(Books written or translated by Ken Knabb)
Collected Skirmishes of Ken Knabb
Bureau of Public Secrets, 1997
408 pages. $15.00
Ken Knabb is best known for his meticulous translations of numerous works by Guy
Debord and the Situationist International. Public Secrets
is a comprehensive collection of his own writings
over a period of three decades.
The first half of the book consists of two major new texts. The Joy of Revolution is a series of observations on the problems and possibilities of a global antihierarchical revolution. Beginning with a brief overview of the failures of Bolshevism and the inadequacies of reformism, it examines the pros and cons of a wide range of radical tactics, then concludes with some provocative speculations on what a liberated society might be like. Confessions of a Mild-Mannered Enemy of the State is largely concerned with Knabbs situationist activities, but it also includes reminiscences of the sixties counterculture and accounts of his Zen practice and other later ventures.
The second half of the book presents a variety of pamphlets, posters, comics, and articles on Wilhelm Reich, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, radical Buddhists, Japanese anarchists, Chinese dissidents, the 1970 Polish revolt, the 1979 Iranian uprising, and the 1991 Gulf war. The aim throughout is to bring the real choices into the open and to incite people to make their own radical experiments.
Revised and Expanded Edition
Edited and translated by Ken Knabb
Bureau of Public Secrets, 2006
532 pages. $20.00
In 1957 a few European avant-garde groups came together to form the
Situationist International. Picking up where the dadaists and surrealists had
left off, the situationists challenged people’s passive conditioning with
carefully calculated scandals and the playful tactic of détournement.
Seeking a more extreme social revolution than was dreamed of by most leftists,
they developed an incisive critique of the global
spectacle-commodity system and of its Communist pseudo-opposition, and their
new methods of agitation helped trigger the May 1968 revolt in France. Since
then (although the SI itself was dissolved in 1972) situationist theories and
tactics have continued to inspire radical currents all over the world.
The Situationist International Anthology is the most comprehensive and accurately translated collection of situationist writings in English. It presents a rich variety of articles, leaflets, graffiti, and internal documents, ranging from the situationists’ early experiments in psychogeography to their lucid analyses of the Watts riot, the Vietnam War, the Prague Spring, the Chinese “Cultural Revolution,” and other crises and upheavals of the sixties.
For this new edition the translations have all been fine-tuned and over 100 pages of new material have been added.
The Society of the Spectacle
Translated and annotated by Ken Knabb
Bureau of Public Secrets, 2014
150 pages. $15.00
The Society of the Spectacle, originally published in Paris in 1967, has been translated into more than twenty other languages and is arguably the most important radical book of
the twentieth century. This is the first edition in
to include extensive annotations, clarifying the historical allusions and
revealing the sources
of Debords détournements.”
Contrary to popular misconceptions, Debord’s book is neither an ivory tower philosophical discourse nor a mere expression of protest.” It is a carefully considered effort to clarify the most fundamental tendencies and contradictions of the society in which we find ourselves — in order to facilitate its overthrow. This makes the book more of a challenge, but it is also why it remains so pertinent more than half a century after its original publication, while countless other social theories and intellectual fads have come and gone.
It has, in fact, become more pertinent than ever, because the spectacle has become more all-pervading than ever — to the point that it is almost universally taken for granted. Most people today have scarcely any awareness of pre-spectacle history, let alone of anti-spectacle possibilities. As Debord noted in his follow-up work, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (1988), “spectacular domination has succeeded in raising an entire generation molded to its laws.”
Complete Cinematic Works
Translated and edited by Ken Knabb
AK Press, 2003
268 pages, 62 illustrations. $19.00
Guy Debord, founder of the Situationist International and
fomenter of the May 1968 revolt in France, was also the creator of six tantalizingly inaccessible films.
Following the still-unsolved assassination of the films’ producer in 1984, all
of them were withdrawn from circulation for nearly twenty years. This new
translation of Debord’s filmscripts (which Knabb was asked to make by Debord's
widow) was prepared to accompany the long-awaited
rerelease of these astonishing works.
Technically and aesthetically, Debord's films are among the most brilliantly innovative works in the history of the cinema. But they are no so much "works of art" as carefully calculated subversive provocations. One of the films is an adaptation of Debord’s own book, The Society of the Spectacle. Others evoke his adventures in the bohemian underworld of 1950s Paris, which he contrasts with the increasingly ignorant, ugly, and alienated world that has since been produced by modern capitalism. In each case Debord simultaneously attacks the film medium itself, challenging spectators to create their own adventures instead of passively consuming the pseudo-adventures that are presented to them.
Note: This book is temporarily out of print. It will probably be republished in 2024.
In the Crossfire: Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary
Edited by Ken Knabb and Hélène Fleury
Translated by Hélène Fleury, Hilary Horrocks, Ken Knabb, and Naomi Sager
AK Press, 2010
296 pages, 70 illustrations. $19.95
Although the Vietnam War is still well known, few people are
aware of the decades of struggles against the French colonial regime that
preceded it, many of which had no connection with the Stalinists (Ho Chi Minhs
Communist Party). The Stalinists were ultimately victorious, but only after they
systematically destroyed all the other oppositional currents. This book is the
story of these other movements and revolts, caught in the crossfire between the
French and the Stalinists, told by one of the few survivors.
Ngo Vans In the Crossfire is one of those rare books like Volines The Unknown Revolution or Orwells Homage to Catalonia that almost single-handedly unveil moments of hidden history sublime moments when people break through the bounds of the possible and strive to create a life worthy of their deepest dreams and aspirations.
The Relevance of Rexroth
Bureau of Public Secrets, 1990
88 pages. $5.00
A critical appreciation of the great poet, essayist, and social critic Kenneth Rexroth, who wryly described his main themes as sex, mysticism, and revolution, and who was the leading inspiration behind the San Francisco Renaissance of the fifties and sixties.
Note: The complete text of this small book is also included in Public Secrets.
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