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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 This is definitely the darkest timeline

    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.
    LynnDoyleCooper and Fozzie Bear like this.
  2. chilango

    chilango *shrugs*

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

    sunnysidedown Well-Known Member

    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
    Fozzie Bear likes this.
  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.
    Fozzie Bear likes this.
  5. sunnysidedown

    sunnysidedown Well-Known Member

    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 Well-Known Member

    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 Well-Known Member

    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 Well-Known Member

    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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