Semiotext(e), me - and being intimidated by theory

Discussion in 'theory, philosophy & history' started by Fozzie Bear, Feb 27, 2018.

  1. danny la rouge

    danny la rouge Raddled old poet

    I've still got that Midnight Oil book. I happened upon it the other day, looking for something else. I remember liking it, maybe I should have a look again.

    Zerzan was of course hilarious, but it's comedy of its time. I can't imagine wanting to revisit him.
  2. chilango

    chilango Neither Westminster nor Brussels....

    I had that fucking Camatte one too. Couldn't it see this evening. Maybe it was culled.
  3. sunnysidedown

    sunnysidedown caput mortuum

    I’ve a couple of Paul ‘The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck’ Virilio books knocking about. I enjoyed (if that’s the right term) War & Cinema and The Administration of Fear. The Lazzarato book I picked up on semiotext(e) a while back was good, in fact I pulled that back out recently and added it to my re-read pile. Driftworks by Lyotard though... I did try, a few times.

    Also, wasn’t one of Lyotards works a big influence on N Land? Can’t remember the title but I think it was first translated into English late 80s
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  4. Lurdan

    Lurdan old wave

    Well yeah, once fashionable thinkers can linger on for quite a while in the 'not dead, just smell funny' category :D

    ROFL. When I think of the time I spent collecting early issues of Invariance and now most of them are online as PDFs.

    Even if one was interested in Camatte that wasn't a great edition. It managed to strip all of the emphases out of the translations it reprinted.
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  5. sunnysidedown

    sunnysidedown caput mortuum

    Are there any particular translations of Camatte's work you recommend? I only have This World We Must Leave but I've put that in the try again another day pile.

    I've just finished Pierre Clastres' Archeology of Violence that was published by Semiotext(e), a very good/interesting read.
  6. Lurdan

    Lurdan old wave

    In terms of rendering Camatte into English the translations by David Loneragan (for example 'Against Domestication') and Fredy Perlman are probably the best imo. Those by David Brown aren't so good. There are some recent translations on Libcom (for example 'Bordiga and the Passion for Communism')—the first in many years. He is still alive and occasionally produces new writing, but I don't think there has been any attempt to translate anything written by him after the mid-80s. Pretty much everything that has been translated is on the web somewhere. The only other books in English are rip-off print on demand versions of those web pages.

    Camatte isn't easy to translate for a number of reasons. His style can be a little obscure, his thinking has changed pretty radically over the years (so knowing what he says in one period isn't necessarily very helpful when looking at writings from another), and the very different currents of thought within which he worked, from the particular left-communist current he was in from the early 1950s, to the various post-68 currents he collaborated with or debated with, aren't at all well known in English speaking countries.

    Actually it's possibly even a little worse than that—the standard Anglophone perspectives on Bordiga and bordigism would arguably be positively unhelpful in getting any kind of handle on where Camatte began from. And of course May 68 is somewhat out of fashion—I note that a quick search suggests I am the first person to refer to it on Urban this year, it's 50th anniversary. Sorry about that :D

    His primary influence on the French ultra-left in the late 60s and very early 70s was to introduce them to Bordiga's less orthodox left-communist ideas. (That also had an influence in tiny post-bordigist left-communist currents). His own writings not so much. By contrast in English-speaking countries his most influential writings (to the extent it's possible to use that phrase) were those he wrote after breaking with bordigism in the early 70s. However it should be said that they were read within a very different context, and subjected to some creative interpretation. Such interest in him as there still is mainly relates to those uses of his work, rather than his own thinking. Anyhow sorry I'm boring on a bit as usual.
  7. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    Lurdan You should post more of this stuff if anything. I like the self deprecation also :)
  8. sunnysidedown

    sunnysidedown caput mortuum

    Lurdan many thanks! I really appreciate your reply. I have to say I'm only scraping around this stuff but i did find the essays in This World We Must Leave to be lacking a sort of flow that I put down to the translation, I notice it was David Brown who was the translator. I'll make a comparative reading of the version of Against Domestication you linked to with the one in the Autonomedia book.

    And I agree with Fozzie, great post.
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  9. sunnysidedown

    sunnysidedown caput mortuum

    just to add to the above, the essay Against Domestication in This World We Must Leave was translated by Loneragan not Brown. Brown translated the title essay in the book.

    just incase anyone needed to know that... :)
  10. Lurdan

    Lurdan old wave

    The Autonomedia book simply reprints some of the translations which had appeared as self-published or small press pamphlets in the 70s. How much any of the translators were communicated with beyond being thanked in the introduction is a matter of conjecture. I was just looking at my copy and it's obvious that no effort was made to check the translations against the French originals - the pretty obvious errors in the anonymously translated 'On Organization' are still present and correct.

    Hadn't thought about Camatte for quite a while and I looked at some of the mouldering pile of old texts I call home. I said that pretty much everything translated was on the web but actually that's not completely correct. I've been told a largish chunk of one of his mid-80s works got translated although I've never seen the result, and there were some odds and sods of early stuff destined for the John Gray website mark two which never happened. The only one of those of (marginal) interest IMO was a retranslation of the texts in the 'On Organisation' pamphlet (fwiw one of the more widely read in the mid to late 70s) together with the debate about it which took place in Fifth Estate. Might excavate that.

    However if someone were foolish enough to ask me why they should read Camatte I'd be a bit stumped for an answer. I know why I've done so in the past


    but outside of his influence on currents which are no longer very highly regarded, and that existed in a time period that politically if not culturally is now very much in the semi-distant past it's a little "specialised" to say the least.

    To return this to the subject of the thread, my criticisms of this Autonomedia text bring to mind my feelings about a number of those 80s and 90s publishing projects. There was a trend towards 'designerliness' some of which already which looks rather dated. (Was it Zone books with the elaborate font designs, often just a little too small or 'artistic' for comfortable reading, together with extra wide margins?) Some of that had the effect of subtly changing the 'meaning' of reprinted texts in the course of changing their appearance. In the case of some things - some situationist, surrealist and dare I say it, 'autonomist' texts spring to mind - being kicked upstairs to the art gallery bookshop and the college library wasn't IMO completely inappropriate. In other cases I'm not so sure it doesn't create and reinforce misleading impressions.

    But there were also examples which it seemed to me at the time took advantage of the anti-copyright and free sharing spirit in which texts or translations had been originally produced in order to turn them into slicked up radical commodities. It may be at a different end of the spectrum from the petty entrepreneurs selling print on demand copies of stuff they've 'curated' off the web through Amazon, but it's not as distant as all that.

    Detroit Black and Red put this in one of their 70s pamphlets "The people who took part in the production of the present work are neither publishers who invested capital in order to profit from the sale of a commodity on the book market, nor wage workers who produced a commodity in order to be paid for their time". Obviously no-one would want to look like a hippy by saying this sort of thing out loud today, but even so there is still something about some publishing projects run by 'radical creatives' which has my nose wrinkling a bit.
  11. sunnysidedown

    sunnysidedown caput mortuum

    Lurdan, I appreciate that detail again, cheers!.

    I actually got most of my Semiotext(e)/Autonomedia stuff in a library sale a good few years ago, paid around $1 each for them. It's only been after recently reading some of 'Bifo' Berardi's writing that I've been going back to have a look at it.

    As you say though there is obviously a whole lot of conversation/argument/discussion going on historically, that even if translated will be difficult to absorb/keep up with, at least for me.
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  12. sunnysidedown

    sunnysidedown caput mortuum

    Interesting looking piece (not read it all yet) just popped up on Mute tapping into some of this:

    Revolutionary Leaflets and Comrade Things | Mute
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  13. ska invita

    ska invita back on the other side

    Deleuze and Guataris hot take on cartography and decalcomania

    Though the preceding page is about the Pink Panther cartoon, but it isn't much clearer

    (From On The Line)
  14. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    The first bit of this Politics Theory Other podcast with Jeremy Gilbert* is quite good on how the context of a lot of this French and Italian stuff was stripped out of the translations, which made them less political.

    Also quite good on the Italian Autonomist exiles in France in the 80s.

    *coined the term "acid corbynism" iirc but don't let that put you off.

    The podcast is also on itunes if you prefer that.
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  15. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    From an interview with Chris Kraus:

    BLVR: Finally, I want to ask you if you have real estate advice—because I think it’s ingenious to try to make money in a separate realm from your creative work, as you’ve done. Not only because it makes sense on a financial level, but because you absorb a world that you wouldn’t otherwise absorb.

    CK: Yes. It’s tremendously interesting, and people are less petty there than in the art world, because it’s just about numbers. At one point, instead of getting a tenure-track job, I decided to make real estate investments and operate these properties as lower-income, affordable housing. Buying and fixing, and then renting and managing, was a way of engaging with a population completely outside the culture industry. Kind of like in gay culture, where hookups are a way of escaping your class. [Laughs]

    BLVR: Do you have any advice for people who might want to go into that?

    CK: Into an entrepreneurial activity that’s at worst ethically neutral, that can subsidize other activities? I think there are entrepreneurial opportunities everywhere, always. The thing is to look outside the key points on both coasts. Look at other parts of the country. If I were starting to do this again, I’d probably visit Detroit. The idea that came forward in the last couple of years, where people could buy fixers for practically nothing, then homestead—that was very intriguing. But the U.S. is full of dying cities and suburbs. I think there’s so much that can be done, so many opportunities, if you are willing to put yourself there. Take yourself off the career track for two or three years and just try something totally different.

    (This was brought up more recently when Semiotext(e) were embroiled in an argument about hosting a reading in a gallery in Boyle Heights LA which was subject to a boycott by anti-gentrification groups from the community).
  16. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    This dude managed to kark it before I read anything by him:

    Includes link to a translation by one of my neighbours. :hmm:
  17. Lurdan

    Lurdan old wave

    Malcom Imrie - name rings a bell but I don't know why. I'm aware he's translated stuff but I don't think that's it. Just googled but apart from finding a text in which he's being cunted off for lese-majesty by some pro-situs I'm none the wiser.

    I was once trying to decipher a text in French which quoted a paragraph from Virilio's 'Aesthetics of Disappearance'. Wasn't getting anywhere so I bought the English translation. Unfortunately there was no page reference to give me a clue as to whereabouts this quote was in the original so I set down to skim through the whole book. I'm pretty persistent when doing this sort of thing but I couldn't locate the passage in the translation. It's possible the resulting frustration may have affected my judgement, but I formed the distinct impression that M. Virilio was an annoying Po-Mo ponce and I'm afraid there was nothing at all aesthetic about the disappearance of the book when I finally gave up.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2018
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  18. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    Malcolm caught some flack for a Debord translation ages back. He also wrote this which is amazing:

    The secret Ska history of Stamford Hill by Malcolm Imrie – blog

    He’s a good guy to bump into.

    I’m assuming Virilio won’t age well. That didn’t stop me ordering a copy of “pure war” off eBay for 3 quid but it luckily never turned up so I got a refund.
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  19. Lurdan

    Lurdan old wave

    Cheers - the text I saw did refer to a translation "so bad" "it amounted to a falsification" (ROFL) but it mainly concerned the apparently unforgivable insult of declining the opportunity to translate a dodgy looking text about AIDs which Debord had made some complimentary remarks about. The court politics of situationism essentially, as people competed to see how far they could express their autonomy by sticking their tongue up the great mans arse.

    A friend and I took advantage of access to a place to store some surplus possessions without permission - in my case a lot of books and papers. Sadly it all went wrong, the locks got changed and I couldn't work out how to blag my way back in. Then I heard everything was to be chucked out. I grabbed my collection of re-usable supermarket bags and rushed down to arrive about a quarter of an hour after the van had left taking my stuff to the dump. A single book remained on the floor, somewhat battered from being walked over. I put it into the bag of bags and went home. Your mention of Pure War stirred a memory. I hadn't touched the bag collection since then and when I went to look sure enough that was the fucking book.

    (In case the mention of Virilio has piqued anyone's curiosity I would point out that a great many of his books are on line at libgen and while he's dead his publishers aren't. Please don't pay for them - it only encourages them).
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  20. The Pale King

    The Pale King Well-Known Member

    I got a lot out of the two Lazzarrato books on debt that semiotext published ('The Making of the Indebted Man' and 'Governing by Debt'), and believe he has written a new one with Eric Alliez, which I will be seeking out.
  21. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    There is a PDF of Nicholas Thoburn's "Anti Book" book on communist publishing (inc Unpopular Books, Wu-Ming etc) here.
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