Debord and Jorn’s ‘Mémoires’ – Facsimile Translation

March 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

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Someone, whose name I don’t know, has produced a facsimile translation of Debord and Jorn’s 1959 collaborative book Mémoires. The second of the duo’s détourned book projects, famous for its sandpaper cover – an idea later nicked by Tony Wilson for a Durutti Column album – it’s great to see this in a translated form at last.

It’s been a few years now since I first encountered it in facsimile, in the original French, I remember being struck by quite how visually attractive this object was, given that I had encountered it as something long held up as an extremist epitome of anti-art. Having since, I think, come to a better understanding of the SI, I can now see that assumption for what it was – the result of my main exposure to the SI having coming through the apparently ‘Debordist’ rhetoric of puritanical pro-situs, possessively policing the boundaries of ‘their’ hobby, without any real feel for the life of the SI’s various productions. Asger Jorn was the key to seeing things differently, for me at least, leading me back in the end, to a new and different understanding of Debord too. Of course the vitality of Jorn’s contribution in this work plays off Debord’s restrained melancholia to great effect. It was a fragile balance they held together for a while.

The influence of Chtcheglov and his visionary metagraphies is also keenly felt here. This blog is meant to be ostensibly about psychogeography and so reposting this translation is to recognise that this text should stand as one of the key contributions to the practice. Perhaps the reason it has remained somewhat outside of the now canonical offerings of Formulary for a New Urbanism, Theory of Dérive and Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography is precisely because the psychogeographical revival was primarily an Anglophone phenomenon and this text therefore, largely eluded it. The section of the book referring to 1953 in particular, concerning the days immediately after Chtcheglov and Debord allegedly first formulated the dérive, provides as close to a direct account of their discovery of this practice as anything out there. It also gives a fine feel for the experience, which whilst by its very nature was transient and ultimately inexpressibly, nevertheless serves as a mnemonic to spark sentiments in me concerning my own experiences of a similar drifting. Although strangely, or perhaps appropriately, not those drifts of the last few years, when I have approached the practice in a more systematic fashion. Instead it throws up flashes of those of more youthful beginnings, 5-6 years ago, when I first arrived in this city, and would walk halfway across the night, and sometimes until dawn, with no map, mental or otherwise, through strange streets, having spent my bus fare on one last drink.

The book is also notable for other reasons, not least a fantastic and somewhat amusing collage of Hegel, Marx, Cardinal de Retz, Fourier and Machiavelli(?) all sitting down for dinner at the Round Table of ‘le Château Mystérieux’, while outside someone (Sir Galahad?) is questing for the Holy Grail. Even more than this, it is the only Situationist text – to my knowledge – to contain a mention of New Cross, Deptford, Peckham and Nunhead!

For all of these reasons, great to see this in translation.

You can get the PDF here….

And Finally… Debord & Jorn’s “Memoires” | Internationale Situationniste in English.

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