(Paris, with side trips to Bergerac and Périgueux. Seven weeks.)
September 13. Up at 4:00 a.m. Oakland to Washington DC to Paris. On the plane read Molly Ivins’s Nothin’ But Good Times Ahead and half of a bio of Henry Adams.
September 14. Arrived in Paris 7:30 a.m. Shared a taxi with two German women. To Christian’s.* Chat with him re hurricane Katrina etc. plus gossip. With him to do a couple errands. Extremely tired, as I got only a couple hours sleep on the plane.
*My longtime friend Christian Camus (with his wife Marta and their son Jacques).
September 15. Slept 11 hours. Web. Quick game of chess with Christian. Various calls, making rendezvous for the weekend. Walked around Latin Quarter, Rue Mouffetard, lunch, Gibert [bookstore], etc. Christian and I to a jazz concert, but it was sold out, so we had a beer and talked re Henry Miller, Shakespeare & Co., etc. Home: port and more chess.
September 16. Took Christian and Marta out for breakfast. Web. Out for much of the afternoon, mostly to bookstores — Parallèles, Shakespeare & Co. (George remembered me), Actualités (Pierre ditto). Home, Jacques beat me at chess. To dinner with François Lonchampt and his wife Eunkyong. Pleasant evening. Talked re Korean culture, language, and how they met. They showed me photos of their wedding and a video series of earlier photos, I showed them Mountains & Rivers photos online and talked re Bush and Katrina, etc. François drove me home after midnight.
September 17. With Christian to play golf in a little public course in a suburb (joined by a third guy), then lunch at a Portuguese restaurant, then to a store where he bought a bunch of videos for Jacques. Home, then to meet Hélène Fleury at a bar whose bartender, Saïd, is a friend of hers. Talked re Van.* She left and I had a leisurely hour-and-a-half stroll to dinner at Hervé’s.** Also there, Jorge Valadas (“Charles Reeve”), Jorge’s wife Lore, and Christine (ex-girlfriend of Hervé). Talk re Katrina etc. plus their various projects (they argued a bit about an article on Palestine that Ab Irato is going to publish). Also re the Web, which they still use only rarely. Home at midnight.
*Hélène’s close friend Ngo Van had died in January 2005 at the age of 92. She and I later collaborated on a translation of his autobiography into English.
**Hervé Denès, one of the Insomniaque editors I had met during my previous Paris trip.
September 18. Web. Mateusz* over at 10:30. We went over several points in my Society of the Spectacle translation,** then we walked a lot, then a café stop, then a Chinese lunch and another café stop. Talk re Alice Debord (whom he’s been visiting). Home at 5:00. To a bar at 7:30 to hear a friend of Hélène’s, Karine Bucher, sing Fado songs (excellent). Lots of her friends there — mostly people in the Oiseau-Tempête circle, but also Mateusz, Hervé, Lola Miesseroff (a friend of Jim Brook’s), Michael Klett (ex-Processed World), Saïd, and many others. After the Fado songs, two guys sang some Beatles songs, then the patron [bar owner] served us all a fish and potatoes dinner on the house. Then I borrowed the Fado guitarist’s guitar and sang Brassens’s Villon ballade in French and then English,*** then some American folksongs (“Mean Mama,” “Miss the Mississippi,” “Hard Traveling,” and “Ol’ Hannah”). Seemed to go over really well. Many of the people there had heard of me before and I chatted with several of them. One guy was obnoxious about my Religion pamphlet (shouting in my face), but everyone else was friendly. Home at midnight.
*Mateusz Kwaterko, whom I had met in Warsaw in 1991 and then in Paris during my 2001 trip. He was in the process of translating a number of Debord texts into Polish, so he was closely examining my English translations to clarify the exact meanings of the texts.
**In 2002 I had posted my translation of Debord’s book The Society of the Spectacle on my website. The first print version was published in 2004 by Rebel Press (London) and over the next few years several other independent editions were published in various print and digital formats. Meanwhile I continued to fine-tune my website version, and in 2014 I published the first extensively annotated edition in any language of what I and many other people consider the most important radical book of the twentieth century.
***François Villon’s Ballade des Dames du Temps Jadis (Ballad of the Ladies of Bygone Times), set to music by Georges Brassens and translated into English by me. “Mean Mama” and “Miss the Mississippi” are by Jimmie Rodgers. “Hard Traveling” is by Woody Guthrie. “Ol’ Hannah” is a “field holler” or chain gang work song that I sing unaccompanied in imitation of this great performance by Doc Reese. (Ol’ Hannah is the sun, which the chain gang prisoners naturally hate and want to go down as soon as possible.)
September 19. Web. Lunch with Charles Puskas. Talk re Katrina, USA (he’s visited there several times for his computer work), Rexroth, Japan, etc. Back home, played French Scrabble with Jacques and Christian, then chess with Christian.
September 20. Web. Lunch in the 5th Arrondissement, then checked out a few places in Leonard Pitt’s book.*
*Promenades dans le Paris disparu (English edition: Walks Through Lost Paris). It shows side-by-side photos of Paris views ca. 1850 and present, so you can see the often drastic changes made in the interim, especially by Baron Haussmann’s renovations of 1853-1870.
September 21. Web. Packed and took a taxi to André Trillaud’s extra studio, where I’ll be staying the rest of my trip. It seems very nice, more fixed up than last time.* Unpacked and arranged my stuff, then went grocery shopping (granola, yogurt, etc.). Brief nap, then to Montparnasse where I met Éric Rommeluère (Zen Occidental teacher) and his student-friend Olivier Porte (a friend of Jérôme Waag’s who’s been at Tassajara).** They treated me to a drink and then a nice Indian dinner. Questions re my Zen and situ trajectory, and comparison of Buddhist practices in the two countries, etc.
*André had loaned me this same apartment during part of my previous Paris trip.
**Jérôme Waag (a French friend whom I’d met in the Zen scene in California) had helped me translate my critiques of engaged Buddhism into French, and those translations had brought me into contact with the Parisian Zen teacher Éric Rommeluère.
September 22. Zazen (for the first time this trip). Read a few short texts of Trillaud’s. He came over at noon and we had a coffee at the café downstairs. Talk re his publications, the Web, etc. He left. A bit later I went out and ran into him again at another outdoor café where he was proofreading. To an Internet café to check email. Home, more reading of Trillaud pamphlets. Then to a party celebrating the latest issue of Oiseau-Tempête.* Around 50 people, including Hélène, Charles Puskas, Nicole Thirion, Jorge Valadas, Lore, Henri Simon, Gilles Houssard, Jackie Reuss (American), Raoul Victor (Venezuelan), Lola Miesseroff, Claude Guillon (who has his own site and agrees on the value of the Web), Karine and several others I’d seen at her concert.** Potluck food and wine and lots of talking and singing. Karine sang some Fado songs, then insisted that I do the Brassens-Villon “Ballade,” which again went over very well. Not only does everyone love Brassens, but they are very impressed by the fact that a foreigner is familiar with him, even if they probably chuckle to themselves about my poor French accent. Home at midnight.
*Oiseau-Tempête: revue de critique sociale: a radical journal published 1997-2006 by “a collective of a dozen individuals with varied perspectives, inspired by anarchist, Marxist, situationist and surrealist ideas.” PDFs of all thirteen issues can be found here.
**Many of the people mentioned in passing in these diaries are or were of some radical notoriety. There are too many to explain in each case, but among those at this gathering, for example, Henri Simon was a member of the Socialisme ou Barbarie and I.C.O. groups in the 1950s and 1960s; Jorge Valadas (exiled from fascist Portugal in 1967) is the author of several books on Portugal, China, etc. (under the pseudonym Charles Reeve); Claude Guillon is the author of numerous books, including the notorious Suicide: mode d’emploi (How to Commit Suicide); Lola Miesseroff is the author of Voyage en outre-gauche: Paroles des francs-tireurs des annees 68 (reminiscences of the May 1968 era).
September 23. Reading and a few phone calls. Webmail — spent a couple hours catching up, including emailing new Paris contacts. Turkish sandwich for late lunch. Strolled around the Belleville area, ending up at an enclosed outdoor café* where I passed a pleasant hour or two with a tarte and a chartreuse. Home at 10:30.
*I.e. it was in a courtyard surrounded by buildings, but it had no roof. It was a very pleasant ambience, but when I tried to go there again I couldn’t remember exactly where it was and never succeeded in finding it.
September 24. To Christian’s. With him and Jacques to an indoor squash court (because it was sprinkling). Couldn’t find a parking place, so then to a tennis court (by this time it had stopped raining). Courts were full, but we played for 45 minutes against a wall. Sandwich at a bakery. Checked email back at Christian’s, then to Clignancourt flea market. Didn’t get anything, but browsed a lot of French LPs and CDs. Home. Met André and his wife Cathérine at a bar-café to see a woman friend of theirs do some South Indian dances. Then with them and another friend of theirs, Simone (East German originally, whose husband wrote a book about dying of cancer), to a late couscous dinner.
September 25. André over to deal with an answering-machine problem. Webmail. Walked to Bastille — outdoor lunch there. More walking, including the Musée de Carnavalet (Paris history), and then around the Les Halles/Marais area. Bus home from the Louvre. Call from Jean-François Lepez — he’s recovering from a treatment; we’ll see each other later. At a nearby outdoor café-restaurant had a panaché* and then dinner while reading and watching passersby.
*panaché (in England called a “shandy”): a mixture of beer and carbonated lemonade. Since I’m a pretty light drinker, particularly during the day, I would often have this when I was with French friends who were stopping at different places for a drink.
September 26. Webmail. To Philippe Mortimer and Nadège’s for lunch in Bagnolet [a Paris suburb]. Talk re his publications, possibility of him publishing Rexroth’s Communalism,* use of the Web, etc. Home, then to Éric’s Zen center in the 13th Arrondissement — a little room he rents for two evenings a week. About a dozen people showed up. Two 30-minute zazen periods and two kinhins,** then Éric answered a few questions and made some general remarks. Afterwards he and Olivier and I had a late Vietnamese soup dinner. Home at 11:00.
*Communalism: From Its Origins to the Twentieth Century (1974), Kenneth Rexroth’s history of millenarian movements and utopian communities. This very interesting book is long out of print, but I have posted the complete text here.
**kinhin: very slow walking meditation to stretch the legs between periods of sitting cross-legged.
September 27. Webmail. Met André briefly at noon (he brought two volumes of Debord Correspondance he’d got me at a discount from Fayard). Lunch at Japanese restaurant on the corner. Then bus to Bastille and the rest of the day browsing various record and book stores in the 5th Arrondissement. Light dinner there, then home at 9:30.
September 28. Brief webmail, then to Le Glou’s office in the 13th Arrondissement. He gave me a brochure re the forthcoming DVDs and showings.* While talking on the phone with someone re subtitling, he had learned that there may be a problem with the copyright permissions of the video.** But assuming that that is worked out, he seemed to understand my concern to be involved with the subtitling. He’ll see Alice and call me next week. Strolled through the 13th Arrondissement (including Rue Fagon and the Jardin des Plantes) and the 5th (lunch), then more strolling and browsing there and then on the Right Bank. Home at 5:30. Webmail. Cheap and mediocre Vietnamese dinner across the street. Back home reading the rest of the evening.
*DVDs and showings of Guy Debord’s films, which had been out of circulation for twenty years. Following my meeting with Alice Debord and Jacques Le Glou during my 2001 trip, I had translated Debord’s Complete Cinematic Works (AK Press, 2003). This translation was in part intended to establish a definitive text for English subtitles, but at this time such subtitling had not yet been done.
**Guy Debord, son art et son temps, a video produced just before Debord’s death by Debord and Brigitte Cornand.
September 29. Reading (mostly Debord Correspondance Vol. 4). Vietnamese soup for lunch. More reading. Tunisian takeout sandwich for dinner. More reading, then early to bed as I’ve got a bit of a cold.
September 30. Webmail, then to Christian’s. Jacques’s teenage cousin Jero is now staying there. Out to lunch with Christian — Chinese restaurant. Talk re my visit so far, and his to Algeria. Chess with him, then back home at 5:00.
October 1. Packed. Métro to Montparnasse station. Train 12:15, arriving in Bergerac at 5:30. To Joël and Nadine’s bookstore. Then with Nadine to pick up Gabrielle and a friend at a horseriding class. To their house. Talked some in English with Gabrielle, who has studied it a bit but doesn’t understand the spoken language very well. Good dinner, chat re their bookstore, their recent moves, US politics, and some riddles from Gabrielle.
October 2. Much discussion with Joël re the positive potentials of the Web. He, Nadine, and I to a nearby castle and hiking and climbing area. Back — nap and reading. Over dinner more talk re decline of education, culture, etc.
October 3. Took Joël and Nadine to a nice little Bergerac restaurant for lunch. Then we went to Plum Village.* Unofficially — it wasn’t one of its open-to-the-public days, but we strolled around discreetly and only saw a few people and nobody questioned our presence. Then back to town to pick up Gabrielle after her school. In the evening watched some TV news and Gabrielle showed me the “Charlie” book again. I also read French versions of some Hermann Hesse articles on classic literature.
*An international rural retreat center headed by the Vietnamese Buddhist teacher and author Thich Nhat Hanh.
October 4. Nadine up early to take Gabrielle to school, then to the bookstore. Joël and I up later. I read more Hesse etc. We went to town around noon and I took them to a crêpe restaurant across the street, then hung out in the bookstore. Joël Camous and Cathérine picked me up midafternoon and drove me to their place. Songs with Joël while Cathérine cooked — I did the Brassens-Villon ballade and “Miss the Mississippi,” and made some not very successful efforts at a few other Brassens and Trenet songs, and he played some records (Django etc.). Dinner. Cathérine talked to me re some spiritual movement that she’s interested in.
October 5. Cathérine working in her studio in the morning, then teaching midafternoon, but I had lunch with her. A few other song-related discussions with Joël. During lunch described Bush phenomena. Afternoon with Joël to get train ticket, then spent an hour at an Internet café showing him my site and a few other Web things. Then we drove to Dominique’s for dinner with her and her 13-year-old son Joseph. Over dinner Dominique and Joël discussed their old times in Paris, and house-finding issues. Joël and Cathérine returned to their home at 9:30. I stayed at Dominique’s.
October 6. Up at 7:30. She’d already taken Joseph to school. Over croissants, tea, etc., I asked her more about Joseph, her family, mutual Paris friends, then described Web possibilities once they get their Internet connection working again. We briefly strolled through the city of Périgueux — her bakery, the old quarter, then she dropped me at the train station at noon. Train to Limoges, then to Paris, arriving at 5:30. Home, unpacked, washed clothes, shopped, got a Lebanese sandwich, then went to bed early.
October 7. A bit of zazen for the first time in ten days. Webmail 10:00-12:00, then home, then to Saïd’s bar-restaurant to meet some Oiseau-Tempête folks — Hélène, Guy G. (surrealist, had read my Rexroth book), Karine, Géraldine, Claude G., Sabrina, Gilles, André (the latter a friend of Nick Brandt’s whom I’d met eight years ago). Over lunch various discussions. I took part in one re antitechs, Zerzan, etc. André seemed sort of antitech, the others more mixed (e.g. they were anti-Nuisances, but interested in Ellul).* Stayed three hours, then home, then more Web (catching up after a week’s absence). Mostly I composed a somewhat lengthy letter to around 100 friends. Sent it to a good portion of them, but it’s a tedious process — I have to individually copy and paste each email address and sometimes a letter to a batch of them (the webmail site only allows a dozen or so addresses at once) doesn’t get sent and I have to do it over.** Anyway, I think it’s a pretty good general summing up of my trip so far, accessible to friends of diverse levels of awareness of Paris and what I’m up to.
*I.e. they were critical of the antitech position of the Encyclopédie des Nuisances group, but interested in the more nuanced critique of technology by author Jacques Ellul.
**These kinds of email hassles are among the reasons I appreciate Facebook (despite its various obvious downsides). In the same situation today I would simply make a series of FB posts (including photos) and virtually all of my friends — at least the ones who are on FB, which is most of them — would see them.
October 8. Webmail. Met Luc Mercier and Olivier and lunched at a nice Tunisian restaurant in the Latin Quarter. Long and generally pleasant conversation. They’re still into the Krisis/Postone etc. trip, though apparently not so fanatically as last time. I gave extensive description of the Bush era. Some disagreement re the Web (they’re not really against it, but have been slow to use it). Dropped off photos. To Ivréa. Valentin was not there, but I chatted with his American secretary, who is horrified by Bush. Picked up photos. To Montreuil where Oiseau-Tempête and others were welcoming a visit from a radical Italian band and singing group — first gathering in a park, then marching down the street a few blocks to the Insomniaque building (which they’re just about to move out of).* Around 200 people crowded into several large rooms, with tons of food and drinks and constant music on a stage — mostly choruses in various genres, but also Karine’s Fado songs, a Neapolitan singer, and a classical choir with Hervé. I hung out there from 7:00 to 11:30 despite the heavy noise, smoke, and crowdedness. Chatted with Gilles, his girlfriend Pascal, Hervé, Philippe M. (re his Rexroth project), Charles Puskas, and briefly with several others. Walked home, arriving at midnight.
*Insomniaque Editeur still exists, but in a different Paris location.
October 9. Met Vincent and Valérie, who took me to lunch at an outdoor restaurant around the corner. In addition to recounting miscellaneous personal items, I gave them some of my usual run-through of the Bush era.* They stopped by to see my studio, then left. Webmail. As the bulk email sending continued not to work, I ended up sending individual messages — to close to 100 people in all. Called Lonchampt and he talked about his friends (who have become somewhat estranged) and about the bookstores where he’s left a few of my books.
*The Trump presidency has tended to make people forget just how insane and despicable the Bush presidency was. Although my European friends were generally aware of (and astonished by) what was going on under Bush, there were many things they were not aware of, or at least had a hard time believing, so I spent some time filling them in. (“Is it really true that . . .” “Well, actually it's even crazier than that. Get this . . .”)
October 10. Up at 6:30 and to Christian’s. We took a train to a region south of Paris and hiked all day — through farms, small villages, and forests. Talking much of the time — re his youth, Henry Adams, Debord correspondence, life of Jesus and early Christianity, and all sorts of other things. Except for stopping for a sandwich at 11:00, and three or four brief stops on the trail, we walked constantly, probably around 15 miles altogether. I was utterly exhausted on the train back to Paris, but at home I found a dinner invitation from André (back early from Provence), who said that Matou (Alain Montesse) would also be there, so I showered and joined them, but without the energy to contribute much to the conversation. Wine at their apartment, then couscous at L’Abribus (just down the street). I left early (10:00).
October 11. Webmail. To Christian’s. Talk re Céline, etc. Chess. To the Daligands’. Also there: Jean Pérès. Very pleasant evening and delicious dinner. Talk re Deneverts, my experience with Alice Debord, US politics, their jobs and nearing retirement, etc. Home at 1:00.
October 12. Met Jean-François Lepez in Belleville. He took me to a Chinese restaurant for lunch, then we had coffee outdoors. Talk re his health, old times in Paris and USA, my experiences here (I showed him two sets of photos). He gave me today’s Libération, which has several articles on Debord’s films (In girum to play this week, the other five starting next week). Brief webmail, then to Left Bank to buy In girum tickets, then to Village Voice bookstore. Talked with Michael Neal re Debord films and book. He introduced me to a worker there and a customer, both of whom are really interested in Rexroth. Chatted with them. Then grabbed a crêpe and met Vincent and Valérie at the Saint-Michel fountain. Ice cream, then to the film. Karine was also there. Afterwards the four of us went to a café and discussed the film for a couple hours, including me explaining certain points, but Vincent and Karine also talking quite a bit re the terrorism/conspiracy aspects. Home at midnight.
October 13. Webmail. Met André at the Piston café. He’d gotten me a reduced-price Volume 5 of Debord’s Correspondance. At the apartment he and a carpenter guy fixed the bathroom leak. To Michèle Bernstein’s apartment for tea.* Warm and pleasant conversation. She did most of the talking — re Debord and her early days with him, Chtcheglov,** etc., critiques of later aspects of the situationist scene (she said the situs became more “authoritarian,” sometimes “délirants”). And re her subsequent life — after 25 years living in England, she now divides her time between Paris and Normandy. She’ll be out of town the rest of the month, but she invited me to her place in Normandy next time I’m in France. I left and wandered the 5th Arrondissement for a couple hours, then had a late couscous dinner at L’Abribus.
*Michèle Bernstein: One of the founders of the Situationist International, in which she participated for ten years (1957-1967). Wife of Guy Debord during the 1950s and early 1960s and author of two novels loosely based on their relationship (Tous les chevaux du roi and La Nuit), both of which have been translated into English. During my translation and annotation of Debord’s filmscripts, Michèle had answered a number of my questions regarding some of the more obscure allusions in his early films. Here she is back in 1960 being interviewed about her first novel. And here is a transcribed interview from just a few years ago.
**Ivan Chtcheglov, the visionary adventurer with whom Debord made many of his pioneering “psychogeographical” explorations and experiments in the early 1950s; author of Formularly for a New Urbanism.
October 14. Webmail. To Centre Pompidou for a huge Dada exhibition — thousands of paintings, posters, manuscripts, photos, etc. In front of the Centre I also saw a Mongolian throat-singing group. To Éric Rommeluère’s to talk with him and Jean Delpech (up for the weekend from Marseilles). Jean was very eager to meet me, having discovered my critiques of engaged Buddhism on the Web. It seems that there is virtually no engaged Buddhist movement in France. I made some suggestions about how to act in isolation. They went to prepare a place for a weekend sesshin and I returned home. Finished Vol. 4 of Debord’s Correspondance.
October 15. Hélène called — we’ll get together soon. Webmail. To Tommy Mittelstädt and family (Sarah, daughter Tonia, and new son Jonas). Lunch there. Talk re their work, etc. With them to the Jardin des Plantes, first for a sort of lecture-demonstration re thyroid effects on frogs and mice, then a stroll in the zoo, then a merry-go-round. Dinner at a restaurant near Place d’Italie — talk re U.S. politics, Zen practice, literature (notably my recent Gateway list), etc. Home at 10:00.
October 16. Webmail. To Publico anarchist bookstore. Used book sale outside plus some events inside. Talked briefly to the manager — they still carry my books, which sell occasionally. Bought several books, including a huge one about Brassens with lots of photos. Rain temporarily interrupted the outdoor sale. Karine, Ingrid, Gwenola, and Hélène showed up. We went off to have a sandwich. They talked — especially Hélène re her early 60s experiences with FLN members,* etc. Back briefly to the bookstore, then I left to go to a music drama based on Prévert and Mac Orlan songs. Enjoyed it. Walked to Chartier for dinner, where I shared a table with a young Korean couple on their honeymoon. Since they knew no French, I gave them François and Eunkyong’s number in case they need help or want advice during their Paris visit. A German physicist sat across from me, also friendly. Home at 10:00.
*I.e. members of the Algerian Front de Libération National during the revolt against France (1954-1962).
October 17. To Jacques Le Glou’s office at 11:00.
Also there: Alice Debord, Olivier Assayas, Patrick Mosconi, and Sonia Buchman
(Gaumont Video).* Rapid and lively discussion for two hours. Each contributed
some important points/ideas. Olivier talked the most. It was generally
recognized that I am an essential part of the next step — to do and/or verify
the subtitling. And that this will be not only for the English version, but also
serve as a model for procedures into other languages. The idea of dubbing was
floated, but quickly rejected for the moment. Much discussion of possible
difficulties of fitting the subtitles into the allotted space and time. I
maintained that this would not be that much of a problem except in a few rare
instances, and absolutely rejected the idea of abridging Debord’s text so make
the subtitling easier. It was agreed to leave the Cornand video aside for the
moment, since it’s less essential, harder to translate, and also poses possible
copyright issues (though they are prepared to risk the latter for the French
edition). They’re going to examine the previous Society of the Spectacle
English film version (produced by Keith Sanborn) since I said the subtitles worked pretty well in it. Le Glou
will call me tomorrow morning to hopefully hook me up with a Paris subtitling
professional so that I can do some test passages and see what sort of problems
there may be. It seems pretty certain that they will assume responsibility for
the subtitling (not the eventual American distributor, as I’d feared) and will
pay a reasonable amount for my translation work.** Le Glou and Olivier were
particularly explicit in stating that my versions and my expertise were crucial,
but everyone seemed to agree. Alice invited me to her place this Saturday
evening (John McHale will also be there, and perhaps some others). All in all,
very encouraging and exciting, even if I’m a bit nervous about the responsibility
of the subtitling.
To Hélène’s (nearby) for lunch. Talk re Van, her history with some of her other friends, the Debord film meeting, etc. She gave me a few unpublished pages Van had written about me, but they were mostly just a resumé of parts of my autobiography. To Allia to see Berréby. This meeting was also friendly and rapid — a half-hour talk re his and my projects, Michèle Bernstein, etc. I asked him if he’d considered publishing a French version of Public Secrets. He said he hadn’t thought of it, but would look it over again (he knows that Michèle loves it). Home. Brief email check. Back to Allia (I’d left my jacket there), then to meet Lonchampt at Châtelet fountain. We had a drink, then a Chinese dinner. Talk from 7:00 till 11:00 p.m. — re his bad past experiences with certain radical milieux, questions of how feasible (or not) it would be to maintain a society of “abundance” right after a revolution, solo vs. collective practice, his experiences in Korea, etc. Home at midnight.
*Olivier Assayas: French film director and critic who had organized the Gaumont DVD edition of Guy Debord’s complete films. Patrick Mosconi: French novelist and screenwriter who was working with Alice Debord editing Guy Debord’s collected correspondence, as well as on the distribution of Debord’s films.
**Although I was under this impression, ultimately I was never paid anything for the year and a half I spent working on Debord’s Complete Cinematic Works except for a few hundred dollars’ worth of free copies from the American publisher. So the Debord film translations turned out to have been purely a labor of love (as has also been the case with virtually all my other writings and translations). I had hoped to make a little money in this particular case, but I was delighted to tackle this project regardless, and do not regret the time it took me to do it as well as possible.
October 18. Hung around waiting for Le Glou to call — postponed till later in the day. Webmail. Met Christian at a billiard parlor near Place Clichy. We shot pool for an hour, then walked and talked awhile. Long wait while I cashed some traveler’s checks, then to his place — dinner, chess, guitar playing. He copied my photo CDs onto his computer. Home at 9:00.
October 19. Webmail. More postponement from Le Glou, who says we have to wait for a “timed” copy from Italy (which is virtually required for doing subtitles). To an old address for Éditions Mille et Une Nuits — no longer there. To Latin Quarter. Got third photo roll developed. Bought some used French song CDs and some books at Gibert Joseph. Tunisian lunch. Met Karine and Ingrid at showing of Debord’s three shorts. The first two, which I’d never seen, are very nice.* Afterwards at two different cafés we had drinks and discussed the films and related issues re situ history and strategy; and also the Dada exhibit. Ingrid complained (mildly) that I talked too much. Home after 10:00.
October 20. Webmail. Called Irénée Lastelle (Éditions Sulliver). Though he said he is currently overwhelmed with texts to publish and personal problems, he expressed definite interest in publishing at least a selection of Public Secrets. Asked me to send a proposed selection and he would send me a contract if it looked good to him. He also said he had a small task for me re the translation of Mumford’s book on Melville. Made 5 copies of French Joy of Revolution. Left one + Public Secrets with Éditions Mille et Une Nuits. To Christian’s. Brief basketball with him, Jacques, and Jero. Home, pizza dinner, then to Oiseau-Tempête meeting. Present: George Reeve, David, Babette, Ingrid, Karine, Sabina, Daniel, Gilles, Hélène, Fredo, and a few others. After dealing with miscellaneous business, they shifted to me. I spoke a few minutes re my political trajectory, including the Religion pamphlet. The latter issue dominated almost the entire discussion (8:30-11:30). Reasonably friendly, though some of them posed questions or responses indicating incomprehension. Home at midnight. Finished bio of Henry Adams.
October 21. The Mille et Une Nuits woman called, saying I needed to provide her with more “précisions.”* The conversation was confused — I wasn’t sure just what she wanted. Her tone did not sound very favorable, but I said I’d send her some such brief “presentation” of the text/project. Drafted a letter to her, which I sent to Christian to check. Then to Saïd’s bar-restaurant for lunch with Hélène, Karine, Géraldine, Sabina, and Gilles. Back home, incorporated Christian’s suggested revisions into the letter and sent it to the 1001 Nuits woman. Then to the cinema just in time to join Karine and Sabina in watching La Société du Spectacle. Afterwards went with Karine to a café where she had a rendezvous with two friends to discuss the Society of the Spectacle book. I joined them (reading aloud and discussing, sentence by sentence, the last portion of the “Time and History” chapter).** They then went to dinner (9:30) and I took a long walk home, drifting somewhat out of the way and arriving at 11:30.
*I.e. more specifics about my proposal that they publish the French version of The Joy of Revolution.
**Inspired by this experience, I have since then facilitated several similar group discussions of Debord’s book and other situationist texts in the Bay Area.
October 22. Webmail. To Porte de Vanves used book fair much of the afternoon, though I didn’t get anything. Home. To Alice Debord’s for dinner. Also there: John McHale, Jean-Louis Rançon (ex-GRCA guy who was with Alice and Le Glou four years ago), Vanessa (a rather young Greek culture critic), and Jeanne and Clara (the latter two helped Alice with the cooking but didn’t say much during the dinner). McHale was friendlier than I had expected (considering that I’d sharply criticized his translations). The dinner was delicious and the conversation was lively and wide-ranging. Toward the end of the evening, as we were savoring some superb liqueurs, Alice played several musical selections: Morelli singing Villon, a Greek singer, Albanians in Calabria, American blues, etc. When the gathering was over, Alice gave me photocopies of lists of subtitles in the original Debord films and also a copy of McHale’s translation of her Les Princes du Jargon. I’ll see her at least once more, after connecting with Le Glou on Monday. Walked home, arriving a bit after 2:00 a.m.
October 23. Webmail. To Alain Tizon’s. Bus to Vincennes park, where we walked around lakes, then sat on a bench talking — re US politics, his separation from François and Vincent, his life (traveling, poetry, etc.). To an outdoor café, then walked back to our respective homes. Ate dinner at the Bulgarian restaurant just in front — a bit steep (15 euros) but pretty good.
October 24. Le Glou says the Italian item is yet to arrive, but he thinks we can work out some sort of procedure. Webmail. To Hélène’s. Lunch at nearby restaurant — talk re Van, translations, etc. She leaves town tomorrow. Got a couple books at Gibert, then met Jordi Vidal and his wife Andrienne near Châtelet. He seemed quite open, mellowed out but still engaged. He gave me his two recent books and talked re himself and others in alternative media networks. Said he now agrees with my nuanced position about religion (he’s studied various Oriental systems). He’s also quite optimistic re the Web. An agreeable encounter. They went off to dinner at Matou’s (who had given him my number). I walked home, stopping for a Portuguese soup on the way. Home, returned Jean Pérès’s call — they’re leaving town tomorrow, so we can’t meet again.
October 25. Webmail. Dropped French Joy of Revolution at Allia (suggesting to his assistant that they consider publishing that in lieu of a larger Public Secrets collection), then met Paulette Cudek at the hospital where she works. Lunch at a nearby restaurant. Talk re the Deneverts, Chico Alves, and other old mutual friends. Walked to Latin Quarter. Bought VCR and DVD editions of The Society of the Spectacle (Prigent’s British copy of Sanborn’s subtitled version) for Le Glou. Bookstore browsing. Home at 7:00. Ate a light Japanese dinner.
October 26. Webmail. Met Nicole Thirion at her work and went to lunch at Chartier. Talk re her revue, US politics, etc. To Alain’s to give him a few email/Web tips. Unfortunately I couldn’t figure out how to get out of his Wanadoo framework so as to use real URLs, so I wasted a lot of time, then he had to go visit a friend who’d had an accident. Home, then to Latin Quarter. Chatted briefly with the guy at Un Regard Moderne (who continues to stock my books) and left a copy of Complete Cinematic Works at a film bookstore next to the Hautefeuille cinema. Met Jordi and Andrienne in front of the Hautefeuille cinema. I waited outside while they went in to see Greil Marcus, but they thought his “presentation” of In girum did not amount to much. Christopher Yggdre, a young friend of Jordi’s who is also involved with film, joined us. To an Italian restaurant. I just had a little wine while they ate. Talk re possible collective housing in Paris as solution to rising prices; and re films and related networking. Jordi again brought up some religion issues, and we discussed Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, etc. Home at 11:30.
October 27. To Le Glou’s office. I posed the possibility of my doing the subtitles myself on my computer (assuming I could obtain a good program for doing that). He agreed that I could look into that, but also arranged a meeting for me with Claude Dupuys, a professional subtitler. To Bastille café to meet Lepez. Talk, then lunch at a nice outdoor Provençal restaurant, then he took me on an interesting and rather long stroll through the Marais (where he was raised) and along the Seine, then coffee near the Boul-Mich fountain.* Then I went to meet Claude Dupuys in Malekoff (banlieu). I posed my idea of doing the subtitles myself, but he convinced me that they could do it much easier and faster — and just as well since I would be able to check their final copy, as well as communicate re any problems that emerge. Since it is understood by all that my translation is the master text, I think the project will probably proceed well. And of course it saves me an immense amount of work and headaches. On the Métro home bumped into Fredo (who I’d met at the Oiseau-Tempête meeting). Pleasant conversation re different cultures (e.g. different manners of driving). Home, called Le Glou re the subtitling meeting. Met Vincent at the café on the corner. Talk re I Ching, Taoism, the Debord films, etc. Valérie joined us , then they went off to do some errands while I checked webmail, then we met again for a late couscous dinner at L’Abribus, outside (weather still very temperate). Described the Plamegate scandal (now on the verge of indictments) for them. Home a bit before midnight.
*This was the last time I saw Jean-François Lepez. He died a year later.
October 28. Webmail. Called Alice — 4:00 rendezvous. Started sorting books (to read or to pack). Walked to Alice’s. Over some wine, I described the encounter with the subtitling guy and the decision re later collaboration on that project. She gave me a lavish Debord portfolio and a couple other rare memorabilia. I gave her Les Classiques Revisités, additional copies of several of my publications, and copies I’d made of some online articles about Janet Margolin (the David and Lisa actress she had mentioned liking).* The encounter was generally friendly, though I remain a bit guarded, and probably she does too. She agreed that communicating by email c/o Le Glou will be fine (since she doesn’t do email). Walked to Latin Quarter, picking up the copy of Complete Cinematic Works I’d loaned to the cinema store next to Hautefeuille. Ran into Luc and Olivier and chatted a few minutes. To Lonchampt’s. Gave him French translations of Gary Snyder poems, Tu Fu poems, Whitman poems, and Joko Beck Zen talks. With him and Eunkyong to a Japanese restaurant and ate outside. Long talk (7:30-midnight) re the films, old situ manners (partly to explain to Eunkyong), Freud and subsequent psychologies (Jung, Adler, Reich, Berne, Gestalt, and Eli Siegel), the Jared Diamond book [Guns, Germs, and Steel], my relations at home, French poets, etc. Home at 1:00.
*At her dinner party Alice had mentioned that Debord’s film In girum has a couple of brief clips from David and Lisa (1962 film by Frank Perry, with Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin, based on the book Lisa and David by Theodore Isaac Rubin). I was pleased to learn of this because the film and the book were both special favorites of mine. The clips Debord detourned are from Lisa’s anguished escapade near the end of the film: 1:24-1:28. (See Complete Cinematic Works, pp. 162 and 164.)
October 29. To Éric R’s for breakfast and chat. Talk re Mountains & Rivers sesshins — he’d indicated an interest in them when I suggested that he visit California. Then to Bercy for an afternoon of the Paris Masters tennis tournament — in this case just the initial qualifying rounds. Walked home. Webmail. Being free for the evening, called Karine, but she was busy. I declined her offer for me to write something for Oiseau-Tempête.* Strolled around Belleville but didn’t find any restaurant that both struck my fancy and was cheap, so ended up back at the pizza place around the corner. While in Belleville, dropped photos and a couple books (Van’s Vietnamese folk stories and Zen Flesh, Zen Bones) in Tommy and Sara’s mailbox.
*I usually don’t write pieces specifically for a publication. Instead, anyone is free to reprint or excerpt any of my writings that they find of interest (they are all noncopyright).
October 30. Talked to Christian (just back from south France). Webmail. Train to Évelyne Bloch-Dano’s. Her husband Pierre still in Normandy, but their two kids were there: Lisa (21) and Benjamin (17). We chatted all afternoon, first outside, then around the dinner table — re the Debord film project, her biographies (lately, Madame Proust and Flora Tristan) and her journal-novel idea, re various films and writers (including Doris Lessing and Barbara Pym), etc. With her to the latest Woody Allen film, Match Point. Somewhat intriguing, but with all sorts of the typical trendy aspects that I dislike in most modern films. We discussed it afterwards over dinner (which her children had prepared in our absence). A very pleasant day. Home at 11:00.
October 31. Hélène (still out of town) called to say goodbye. Christopher Yggdre (Jordi’s friend) dropped by to give me DVDs of Watkins films. Webmail. Took André to lunch at L’Abribus — I thanked him for the use of the studio and summed up my Paris activities. To Alain’s to give him another quick Internet lesson (this time more fruitful, re using search engines). To Boul-Mich for final CD and book purchases. Reached Karine’s cell phone and met her and a friend briefly at a bar near Beaubourg — gave her Complete Cinematic Works. To Christian’s. Chess with him and with Jacques, the latter beating me for the second time.* Dinner. Talk re the film subtitling issues. Home at 11:00.
*Jacques was only ten years old, but he had already been playing chess at national school tournaments.
November 1. Final packing. Brief webmail. Christian picked me up at noon and drove me to the airport. Once there, we discovered that my flight had left this morning (I had not receive any notice of the change). They gave me a replacement ticket for American Airlines — which required driving to a different terminal. Once there, I got through the baggage check, then they said my ticket wasn’t valid (United should have added or done something more). It was apparent that there would not be time to return to the other terminal to get it corrected. But one of the workers took us to another desk where two other workers finally arranged it okay — just in time for me to get on the plane (also going to Chicago, in time for my original United connection to Oakland). On the plane, finished Vol. 5 of Debord’s Correspondance — which makes over 1100 pages of his letters that I read during the trip. At the Chicago airport ran into Mark B. (a Berkeley Zen Center guy who’s been on some of our Mountains & Rivers sesshins), and once we arrived in Oakland I got a ride home with the person who came to pick him up.
Account of Ken Knabb’s 2005 Paris trip.