 18. After lunch went to André Bernard’s. Also there, his wife Anita, who was out of town last time I was in Paris. Talk re the Web,* his publishing projects (anarchist journal Réflexions, etc.). Then to Rue Amelot anarchist bookstore, then briefly to the disquaire [record dealer] on Rue Taillandrier, then to the Montreuil Zen center recommended by Alan. Went early and a guy named Frank showed me around. Out for a fastfood Chinese dinner, then back to the center for 8-10 p.m. zazen. Small group (around 11-12), several of whom live at the center. Didn’t get to meet the teacher, Cathérine, who was still doing dokusan** with someone when the zazen was over. On the Métro home, talked briefly with Mexi (sp?), a Polish woman who’s practiced there for the last five years.
*Email and the Web were still very new at this time, and people in France were even more hesitant to use them than were most Americans. Most French people did not even have computers, and many radicals were suspicious of this new form of communication. Thus, in many of my encounters during this trip I spent some time explaining how it all worked and encouraging them to get online and make use of it.
**dokusan: one-on-one discussion between Zen teacher and student.
September 19. Played some with Jacques. Called Paulette and Évelyne. Went out early afternoon. Sporadic sprinkling (bought an umbrella). Went by Musée d’Orsay (too crowded), so visited the small Delacroix museum instead. Latin Quarter wandering. At Ivréa talked with Lorenzo — he’s absurdly biased against the Internet, which he knows almost nothing about. To Shakespeare & Co., then to the République area, where I had dinner, then met Christian and Marta — took them to see Joël Favreau and an accordionist doing Brassens songs. Excellent.* Then a beer in a Saint-Germain brasserie. Home at midnight. Esther sent last of Rexroth draft.
*Joël Favreau was Georges Brassens’s backup guitarist during his last ten years, as well as being a close friend of his, so his renditions of his songs were about as close as you could come to hearing Brassens himself.
September 20. Answered Esther’s last Rexroth installment, and also criticized a draft for an attentat poster that Lee sent. Sent Laurie Spiegel* a birthday greeting and got a reply (she’s fine but things are still pretty chaotic in NYC). Out to Latin Quarter, Gît-le-Coeur store, etc., then home for a bit. Christian and Marta had Bud Hazelkorn’s sister Ellen over for dinner (and also a Colombian couple) and I chatted with her a few minutes before going to another Zen center on Rue Mabillion. Very small — only five people for a couple periods of zazen followed by someone reading a ten-minute passage from Keizan Jokin.
*Laurie (a pioneering figure in computer music) is a fellow Shimer College alum who lives in New York City.
September 21. Told Christian that his general actions (deliberate, one at a time, not hurried) were in the Zen spirit. Called Françou — he’ll try to come to Paris in November. Also called Didier Somvongs. He is now in south France and will probably come over to Bergerac while I’m there. Out to another zendo — the main Deshimaru one on Rue Tolbiac — for two periods of zazen plus Heart Sutra. Lunch near where Isa used to live. Got a couple copies of the French version of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.* Home, more talk with Christian re Zen. Claire, a little girl friend of Jacques, over for the evening with her Polish-French mother Irène. I played a few songs on guitar. Called Loren and Nicole — everything’s fine.** Jean-François Lepez returned my call — I’ll see him next week.
*A wonderful little book by Shunryu Suzuki, founder of San Francisco Zen Center.
**Loren Goldner and his visiting French friend Nicole Thirion were subletting my cottage in Berkeley. Loren is the author of several books and numerous articles on radical history, all of which can be found at his website: Break Their Haughty Power.
September 22. Met Shigenobu Gonzalvez at Place d’Italie. To a café, then lunch on Rue Mouffetard. Intense and a bit scattered, he partially defended a book I’d seen but not bothered to buy (L’Insurrection Situationniste) since it seemed so unreliable (judging from the numerous ludicrous errors in the paragraphs devoted to U.S. situs). He knows Apostolidès, Hussey (author of an unreliable biography of Debord), Elwell, Donald Nicholson-Smith, Rumney, etc. He’s reissuing an updated version of his bibliography of Debord with another publisher. He liked my Autobiography, and just recently discovered the Web — I encouraged him to set up his own site. He also mentioned an upcoming showing of In girum at the Louvre on October 31. Afterwards I went to the Clignancourt flea market for a couple hours, but didn’t get anything. Home, dinner, then long conversation with Christian re Casanova, Boswell, Gonzalvez, old friends of his (Hollewen, Dominique), salsa parties, salons, etc.
September 23. To Mabillon zazen 11:00-12:30 (this time it cost 30 francs). Then lunch at Paulette Cudek’s with her partner Michel (and more briefly, Issu, a young Korean woman staying there temporarily). Talked re the Web, Zen, etc. Michel already uses a computer for his professional photography work. We also chatted re jazz, China (Paulette has been there), the attentat, language, etc. Then back to Christian’s to pick up some books and leaflets, then to Place Léon Blum to meet François, Alain, and Vincent Guillet (a younger guy who runs their website and who is translating one of Loren’s texts). Dinner in the same Thai-Chinese restaurant as last time. Five hours of conversation — mainly them questioning me. Extensive description of Zen practice, with answers to a number of questions or objections. Then a long discussion of the SI and Debord, I contending that their critiques were too superficial — as if the SI had claimed it was perfect, or as if it was responsible for people who treated it as such and then became disillusioned, etc. I gave them copies of Les Classiques Revisités, L’Autumne en Californie, Éloge de Kenneth Rexroth, etc.* Also the French version of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind to François, who expressed an interest in learning how to do zazen. We split up around midnight. They all seem to be very sympa and open guys — at least not too stuck in their ways/views, ready to consider other possibilities.
*The first two are books by Rexroth, translated by Joël Cornuault and Nadine Bloch; the third is the French translation of my The Relevance of Rexroth.
September 24. Via telephone tried to have Loren send Esther the Rexroth corrections she’d lost — but he was unable to find it on my computer. Did manage to get him to download and forward to me my accumulated email. Met André Trillaud and Évelyne Bloch-Dano for lunch near Montparnasse. Rejected André’s efforts to discuss the attentat (who did it, etc.) on the grounds that I found such discussions uninteresting and not useful for any purpose. Évelyne’s working on a book about Proust.* Discussed the Internet — she being more au courant than he is re its possibilities. Home, talked with Christian re Zen, Boswell, Casanova, Robinson Crusoe (we then read the Rexroth essays on the latter two at my website). Asked him and Marta to consider if they can stand me staying there for the four weeks after I get back from Spain. He said it has been fine so far and probably will continue to be so.
*I had misunderstood: her book was actually about Proust’s mother. It was published as Madame Proust and later translated into English.
September 25. Looked over old photos of my previous visits to Paris with Christian, trying to figure out which years they were. Email down the last day or so. Bought Bergerac ticket. Lunch at Place Descartes. Got Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson for Christian. To Belleville — found that Café Fanfan has closed. Buttes Chaumont, then to Montreuil for another 8:00-10:00 zazen. This time I hung around afterwards and introduced myself to the teacher, Cathérine Pagès. She was quite nice. When I mentioned Mountains and Rivers sesshins* she said they’d done something similar following classic Christian pilgrimage routes in Europe. Home at 11:30.
*A sesshin is an intensive Zen meditation retreat. A “Mountains and Rivers sesshin” is a somewhat similar retreat done while backpacking. In the 1990s I had taken part in several week-long M&Rs with the Zen group founded by Gary Snyder, and I had recently started leading more modest M&Rs at Point Reyes National Seashore for Berkeley Zen Center. I ended up leading these latter retreats from 2000-2014. If you are curious, here are a bunch of photos from a four-day M&R in 2012.
September 26. Met Jean-François Lepez for lunch at the same Chinese restaurant (Rue Montfaucon) as four years ago. This time he’s lost a lot of weight and quit drinking and smoking, so he’s in better health and more agreeable to listen to. He spends a lot of time at demonstrations (perhaps partly for the sociality) and was in Barcelona recently. After lunch and then coffee at another café (Rue de Seine and Rue Callot) he took me around the quartier (in the 6th Arrondissement) showing me lots of interesting old places that remain. Then to another café on Blvd. Saint-Germain. Then we split up. I went home (a bit soaked by the rain, which had been sporadic all afternoon). Called home and talked to Nicole, but Loren wasn’t there. Called Joël Camous and Dominique Robin re visit. Talk with Christian re economics and politics (including re Chirac).
September 27. Out all day. Lunch near Village Voice. Then to Parallèles, Centre Pompidou (found a new Whitman reference), Shakespeare & Co, etc. Then to Montreuil for zazen. Left my Rexroth book and my second Engaged Buddhism critique with Cathérine (though there wasn’t time for any exchange) and talked again with Mexi on the Métro home.
September 28. After doing some preliminary packing, went out all day. Lunch on a sidewalk table across from the Chinese restaurant I’d eaten at with Lepez. Louvre for a couple hours (Italian paintings plus a few large French ones — Delacroix, etc.). Centre Pompidou (found a few other quotes). Wandered east to Bastille area, then back into Latin Quarter. Ate a cassoulet at a pretty good restaurant on Rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Geneviève, then had a beer at an outdoor café on the corner opposite “The Method” (Rue Descartes). Wandered through the side streets in Saint-Germain, then home at 10:00.
September 29. Finished packing (pretty heavy because I’m taking a lot of Rexroth books to Spain). Christian accompanied me to Gare Montparnasse, where we had lunch. He requested that I find another place to stay after November 1, figuring that otherwise it might be too much of an imposition on Marta. (I’ll check possibility of Shakespeare & Co. or of Montreuil Zen center.) Train to Bergerac. Met by Nadine and Gabrielle, then to the bookstore where Joël was. Hung out there an hour or two (talk re store and Internet), then I took them to a fine Périgordian restaurant. Talk re the attentat, Paris, etc. Home at 10:00 and soon to bed (in the same attic room as before). Gabrielle, now 10, very warm and friendly right from the beginning.
September 30. Around the house in the morning. Looked at some “Charlie” books* with Gabrielle. Talked with Joël re Rexroth/Reclus Web possibilities. After lunch we all went out driving and walking in the country. Nap. Talk with Joël re various books in their extensive library. During dinner we watched my Brassens video, and just before Gabrielle went to bed I played and sang Brassens’s Villon Ballade on their piano. Talk with Joël and Nadine re decline of education. Read Joël’s short book on Li Ching-chao.
*The French version of the “Waldo” series: illustrated children’s books where one tries to find a character named Waldo/Charlie hidden among crowds of other similarly dressed people.
October 1. Gabrielle at school, bookstore closed. Lunch outside under a tree with Joël and Nadine. Talk re Homer, Rexroth, and French publishers. At dinner finished watching Brassens video. Sang them Trenet’s “Le soleil et la lune.”
October 2. Joël took me to the train station at noon. Bus to Buisson, where Joël Camous met me. To his place, meeting his girlfriend Cathérine. Lunch outside. Afterwards Joël showed me house-carpentry work he’s done or is doing. Then to Périgeux for shopping, then on to Dominique’s for dinner. Chatting, brief Brassens video viewing with Joël (he had brought two different cassettes). After dinner I played several French and American songs (he had also brought his guitar) and he played several Brassens songs and some of his own. Late drive back, arriving at their place after midnight.
October 3. Chatted with them a bit re Rexroth, and re Web possibilities for Cathérine (to publicize her art). Joël drove me back to the Bergerac bookstore. Checked some of my email on the store computer while he talked with Nadine and bought some Brassens books. He left. Lunch with Nadine, then back to the store with Joël. Didier Somvongs* arrived at 3:30. He’s 42 and half-Laotian in ancestry, though he’s always lived in France. We went to a nearby café and talked for the next three hours — re my writings and the Joy of Revolution translation that he plans to do, re his démarches and ideas (including some dubious stuff à la Bermuda Triangle). He’s more or less in the anarchist milieu, but finds it limited and repetitious. (He doesn’t know that much about the situs.) He has a notion of sending open letters to legislators in the name of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité; has some interest in Buddhism, primitive cultures, other countries, etc. We returned to the bookstore, then he left. Back home, listened to a Boby Lapointe CD with Gabrielle.
*Didier had translated my text The Poverty of Primitivism.
October 4. Took Joël and Nadine to lunch at the crêperie across the street. Changed some money, then bought train ticket. Back to the bookstore for a couple hours (found a Whitman quote), then Joël drove me to the train station late afternoon. Had to go to Bordeaux, then north to Poitiers, before turning back south to Madrid overnight.
October 5. Very uncomfortable train trip. Eleven hours in a coach bed (room with four other men), very hot and stuffy. Didn’t sleep much. Arrived at Madrid station 9:30 a.m. Met by Olivia and her father Raúl. She left for a class and he took me by metro and car to their apartment in a nearby town. Showered and to bed, where I finally got some sleep. Up when Esther returned for lunch at 2:00. Very nice apartment — I have the room of Raúl Jr., who’s in England. Raúl’s English is minimal, though he can understand much of what I say in French. He left for a class (he’s a retired telephone worker). Esther and I talked for another hour or two, re the house they plan to build in the nearby country, re Andy and Lora and Robert, and re a friend of hers dying of cancer. Then she left for a French test. Checked email. Light cheese and coldcuts dinner. Chatted with Olivia re her interpreter classes, and then re possibilities of Zen practice (in her room and/or at a Madrid center).*
*I had met Esther Quintana and her daughter Olivia in Berkeley in 1997. Olivia returned to Berkeley for another visit during summer 2001 and I had introduced her to the practice at Berkeley Zen Center. Andy, Lora, and Robert were friends of mine whom Esther had gotten to know during her stay in Berkeley.
October 6. Went over Rexroth questions with Esther till lunch, nap after lunch, then more Rexroth work till evening. Light dinner with Esther, then she and I and Raúl went out for a long walk (while Olivia went over to a friend’s). Back, watched soccer on TV with them.
October 7. At breakfast talked with Esther and Olivia re Afghanistan situation and also re films (Esther talked about some critical ones they liked). Walked in the neighborhood with Esther and Raúl. More Rexroth work with Esther. After dinner we watched TV coverage of the initial US bombing of Afghanistan, noting the diversity of commentaries on different channels (Spanish, German, French, and American), and discussed patriotic war mentality.*
*Needless to say, we all detested it. I had previously made some observations on such mentality in my leaflet on the Gulf War (The War and the Spectacle), and in this chapter of The Joy of Revolution I made the following remark: “If someone proclaimed: I am the greatest, strongest, noblest, cleverest, and most peace-loving person in the world, he would be considered obnoxious, if not insane. But if he says precisely the same things about his country he is looked upon as an admirably patriotic citizen. Patriotism is extremely seductive because it enables even the most miserable individual to indulge in a vicarious collective narcissism. The natural nostalgic fondness for ones home and surroundings is transformed into a mindless cult of the state. Peoples fears and resentments are projected onto foreigners while their frustrated aspirations for authentic community are mystically projected onto their own nation, which is seen as somehow essentially wonderful despite all its defects. (‘Yes, America has its problems; but what we are fighting for is the real America, what America really stands for.’) This mystical herd-consciousness becomes almost irresistible during war, smothering virtually all radical tendencies.”
October 8. Following their directions, went to a bank to change some money, then took bus and metro to Madrid, where I met Luis Navarro. We went briefly to his home (I borrowed his Society of the Spectacle video), then to the bookstore-infocenter where I will appear next Thursday, then to a restaurant for lunch, then back to his place, then I went back to Esther’s. Luis seems like a very nice guy. Communication was slow and difficult, as his English (speaking and hearing) is limited [and my Spanish was and is very limited], but he managed to tell me some about his past and his perspectives, the Madrid scene, his youth, etc. Back home, Esther and I did another lengthy stretch of Rexroth work. Then late dinner (around 9:00 as usual). Esther then worked late into the night revising her translation of “The War and the Spectacle” (to be included in Voces).
October 9. Thirty minutes of zazen with Olivia, then with her to Madrid. She went to classes (all day till late evening) and I walked around the center of town — some bookstores (disappointing), a park with foundations next to the royal palace, a squid sandwich at the Plaza Mayor, more random walking, finally ending up at the Biblioteca Nacionale (but I couldn’t get in without a card), then home. Nap, then more Rexroth work with Esther (5:00-9:00). We finished Chapter 2. Late dinner. Email announcement from Luis re my Thursday appearance.
October 10. Again zazen with Olivia. Then alone to Madrid. Biblioteca Nacionale again (I got a card, but wasn’t able to navigate the computer catalog). A hearty lunch, then the Prado Museum — checked out most of the Spanish paintings — Velázquez, Murillo, Goya, El Greco — plus a few other things (Bosch, Rubens, etc.), then home. More Rexroth work with Esther, then dinner, then more Rexroth. Olivia got home around 11:00. We all watched the first half of the Society of the Spectacle video, then to bed.
October 11. Zazen and breakfast, then back to bed. Got up for 2:00 lunch with Esther and Raúl. Some Rexroth work. Then we drove to the Madrid bookstore-infocenter for my appearance. About 15 people showed up. Luis gave an intro about me, then I answered questions, Olivia being the interpreter. Several questions from Luis — re my relation to counterculture, what exactly did I mean by “affective détournement,” the role of Rexroth, my view of Zerzan, etc. A few others asked re the “second phase of the second assault,” and re my religion point, etc. In general it went quite well. Allowing for a few inevitable confusions, I think I expressed myself pretty well, trying to keep things brief and to the point, and Olivia did a good job interpreting. It lasted from about 7:30-10:00, and I got 90 minutes of it on tape. (But forgot to take photos.) Afterwards Olivia went off with a friend and Raúl drove Esther and me to the bus station. He then went on to a dinner with some Madrid friends while we came home and had a light late dinner there, she talking re teaching — how it’s still interesting for her, but how many of her colleagues or contemporaries have become burned out.
October 12. With Esther, Raúl, Olivia, and Sarah (an Irish fellow teacher with Esther) to Toledo (about an hour’s drive away). Wandered around the old cathedrals, synagogues, bridges, etc. till late afternoon, then back home. More Rexroth work with Esther. Olivia went out to a movie. At dinner with Esther and Raúl, talked re language peculiarities (e.g. expressions that seem strange to foreigners). Watched part of Brassens video.
October 13. More Rexroth work with Esther. The four of us to the vacant lot where Esther and Raúl plan to build a house, and also to another similar lot that they said would have been a bit better (both have nice views of a lake). Ran into Manuel, their architect. Took him and them to a nice family restaurant that he recommended. We didn’t get started till 3:30 and were there for a couple hours — apératif, salads, rabbit (with garlic and herbs), chocolate desserts, coffee, and a liqueur. Talked with Olivia re different aspects of Spain (compared with US, France, etc.). Manuel also had some funny caricatural denunciations of British and French styles of eating. After lunch, hiked a bit in the rocky, mountainous area nearby. Home, Esther and I finally finished this stage of the Rexroth translation. (It remains for her to do a lot of refinements of the style.) Gave her a bunch of books by Rexroth. Olivia headed to Madrid to see some friends. The rest of us watched some soccer, then the rest of the Brassens video, then some news.
October 14. While they went to a gathering with Esther’s family, I went to Madrid, meeting Luis at a flea market. Walked around it looking unsuccessfully for Brassens CDs for Esther’s family. Then with a couple of Luis’s friends — a surrealist and an anarchist — for a coffee. They left and we walked around more. Lunched at an Italian restaurant. More walking, then to his place where he played me some Paco Ibáñez songs and a sort of radical punk group. More walking and talking till he left me at the bus station. Home. Called Quim and had him give Olivia instructions for my arrival tomorrow. Dinner with Esther, during which I described Kurasawa’s film Ikiru.
October 15. Up early. Said goodbye to Olivia, then with Esther and Raúl to train station. 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. arriving in Barcelona, then a local train to where I met Quim. To his home. Some talk re Rexroth projects. Sara (his wife) came home. Their daughter Sara was also there. (The other daughter, Magali, is in Paris.) Showered while he went out to get a mattress for me. (I’ll be sleeping in the computer room.) Then we all went to an Etcétera meeting.* I struck up a conversation there with Caroline Goldblum and Noun De Los Cobos, two French people from the Oiseau-Tempête circle who also understand little or no Spanish. After the meeting we all went out for sandwiches and beer. Talked with Quim and the French re the attentat and American aftereffects. Home at 11:00.
*Etcétera: correspondencia de la guerra social: a journal of radical analysis and international correspondence published in Barcelona since 1983. Most of their publications can be found here.
October 16. After breakfast to metro with Quim. He pointed me to the main old area of the city and I spent late morning and most of the afternoon wandering around there — las Ramblas, stores, narrow streets in the “Gothic quarter,” etc. Home, took a good long nap. Spent much of the evening talking with Quim re his Rexroth projects. He’s going to mainly aim for two: Classics Revisited (complete or selections) and a selection of essays.* Discussing the latter, I suggested some essays he didn’t have in his tentative list, which is inevitably uncertain since he hasn’t read them in English. I verbally translated part of Rexroth’s essay on Henry Miller into French,** and Quim agreed that it should definitely be included. We also discussed Voyer, Cosséry, and a Portuguese situ translator, etc. Out with him to walk the dog. Wolf and Tilla arrived late due to a French train strike — a little before 11:00 p.m. (Their daughter Mackie is now traveling with a theater group.) Dinner and talk, then to bed after midnight.
*Both of these Rexroth projects were eventually carried out and published by Pepitas de Calabaza: Desconexión y otros ensayos (2009) and Cita con los clásicos (2014), as well as a translation of Rexroth’s Autobiography (2015). The essay collection includes Esther Quintana’s translation of The Relevance of Rexroth as an “introductory essay.”
**While in Barcelona I usually spoke French, which Quim and many of the other Spanish people understood pretty well, as did Wolf and Tilla (German friends whom I had visited several times in Germany and also once previously in Barcelona).
October 17. After breakfast the four of us (Sara was at work) went to the Park Güell, designed by Gaudí, then to the Miró museum (while Quim walked Nervio, the dog they’re taking care of while Magali’s in Paris). Then to an outdoor café on the beach for beer and snacks. Described sesshins for them. Then home. Picked up photos from Bergerac and Madrid visits. Talk around the table re Cosséry, B. Traven, etc. Quim showed us the books by the Vietnamese guy [Ngo Van] that Loren had recommended to me. Late dinner, then I played them my Brassens video.
October 18. With Wolf and Tilla to Gaudí’s unfinished cathedral, Sagrada Familia. The inside was full of scaffolding and people working on the long-term project of completing it. Walked up a very high corkscrew stairway most of the way to the top of one of the towers. Then lunch — tapas and beer. Then to the Casa Milà/Pedrera, another Gaudí building — this one an apartment house and culture center. Then to an outdoor table on a square where we met Quim and Luis Andrés Bredlow — the latter the guy who will probably do the actual translation of whatever Rexroth texts they publish (since Quim’s English is limited). We discussed that project and I offered to help with questions and corrections. I also responded to Quim’s questions re Zerzan. Home, called Paul Hammond and made a rendezvous for tomorrow. Late dinner. Read a Cosséry interview.
October 19. In the house till late afternoon. While Carlos Sánchez was over helping Quim fix his motorcycle, Wolf read through much of the old German translation of Double-Reflection (finding it relatively accurate but with some errors). Quim made me a copy of the Mexican translation of Rexroth’s Classics Revisited. Met Paul Hammond in the center of town at 5:00 and talked till 7:00. Jim knows him because he’s done a couple books for City Lights re surrealism and films.* Paul described his current project re Buñuel in the 1930s. Then I went to another meeting at the Etcetera place. This time 25-30 people showed up and there was a general discussion of the post-attentat situation (translated between French and Spanish). I made some points re how crazy the U.S. now seemed, to the point that some of the delirium will probably soon explode and/or collapse. After three hours of discussion we had bread, cheese, coldcuts, wine, etc., with lots of individual talk. (Earlier I’d talked with Caroline and Noun re Hakim Bey.) When some people left and things quieted down a bit, I did three songs (Quim had brought a guitar for that purpose). Home after midnight.
*My friend Jim Brook, who at this time was working as an editor at City Lights Books in San Franciso, had recommended that I look up Paul while I was in Barcelona.
October 20. A drive out in the country east of Barcelona — the five of us [Quim, Sara, Wolf, Tilla, and I] plus Miguel and Toni, Coro and Pili, and Julia (wife of Paco), plus Nervio. First to a rocky beach/shore, then to a restaurant for late and large lunch, then to Girona, a quaint little town northeast of Barcelona (also wandered briefly into a Shambhala-type bookstore). Then a beer at an outdoor café, then back to Barcelona at 9:30. Quim showed me a book he had on the blues. Unfortunately, he had effectively no blues records. During dinner (around 11:00 p.m.) I described a bit of blues history and demonstrated the various genres with a few songs with guitar, then shifted to white folksongs. To bed at 2:00. Earlier, while at the outdoor café, I expressed my lack of interest in leading a “coherent” life in the sense of worrying about moral issues like whether or not I was “being a consumer” or supporting this or that boycott. Otherwise I didn’t say much as most of the general conversation was in Spanish (though I did, as usual, talk French with specific individuals — Tilla, Quim, etc.).
October 21. Another full day socially. With Wolf and Tilla to buy train ticket to Paris on the same train they’re taking. Then briefly to open-air bookfair, then to Montxo and Marivi’s for lunch. Also there: Quim and Sara, Coro and Pili, Miguel and Carmen. Paella, salads, desserts, coffee, and several types of wine and liqueurs. Talk with Quim (and to a lesser extent with Wolf and Tilla) re yesterday’s discussion and also re the Internet as superseding some of the old issues re official secrets and disinformation. Then out for a long meandering in the Gothic quarter and the Ramblas, ending up in a French bar. Split up and returned home at 9:00. Around the table discussion re one’s use of time (Quim complaining that he never has enough to do all the things he wants to do).
October 22. Downtown with Wolf and Tilla. Got some blues CDs for Quim (plus a few French ones for miscellaneous gifts). Followed them shopping for other stuff. Met Quim and others at a longshoremen hall where they were xerox-printing some of their pamphlets. To lunch with them all. They went back to work while we got our film developed and spent some time at an outdoor café. Joined them and headed for Besós (after another stop at a sidewalk café for beer while Quim picked up a new motor for his motorcycle). Group collating of pamphlets. I showed Michael E. and Carlos a few things on my website, to give them ideas for creating theirs. Then out for beer and sandwiches (same place as last week, but outside). Home, photos around the table till midnight.
October 23. Up early and to train station. With Wolf and Tilla to Montpellier, then nonstop to Paris. Talk with Wolf re computers and the Internet (things he does in his work, and his views of likely future developments). Arrived at Paris 5:30 p.m. They proceeded on to Germany. To Christian’s. Showered and had an aperitif, then he took me to a Chinese restaurant. Talk re trip, then he went into several points re post-attentat situation. Japanese kids (with their mother) over to play with Jacques. Showed Christian trip photos, then to bed.
October 24. In the apartment most of the day. Partly sorting my stuff — accumulated papers and publications, etc. Complicated by the limitations of space available here, plus knowing I need to move out soon, plus various things they were doing (Marta getting Jacques ready for a Halloween party, Christian and I assembling a new bookshelf he got). Gave him Stephen Potter and Mr. Dooley books and explained some Louis Jordan lyrics he was unclear about. Late afternoon out he Latin Quarter, then to Montreuil. Talked again with Cathérine Pagès. She said they didn’t have room for me to be a temporary resident. Also re Rexroth — she’s liked the beginning of my book on him. Then the 8:00-10:00 zazen. Talked with another sitter, Raphaelle, on the Métro home. Returned a call from Jean Pérès — dinner date Friday.
October 25. Email from Mateusz — he’s coming alone, for a week, probably just before the In girum showing. With Christian and Marta to the Musée Marmottan, featuring mainly Monet plus a fair amount of Berthe Morisot. Mediocre cafeteria lunch, then home. Sensing that I’m starting to get on Marta’s nerves, went to Shakespeare & Co. George Whitman (the owner) said I was welcome to stay there approximately October 29-November 7. Called Jean-Paul and Odile (they won’t be coming to Paris), Maurice (lunch tomorrow), and Magali (she’ll call Sunday), and left messages with a few others. To the Gambetta area where I got a pizza and then went to a Fréhel show.* There were so few people that the show was canceled, but the performers (a Fréhel-like woman and an accordion accompanist) did a couple songs for us out front as a sort of consolation.
* Fréhel was one of the greatest singers of the noirish chansons réalistes of the 1930s. Here she sings Comme un Moineau (the lament of a prostitute). And here she is as the owner of a raucous dance hall in a film with Jean Gabin. The other two supreme singers in this genre were Damia and Edith Piaf. For more on the chansons réalistes, see Session 2 of The Secret World of French Songs.
October 26. Composed a brief general e-letter to American friends re my trip and sent it to 50+ people. Met Maurice Fhima at Tolbiac. Long walk, then Thai lunch, then more walking. He described his martial art activity in some detail. I explained some aspects of Zen practice — correcting his idea that it was a matter of “mastering” something. Later, apropos of his recent short text on technology and “consumerist” society, etc., we discussed related questions re transitional forms, the likelihood or unlikelihood of revolution, etc. He agreed with most of the nuances I expressed, but tends to come back to abstract statements re “technology as it is,” the supposed “total” difference between modern conditions and those of 1936, etc. I also criticized the fact that he gave or sent his text to only three or four people and then complained that it didn’t stir up any response. We split up at 4:00 and I went to Parallèles a bit, then wandered around till 6:30, when I met Jean Pérès at the Saint-Michel fountain. First a beer near where the Maspéro bookstore used to be, then a long walk, then dinner near Shakespeare & Co. Talk re the Internet, re old mutual friends, re his German wife Andrea, and re la chanson française (he also plays guitar and sings Brassens etc.). Home at 11:00.
October 27. Out with Christian for coffee and croissants beside the Seine. Describing yesterday’s encounters with Maurice and Jean led into the topic of “salons,” in the sense of various ways to create good conversations (at home, in cafés, etc.). Sent my generic e-letter to a few more friends and received a dozen or so responses from yesterday’s emailing. Called Françou (he’s not coming to Paris) and Françoise Denevert. I left my number with her in case they decide to talk more or invite me to their Limousin house (though I said I wasn’t sure I’d have the time to go there). Then out for the rest of the day. Late lunch at Chartier. Music store on Rue Réaumur, then down Rue Saint-Denis (lots of prostitutes out even during the day), then Latin Quarter bookstores. Pie and beer outside the Place Descartes bar, where the same guy as before was singing Brassens etc. I intended to try to join in, but it broke up before I had done so. More wandering through the 5th and 6th Arrondissements. Home at 10:00.
October 28. Went by Shakespeare & Co. (hereafter Shak & Co.) and left copies of SI Anthology, Public Secrets, and The Relevance of Rexroth. Late lunch on Rue Mouffetard, then back to Shak & Co. for 4:00 tea — an open house that happens every Sunday. Met Hardy, a San Francisco writer whose place there I’ll be taking (he’s going to Uzbekistan or thereabouts with a medical couple) and some others also staying there (or who have in the past), who gave me a brief account of George and the store. And some others, including a young Estonian woman and an older Australian one. Left after an hour or two when some people started reading their own writings. To Village Voice where I hung out a half hour or more with Michael Neal — talk re Rexroth etc. but also jokes with customers. Home at 7:00, just as Christian and Marta returned. Christian and I drank the last of the raki and talked for a long time about re Jim, Robert, Andy, Lora, and other mutual friends. Returned a call from Lonchampt (who had lost my number) — he’ll be there Wednesday and we’ll meet later to discuss the Autobiography translation.
October 29. Packed a big bag of stuff and left Christian and Marta’s (though my suitcase is still there). Bus to Shak & Co. Left my stuff there. Gave George a copy of San Francisco Beat.* Met a few other folks there (including talk with Hardy re post-attentat) and went out. Called Magali, and then a guy from Europe magazine re old Rexroth translations. Then to Bercy for the Paris Open tennis tournament — saw parts of three matches during the afternoon. Back to Shak & Co. Met Magali there at 7:30. Took her to a Japanese restaurant on Rue Mouffetard. Talk re language, Paris, Spain (showed her photos from Barcelona). She won’t be able to make the Debord film due to a conflict, but we’ll see each other again sometime. Back to Shak & Co. at 11:00.
*A collection of interviews with San Francisco Beat-era poets (edited by David Meltzer and published by City Lights) which includes a superb interview with Kenneth Rexroth and an interview with Morgan Gibson and me talking about Rexroth.
October 30. Slept moderately well, though my bed (in a closet) is a bit cramped and there were people coming in and out till after midnight. Was offered some breakfast — yogurt, fruit, tea — by Emily and Julia and talked a bit with the latter (a dancer from Germany). She and Emily have been living at the store for a year or so and help out with various things, from cleaning up to traveling to Italy with George. Out to “Easy Everything” Internet café very near here. Only 10 francs for 45 minutes, though I had to use 1.5 hours due to Mail2Web’s being on the blink. Emails from Esther and from the guy in Russia re translations. Heavy Savoyard lunch, then to Bercy again for 4+ hours of tennis (notably a good close match: Lapentti d. Hewitt). Then to Montreuil for zazen, then back to Shak & Co. Public Secrets and SI Anthology have been moved to a pretty good face-up location on the table. Chatted with Emily (from London, going to acting school here) and helped bring in the outdoor bookshelves at midnight.
October 31. Internet café. Walked to Bastille to check out a music librairie (nothing new), then to Bercy, then out for an Italian lunch, then back to Bercy for more tennis. Back to Shak & Co. late afternoon, then to the Louvre for the special In girum showing at 7:00. It was sold out, but I and Vincent and François were near the head of the line for cancellations. Also showed up (and all got in eventually): Mateusz,* Jean Pérès and Andrea, Michel and Paulette, and Noun and Caroline. Mateusz had a free entry from Alice Debord and he got another ticket from her for me. Then he introduced me to her. We had a very brief chat, with the idea that we might later discuss the matter of an English translation of Debord’s films. The film was quite impressive (more than the script alone). Afterwards went to Les Deux Magots with Vincent and François and discussed it awhile. Home after midnight.
*Mateusz Kwaterko, whom I had met during my 1991 trip to Warsaw. He was at this time beginning to translate some situationist texts into Polish.
November 1. Internet café, then back to the store. George showed me sample guest autobiographies, like what I will also be asked to write before I leave. Mateusz showed up. Métro to Père-Lachaise, where we walked and talked awhile. To Pigalle, where we ate at a mussels restaurant. Then to the hotel room where he’s staying, which turned out to be on Rue Fagon!* There all evening, then he walked with me back to the store just before midnight. Lots of talk on lots of subjects, including In girum, the merits and possible faults of Debord and the SI and the situ milieu, the contempt issue, his projects in Poland (including mass multiple postering), the Internet pro and con, the quality of situ translations (apropos of my possibly meeting Alice via him), his open letter to the Italian ambassador, photos from my Spain trip, etc.
*A tiny street near Place d’Italie where, coincidentally, I had stayed during my first two Paris trips.
November 2. Internet café. Sold 3 SI Anthology and 2 Relevance of Rexroth to Village Voice (and noticed that the New York Village Voice Reader includes Greil Marcus’s SI Anthology review). To Bercy for more tennis (Kafelnikov d. Novak; Vinciguerra d. Schalken). Then to meet J-F Lepez at an Iraqi restaurant. As usual, he did most of the talking, both there and as we walked in the Bastille neighborhood. Back to the bookstore before midnight. Helped close it up.
November 3. Internet café (twice — found that bought time can be used later). Joël and Nadine thanked me for the photos I sent. Back to the store, where George had invited me and three others to lunch. Met Mateusz out front at 4:00. Walked and talked, including at a café on Place Contrescarpe. He said that when he recently saw Alice she was scowling over Public Secrets (because of the Denevert and Voyer texts in it), but apparently he had convinced her that I was a good translator and that I no longer had anything to do with Voyer, and she gave him Jacques Le Glou’s phone for me to call. At Gibert I bought him a couple of Cosséry books. Then we separated and I returned to Shak & Co. Went with Hardy, Matt, Phil, and Jenny (Emily’s British friend, teaching English here) to a free classical concert near Montparnasse (violin and piano — Mozart, Bartok, etc.). On the way back we stopped in an Irish pub, but I left soon as it was too noisy and smoky, and also I wanted to say goodbye to Christoph, the German boyfriend of Julia’s sister Christiane, who’s returning to Germany tomorrow morning. I told them to use the “Writer’s Room” (reserved for me) for their last night here together. Hot chocolate with them and Julia and Chad and Emily. Talking re language and singing, we got a guitar out. Christoph did a couple German songs and I did three American ones. Then to bed.
November 4. Late pancake breakfast with George (cooking) and four or five others. Internet café. Watched a Catholic service at Saint-Séverin. To François’s home in Meudon. Went over some Autobiography questions, then gave him some zazen instruction. Then we went to Alain’s place (Vincent also there). I did a couple songs with Alain’s guitar, then we went to a French restaurant. They had a lot of questions re USA (social unconsciousness, street life, etc.). Answered some of Alain’s queries/comments re my writings, and recommended doing a small project well instead of constantly fretting over the gloomy totality. Then at a café I showed them Spain photos. Shak & Co. at midnight — spent the night on the large double-bed in the Writer’s Room.*
*George Whitman (owner of the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore) was renowned for his hospitality. Financially hard-up travelers passing through Paris were welcome to stay overnight at the store for free. In exchange they were expected to help out a little around the store. Depending on how well they got along with George, they might be allowed to stay for several days or occasionally even longer. Visiting “writers” had a somewhat more privileged position, and depending on its availability, might be permitted to sleep on the large comfy bed in the “Writer’s Room,” while most of the other guests were in sleeping bags on couches or on the floor. While I was there I estimated, based on the number of people I saw staying and the rate of turnover, that during the 50-year history of the store, it had hosted somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 people!
November 5. Internet café. Met Mateusz at Nation station and continued to Montreuil, where we went to the home (in a converted warehouse) of Philippe Mortimer (one of the Insomniaque-Nautilus people) and family. Lunch there while Philippe talked almost nonstop for four hours — among other things, making fun of Zerzan’s primitivism (but they’ve published some of his books), describing Ngo Van (he gave me the two books recommended by Loren and Quim), Mexico, Algeria (Kabylie), British street revolts, etc. Then with Philippe to the Insomniaque office in a nearby larger warehouse. Also there, Hervé Denès (Mateusz’s friend — Lorraine had given me his book re China). Philippe asked me about Rexroth — they might be interested in translating his Autobiography. Internet café again. Dinner at Rue de la Hachette and Rue Saint-Jacques. Slept again in the Writer’s Room as the next writer guest hadn’t showed up.
November 6. Internet café. Called André Trillaud, who said I could stay at his studio apartment from the 11th on. To the 14th Arrondissement to pick up a program re a Brassens Festival happening all this week (20th anniversary of his death). The main events (concerts and films) were already full. Lunch there. To Musée Carnavalet — French history plus an exhibit of paintings etc. from the turn of the century (including Proust’s bedroom furniture). Back to Shak & Co. George said it was fine if I stayed here till the 11th. (“You can stay forever!”) Had a snack and tea with Christiane and Emily. Met Wendy and her daughter — the guests who will be taking over the Writer’s Room (she’s noted for a book on her trek across Tibet). To Montreuil for evening zazen. Back at the store, answered questions re Zen from Chad.
November 7. Hardy said goodbye (off to Uzbekistan). Gibert. Met Mateusz as before and we went to Philippe’s and Nadège’s for lunch. Also there: Ngo Van and his friend Hélène Fleury, and Hervé and his friend Frédérique. Van was immediately very friendly — urged me to call him later. (I gave him Public Secrets.) Much lively conversation, including talk re Berkeley being the only American city to oppose the war,* and a few other USA-related topics (e.g. BART vs. Métro). Then Philippe and Van worked on the layout and illustrations for Van’s book of Vietnamese folk stories. Back to Shak & Co. at 5:00. Chad and Emily made cheese soufflet for George and me, etc. Chad and Georgina studied French while I started reading Van’s autobiography. Later I chatted with Julia.
*I.e. the Bush-Cheney invasion of Afghanistan. Barbara Lee, representing the Berkeley-Oakland district, was the only congressperson to vote against this evil and idiotic venture, which after 20 years accomplished precisely nothing except wasting trillions of dollars to kill hundreds of thousands of people who had no connection whatsoever with 9/11.
November 8. To Mateusz’s place on Rue Fagon, where I chatted with him an hour before his departure — re Crimethinc as sort of related to his posters, etc., but contrasted with his relatively appropriate critique of the Polish Anarchist Federation. Then met Charles Puskas near Denfert-Rochereau. Over lunch we chatted re primitivists, American pragmatism, his participation in diverse more or less ultraleftist groups and publications (Banquise, Mordicus, Mouvement Communiste). He’s friendly and relatively open. Lives outside Paris with wife and kids. Erratic weather — rain, sunshine, then hail. Called Christian — they’re back from a week in the Canaries — and went over there for two or three hours. Chatted with him re Shak & Co., people met, Lamennais (he’d just read a bio of him), the Canaries, etc. Brought my suitcase to Shak & Co., as well as a few Public Secrets and SI Anthology. To Trillaud’s place. After a bit of chatting re different Debord bios, etc., he and his wife Cathérine took me out to a restaurant in the neighborhood. Talk re my and their trips, a few old mutual friends, etc. Then they took me to André’s studio, where I’ll be moving in next Monday. It looked quite nice. Home at midnight.
November 9. Internet café. Emily’s parents moving in for the next few days. Sold 3 SI Anthology to Actualités. To Raphael exhibit at the Musée de Luxembourg (interesting explanations by a French tour guide). Checked anglophone bookstores on Rues de Rivoli and Opéra, but they weren’t interested in Public Secrets or SI Anthology. Called Van and made a date for tomorrow. Back to Shak & Co. Very cold and windy all day. Went out for a Chinese dinner, then back. Chad had made a birthday cake for Emily’s father, and a dozen folks had some. Earlier I played some kids’ songs for Eleanor. Fun, though a bit chaotic with all the people here.
November 10. Internet café. To Ngo Van’s place (near here, on l’Ile de la Cité), soon joined by Hélène Fleury. Talked there, then out for a leisurely couscous lunch. Van talked a little re his books and experiences, but the conversation was mainly between Hélène and me. It turns out that she knew Khayati etc. back in Strasbourg before 1966. She was thus interested in my critiques/perspectives re SI, as well as re Rexroth, Zen, etc., which I went into in some detail. Van scarcely talked but seemed to find it all quite interesting. Which was fine, as Hélène and I were able to communicate well and quickly, whereas his accent is sometimes a bit hard for me to follow. At 4:00 he went home for an overdue nap and Hélène came to Shak & Co., where I gave her Public Secrets, Les Classiques Revisités, and a few other things and talked more. To Christian’s for dinner. Talk with him re recent encounters, Shak & Co., etc. Read Jacques some stories before bed. Back to Shak & Co. at 10:30, carrying 18 copies of SI Anthology.
November 11. Internet café. Another pancake breakfast cooked by George — chat with Jack and Anne-Marie re Rexroth and the Beats. To Tommy Mittelstädt’s (and Sarah and their daughter Tonia). Talk re Internet etc. Lunch there. Then to rendezvous with François, Alain, and Vincent (lugging 15 SI Anthology to give to François). Café, then to a discussion meeting, but it turned out we were an hour early. While waiting at a bar, chatted with Guy Fargette. Meeting from 6:00 to 9:15 — around 18 people, including Daniel Blanchard.* Discussion re the post-attentat situation. I said nothing. There were lots of diverse ideas expressed, but scarcely anything new, and it’s doubtful if it will lead to anything. Afterwards to a restaurant, where I talked a bit with Blanchard — mainly him re his glimpses of USA, then re Guillaume and negationists, then re Debord etc. I was rather disappointed — he and François tended to fall into the same old pseudocritiques of Debord and the situs. Also met Blanchard’s girlfriend Helen, an American who’s lived in France since 1959, and Larry Cohen, another American, who knew Rothbart, Michael Lucas, etc. Some of them drove me home after midnight.
*Daniel Blanchard was a member of the Socialisme ou Barbarie group. In 1960 he collaborated with Debord on an excellent short text on the interrelations of capitalism, culture, and revolutionary politics: Preliminaries Toward Defining a Unitary Revolutionary Program.
November 12. To lunch at Hervé’s, who had also invited a couple of English people — John Moore and his girlfriend Lee — plus a neighbor woman. Talked re my site to Hervé, then re diverse things with the English. (Moore is the author of some more or less antitech articles I’ve read.) At 3:00 to appointment with Jacques Le Glou at his office near Place d’Italie. I kept things on a low-key, informational level — talking to him about the varied quality of existing situ translations and translators and the fact that I did not expect a welcome from Alice.* He’s going to check with Alice and I’ll call him Wednesday. Back to Shak & Co., then to Christian’s to pick up most of the rest of the SI Anthologies, then to François’s place in Meudon. Dinner of bread and cheese and sausage. I said I thought that yesterday’s type of discussion meeting would probably lead to nothing. I also noted his moralizing tendencies (e.g. he expressed shock that someone at his work seemed blasé about a recent NYC accident, whereas I find that reaction quite as expected and understandable). Then we did more Autobiography translation work, finishing at midnight. Train and Métro home just before 1:00.
*For a few months in late 1971 and early 1972 Daniel Denevert and Guy Debord had had a very cordial relation, and Debord had approvingly quoted several passages from Daniel’s pamphlet Sur quelques aspects du moment in his book La véritable scission dans l’Internationale. But they had not parted on good terms, and in various texts Daniel had subsequently criticized some aspects of what he called “Debordism.” I suspected that my former close association with Daniel had caused Debord to write me off. As you will see below, Debord’s widow Alice confirmed that my surmise was correct.
November 13. Emily’s parents returned to England (I gave them The Relevance of Rexroth). Met Sandy Feldheim (Detroit-Montreal friend of Lorraine and Fifth Estate). Hot chocolate at Place de Contrescarpe, then lunch at a Tibetan place. Small talk re France, language, the Ozarks, etc., then some debate re technology. She’s friends with Olivier of the Encyclopédie des Nuisances and has antitech leanings, but also enough common sense to reject Zerzan etc. Then to 2:30 meeting with Gérard Berréby at Allia. This time my pep talk re the Internet was apparently not very necessary as he’s already got an Allia website in the works and seems aware of the advantages. He gave me several situ-related texts he’s published — Wolman complete, Rumney, reeditions of Jorn, etc. To music store on Rue Réaumur to get a Trenet songbook with guitar chords. Quick Asian dinner and then to Montreuil zazen for the last time. Hardly anyone there, as most were off at a sesshin in Holland. I left a 100-franc donation with Michel. Home at 11:00. Chatted with Chad re George’s eccentricities and the store.
November 14. Slept again in the now-empty Writer’s Room. However, I decided it was best to leave today. Though George welcomed me the other day, he was a bit gruff today — I never know if it’s just his erratic humor or if he’s hinting I should leave. Ate at restaurant in the 8th Arrondissement, then went to the big Paris-Barcelona exhibit (Gaudí, Picasso, Miro, Dali, Picabia, etc.). Back to Shak & Co. Left most things in my suitcase there and moved out with a small bag of stuff — to André’s studio on Rue de Bagnolet. He gave me the key and showed me a few aspects of the place. Then I took Métro and train to Colombes for dinner with Jean and Andrea Pérès and their five-year-old daughter Marguérite. Did a few songs (English and French). Miscellaneous talk re Internet as making government secrecy difficult. Home after midnight.
November 15. Slept pretty well (had to turn on the heater all night as it was pretty cold). A few phone calls, then downtown. Internet café. Various other calls — Le Glou finally talked with Alice and we made an appointment for tomorrow. Late lunch, then to Shak & Co. to get my heavy suitcase and take it to Trillaud’s studio. Picked up Paris photos. To the Daligands’ for dinner. Talked re Internet, Deneverts and other old friends, Cosséry, Smullyan, their various trips (Korea, Guatemala, Africa, etc.). Showed them photos. Home after midnight.
November 16. Downtown. Internet café. Shak & Co. —
returned key to George and gave him one of the photos of him and others. Met
Magali for lunch near the Jardin de Luxembourg. Then met Luc Mercier and his
friend Olivier Galtier (a younger guy working with him translating Postone and
Krisis) for a coffee near the Tour Montparnasse (where Luc works). Showed
them photos (Luc knew a few of the people) then
continued the debate re the value or not of those big “Marxist” works that they
are involved with.
Briefly to Christian’s to pick up the remaining SI Anthologies and leave photos, then to rendezvous at Jacques Le Glou’s office. I was directed to a café next door, where Jacques was waiting with Alice* and Jean-Louis Rançon (another ex-GRCA member whom I’d met in 1971).** After a few preliminaries Alice let me know that they wanted me to translate all of Debord’s films. She confirmed my surmise that long ago Debord had been leery of me because of my association with Jean-Pierre Voyer and Daniel Denevert, but she considered that of little significance now. I noted the briefness of my connection with Voyer and my subsequent critiques of and distance from him, but said I refused to apologize for my past association with Daniel. She made a few contemptuous remarks about Daniel, but implied that while we differ in that regard, that presents no problem for her. Wanting to address any other potential problems, a gave her the French translation of my Religion pamphlet. She knew nothing about the pamphlet, but said that she did not insist on complete agreement as long as common projects were carried out well and in good faith. She mentioned, as examples, experiences good and bad she’d had with other translators in Italy and elsewhere. She said she prefers to delegate the matters of translation in a given language to a single reliable person — and in the case of English she’s decided that I’m that person. Granting that potential problems may arise, she said she’d give me carte blanche — I can do the film translations however I want to and she will give me any assistance I request in the way of documents and information. (Nothing was said about payment. My tentative notion is to do it without asking for anything, then if they like it they can give me whatever they feel is appropriate.) The first thing is to translate all the filmscripts for use in subtitling the films. Then a book publication would likely follow (they’ll look into that aspect). It was left that I’d communicate mainly via email with Jacques (since Alice doesn’t do email). We also briefly discussed various other people or topics, including Donald Nicholson-Smith, Greil Marcus, and the books on Debord by Len Bracken, Jean-Marie Apostolidès, and Vincent Kaufmann. She also described her position re copyright, saying that “real” pirate editions like mine were fine, but she wanted to stop commercial pseudopirates (though it was unclear how Martos would fit in the latter category).*** Some of her general tone and attitudes re certain people seem rather foreign to me, but if she’s willing to deal simply and openly re the translations, it’s fine with me. She also mentioned that John McHale (who I have heard from via email) is translating Véritable Scission. When I questioned his overliteral translation of Panegyric 2, she said that it was up to me to let them know if I didn’t find his work adequate. Jacques then gave me a huge poster from the Venice festival**** and I left.
Then off to Gare de Lyon to see François Lonchampt before he left to visit his parents. I told him about the Alice encounter. Then his friend Mireille Leonard showed up. We said goodbye to François, then she and I then had dinner nearby and continued talking — mainly her re her old relations with Paulette and the Deneverts, etc., then re her interests in Dravidian culture, Corsica, etc. Left her at 9:00 and went home, my head still bubbling with the mostly positive emotions of the Alice decision. Zazen before bed.
*Alice (Becker-Ho) Debord: Guy Debord’s partner and then wife from 1963 till his death in 1994; coauthor with him of Le Jeu de la Guerre (The Game of War) and herself author of several books, including a series on François Villon and the Gypsy origins of French slang. She coedited the massive eight-volume edition of Debord’s Correspondance (Fayard, 1999-2010) and was at the time of this meeting overseeing the relaunching of Debord’s films, which had not been publicly available since 1984.
**Jean-Louis Rançon and Jacques Le Glou had both been members of the situ group GRCA (1970-1971). Le Glou had subsequently produced an LP of revolutionary songs (including some by Raoul Vaneigem and Alice Becker-Ho): Pour en finir avec le travail: chansons du prolétariat révolutionnaire (1974), and had been involved in various aspects of cinema (acting, directing, distribution). Rançon was at this time in the process of editing the huge (1904 pages!) omnibus edition of Debord’s works, Oeuvres (Gallimard, 2006).
***Jean-François Martos had published his Correspondance avec Guy Debord in 1998. He was taken to court by Alice Debord and the publisher Fayard for infringing on Fayard’s contract with Alice to publish the multi-volume edition of Debord’s correspondence mentioned above. Martos lost and was forced to withdraw his book from circulation.
****To kick off her revival of Debord’s films, Alice had negotiated a dramatic retrospective of all six of his films at the 2001 Venice Film Festival.
November 17. Predictably irregular sleep as I mulled over the Alice encounter. Internet café, then to Van’s. He gave me his book on ancient China sects and revolts. Hélène showed up and we went out to lunch. Talk re technophobe issues, the Strasbourg scene (she was close to the Garnautins as well as to Khayati),* their Vietnam trip, etc. Van went back to his place for a nap, I walked and talked with Hélène, then we split and I went to Christian’s — to pick up Secretos a Voces copies that had just arrived (looks real nice) and to recount the Alice meeting to him in some detail. To Boul-Mich, where I got the latest photos developed while doing final shopping at Gibert Jeune (got a couple of Léon-Paul Fargue books). Lacking any dinner engagement, went to Shak & Co. and spent the rest of the evening chatting with Chad, Christiane, and Julia, and sharing a late small dinner they cooked up there. Talk re Chaplin films and re George’s eccentricities, which are beginning to really bug Julia and the others — e.g. he doesn’t want them to use the upstairs kitchen (hence we were on the 1st floor). Home at 11:00.
*See the SI’s Our Goals and Methods in the Strasbourg Scandal.
November 18. To Vincent’s and then to his girlfriend Valérie’s (just around the corner) for an early lunch. Talked with her re modern classical music (she’s an agent or organizer for that), a bit re the history of Zen, some repeats of the comments I made to François re the limits and ineffectiveness of the Cercle-type discussion (their pseudocritiques of Debord, etc.), and then re the Alice encounter. Then to Internet café, then met Noun and Caroline in front of Shak & Co. To a café. Talk with them re post-attentat — repeated basic points re nonnecessity (and noneffectiveness) of reacting to each bad development. Also briefly recounted Alice bit (they’d asked if I would return in spring for the new showings of the Debord films). Then back to Shak & Co. Sunday afternoon tea had already started upstairs. Got 50 of George’s brochures re Shak & Co. to take to City Lights. Several people to whom I’d mentioned the tea arrived — Vincent and Valérie and their English friend Olivia; Van and Hélène; Tommy, Sarah and Tonia; and finally Christian. We hung out in the Writer’s Room (the rest of the store was very crowded). I did several songs, then let them get to know each other — it turned out that Hélène knew a friend of Tommy’s; Vincent had wanted to meet Van; etc. Gave them all their photos. Also introduced Van to George, who suppressed his usual grouchiness and turned on all his charm. After most had left, Christian talked to Valérie and Vincent re Colombian politics etc. Then they left. Marta and Jacques showed up. We went to a nearby Turkish restaurant (Magali was supposed to join us, but never showed up). Said final goodbyes and split to our respective homes at 10:00. Called to confirm flight and found it leaves at 10:20 a.m. — three hours earlier than scheduled. So packed before bed.
November 19. Up early. André came by early as he also had to drop his daughter Justine at the high school. Then he took me to the airport. Told him about the Alice encounter. Read part of Van’s autobiography on the plane. Arrived at San Francisco at 3:00, home by 4:00. Loren and Nicole there. They went out for an hour while I showered and unpacked. When they came back, showed them photos and described the Alice encounter, then we went out to dinner at Juan’s Place. More talk re my trip, Spain, some of our mutual friends. Then they left. (Nicole flies back to Paris tomorrow.)
Account of Ken Knabb’s 2001 Paris trip.