There Is No Society of the Spectacle[1]

By Jean-Pierre Voyer

(Reply to "Rideau" by Marc-Edouard Nabe[2])

       For a long time I used to go to bed late, hoping to find an idea in Guy Debord's book The Society of the Spectacle. I must bow to the obvious: there are none. For a long time I believed that Debord had given to the word "spectacle" a meaning that I did not understand and which would shed light on the mystery of the nature of our society. But he did nothing of the kind. Despite his circumlocutions, or rather because of them, he was incapable of doing so.

       There is, indeed, a spectacle of society, but there is no society of the spectacle. Our society is a spectacle for each and every slave that inhabits it, precisely because he or she is a slave, because he or she is isolated and separated from the other slaves and from society as a whole, because slaves do not govern, slaves do not communicate and, therefore, slaves do not act. Their miserable lives are summed up in their miserable jobs, miserable homes, miserable nuclear families, miserable vacations and miserable purchases. In such conditions, how could society be anything but a spectacle for them? A football game is not a spectacle for those who are acting - the ones participating in the game, the players - but only for those who are not, the ones sitting in the bleachers. The same goes for the society as a whole: its slaves are not players and so society is a spectacle for them. This is no reason to label such a society "the society of the spectacle" since the spectacle of this society is a simple side effect of the condition of being a slave. The spectacle of this society is a consequence of the slave's isolation, not the cause. An individual in this society is first a slave and then - and solely because of this fact - a spectator. The cause of the spectacle is known: it is slavery. What needs to be determined then is the cause of slavery. Modern society should be called the society of isolation, a particularly fitting label as it also alludes to the isolation to which the modern slave's political freedom is reduced, epitomized by the polling booth. The society of isolation: we would search Debord's book in vain for as simple an idea as this, it is not there. In the end, it may not even be an interesting idea, but it at least points out the ridiculousness of Debord's laborious lyric.

       Our society is unified by commerce, not by any so-called spectacle. It is because of this unification that the spectacle of society can exist, not the other way around. But society was not a spectacle for the slaves of every era. In certain periods it was the slaves themselves who created the spectacle - in the arena! For modern society to be a spectacle for its slaves, the slaves must be politically emancipated, with the free use of their bodies, so that they can travel far and wide, even to the beaches of Greece. Indeed, a slave who cannot leave his master's domain cannot see much of society. We must therefore call modern society the society of emancipated slavery, which is what Marx insisted on calling it. However, there is a common trait shared with the slaves of antiquity who put on the spectacle in the arenas. Our society, which its slaves can only gaze at, is composed mainly of slaves. Therefore, slaves are practically all that they see, just as the ancient Romans saw only slaves performing in the arena - at least when the emperor was not performing there himself!

       Every society is about communication and communication only. So, acting in a society means communicating. It's because Debord did not understand this fact that he was unable to give anything but a trivial meaning to the word "spectacle." Due to his dimwitted, Marxist stupidity, he thought that humans had to enter into determined relationships in order to produce their means of existence. Fat chance, it's just the opposite: humans must produce their means of existence - they must communicate - in order to enter into determined relationships. The proof of this is that when they do not produce those means - when they do not communicate - they cannot enter into any relationship whatsoever. The Situationists never created a situation! Situationists who don't create any situations are like homosexuals who could never fuck each other. Actually, except for Vienet, who was a machinist, not one of these gentlemen could even pound a nail.

       If society is about communication and communication only, the spectacle of society is a spectacle of communication. But this spectacle is not the cause of the estrangement of communication. Communication does not "withdraw into a representation" as Debord states in the first thesis of his book. On the contrary, it is because communication is estranged that it is a spectacle for the slave. The spectacle of society is not estrangement of communication but the spectacle of estranged communication. Here is a book that starts off on the wrong foot.

       So either the so-called notion of the spectacle as it appears in Debord's book is meaningless and therefore a deception, or else it means spectacle in the sense of television, advertising, radio, newspapers, magazines, movies, theatre, the circus, or more generally what we today call the media, in which case it is totally without interest. When Debord pompously writes, "everything that was directly lived has withdrawn into a representation" the prick is simply saying that we see posters of naked women pushing brands of cigarettes, but he says it in a way that gives the impression that he is conveying a profound thought. He uses dignified language to express crude ideas. This society is no more the society of the spectacle than Rome was the society of the circus, even though when in a good mood the emperor could sacrifice 50,000 pairs of gladiators in 3 days. There again, the media is not the cause of slavery but one of its consequences. Just as Pontius Pilate representing the Roman state delivered Jesus to the Jews, the modern democratic state delivers Popu[4] over to commerce, bound hand and foot. The essence of Céline's anti-Semitism, which I had underestimated, is here revealed. Céline's anti-Semitism is more fundamental than I had imagined. It is a grand metaphor for the delivering of folks over to commerce by the bearded social-democrats. Céline is inspired by his anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic because he is inspired. Céline's anti-Semitism is an integral part of his genius. I stigmatize in passing the contorted explanations of Professor Godard in Céline Scandal.[5] Céline's epic is that of Popu being delivered over to commerce.

       Debord is a fraud not because he tried and failed, but because he was self-satisfied. Self-satisfied, moreover, is too weak a term in this case. Puffed-up would be more precise. Frauds never change. As are all slaves, Debord was moved by the spectacle of society. But he simply wanted a place in this society. He got one, in extremis, just as the great drinker's ashes drifted up the coast of Denmark, carried by the last remnants of the Gulf Stream. Water! Everywhere water![6] Even in death he was posing, as is demonstrated by the letter he sent to that super-bitch Cornand[7] (who I caught in the pages of Actuel[8] in the company of the statesman Mitterrand) - "This is the opposite of the kind of disease one could contract through a single, regrettably imprudent act. On the contrary, the loyal intransigence of a lifetime is required." Did you see me in my beautiful disease? How hip. This is not like the homos who get AIDS because they screwed without condoms. How vulgar. Is there no place left untouched by vanity? A footstool here, polyneuritis there. By his own admission Debord spent his life trying to be hip. But the extreme thinker (the bungee thinker) must share the obituary pages of Libération with Loulou Gasté,[9] the unforgettable author of My Cottage in Champot. That's hipness for you. The extreme thinker who was very much into his deviant lifestyle and friends is now the prey of a herd of high school readers of Libération-Chargeurs.[10] Shame comes not from being recognized or, as M-E Nabe incorrectly thinks, from desiring recognition (doesn't M-E Nabe just itch to be recognized?), but rather from being recognized by these particular people and only these people, after having pretended to disdain them as well as three generations of Gallimards, statesmen and the whole political scene. The great drinker put water in his wine.

       While mathematicians still don't know exactly how to solve the problem of three bodies, Sir Guy Debord claims to have produced the exact theory of society. Unfortunately, this exact theory has no known effect other than to impassion intellectual submission. Here, then, is an example of exact thought with zero effect. It's enough to make one lose faith in exactitude. This kind of thing would have troubled the engineer Musil, he who was so wrapped up in literary exactitude. And - don't forget - it's not theory that has to be changed, but society. And - why not - let's dissolve this society and elect another one!

       Debord didn't like talking about these things. We met frequently over several years. The one and only time I tried discussing these issues with him, after ten minutes he interrupted me brusquely saying, "Do you think I'm an imbecile?" I should have thought so. Despite all of his pretensions, because of them in fact, he was incapable of conceiving of a meaning for the term spectacle that was not trivial.

       So it is not surprising that intellectual submission stampedes in lock step (though warily) toward a thought that is a non-thought (and, as such, was intended for it), since thought worthy of the name has the same effect on intellectual submission as garlic or a crucifix has on a vampire. This trivial meaning of the spectacle is very pleasing to the intellectually submissive, because their submission is - without exception - employed in the aforementioned spectacle, thereby lending unwarranted importance to their work. They dream of being more harmful than they are. M-E Nabe doesn't understand this when he scolds them for spitting in the soup. He doesn't see that when the intellectually submissive appear to be attacking the spectacle, all that they're really doing is shining the spotlight on their own dreary lives and making themselves the center of attention - which is all they care about anyway. Thus in the December 6, 1994 issue of Libération, the Italian Freccero, Berlusconi's ex-advisor and an advisor to Elkabbash,[11] maintains that the world is dominated by the media. This is his fondest dream. All cobblers would like to see the world dominated by leather, the ironmongers by iron, the electronic engineers by electronics - it goes without saying, everyone thinks it's noon according to their own watch. Up yours! Italian asshole with your "spectacularization of commodities"! In the December 3, 1994 issue of Le Monde, Roger-Pol Droit[12] chimes in with his "consumption of images," "the sweet tyranny of images." He would so love to obey only images, he who obeys everything else. Slaves do not consume images. Like all slaves and all the Roger-Pol Droits, they obey. This world is not under the control of sweet images, it is not dominated by the media. This can be easily seen when an employee of a national television network earning $15,000 per month gets kicked out on his butt. Television networks don't dominate the world; money dominates television networks. If the media spectacle contains all the evil in this world, it is therefore intellectual submission that creates all this evil. It naively brags about what it has done, like Nietzsche in Venice - "It is I who have created all this evil, do you like it?" It also presents itself logically as the only one qualified to solve the problem, like the super-moron medialogue Régis Debray. The society of the spectacle is nothing but a rattle that all the radio and television blabbermouths shake about. This rattle has been custom-crafted for a clear purpose by a gifted artisan. The society of the spectacle is the cliché of all clichés, the cream tart of all cream tarts. Intellectual submission doesn't think, that is what characterizes it. But not content with not thinking, intellectual submission considers it appropriate to broadcast that fact. Even Madame Lévy[13] gives us her take on the subject in the April 19, 1995 issue of Le Monde. "We have become the super sensitive detectors of the society of the spectacle taken to its extreme." (She is careful not to address the questions that really interest us: Can light be seen between her thighs - yes or no? What color are her panties? What happens when she detects a society of the spectacle? Does she wet her LICRA[14] pants?)

       The media occupy a void, the void left by the estrangement of communication. The more this void grows, the more the media expand. Just as the Scholastic nature abhors a void, so too does modern society. In a void one could hear oneself think. There's no doubt then that the media stupefies. Unable to hear themselves think, people believe that they're stupid. But this is not what makes them obedient. It is not the media that subjugates slaves. They are delivered to the media, bound hand and foot. It is not because slaves watch television that they are slaves; it is because they are slaves that they watch television. And television is what it is because it is made for slaves, just as everything else in this world. What is shameful is not watching television, but being a slave.

       The only illusion in capitalist society is the apparent freedom of its slaves. The only spectacle is that of the freedom of its slaves, an illusion owing to the endless wandering of the lonely crowd. This freedom to come and go is necessary to elicit submission from the whip of the paycheck. This submission is impossible without this freedom. It's what the merchants wanted and what they got through their various revolutions (habeas corpus). The freedom to come and go is the only freedom that modern slaves have: they are free to submit any place they choose. And yet even this is an illusion, for no matter where they are, what they do or where they go, they are subjugated - already. But no longer seeing what oppresses them, they believe that they're free. This is the opposite of a spectacle: when one looks at history too close-up, one sees precisely nothing. (Musil)

The World of Silence

       This world is no more an immense accumulation of spectacles than Rome was an immense accumulation of circuses or an immense accumulation of dead gladiators. This world is teeming with slaves. Our society is one of mutism. Herman Broch[15] understood this mutism to be one of values. There's no need to go so deep: just plain mutism - fiercely stubborn mutism - despite the constant jabber on radio and television. Actually, Broch spoke of a deafening mutism. All the radio and television jabber is to drown out this deafening mutism. Silence is dangerous. This world requires noise for self-preservation. Intellectual submission is paid to produce this noise.

       It is an error to believe, as M-E Nabe does, that mutism is caused by radio and television blah-blah. It's just the opposite. Television and the mass media result from mutism. As do all parasites, the media require favorable conditions in which to develop. Mutism is their turf; it has existed for two centuries. (Broch wrote in 1930). Media blabbermouths can ply their trade only because mutism has reigned for two centuries. But let mutism cease for a while, as it did in 1968, and all the jabberers are reduced to complete silence. What causes mutism? In this world, "money is the true community" (Marx, 1857).

       Just as the circus in Rome testified to the degradation of the plebs (the vile multitudes) and of their masters as well, television testifies to the degradation of modern slaves and of their masters. A study of television can provide useful information regarding the degradation of modern slaves, but nothing more. One cannot base a general critique of society on it. And the simple fact of pretending that you can characterize society through the concept of the spectacle, understood as television, is to promote a lie aimed at obscuring the true nature of this society. You only have to consider who is using this term to understand. Since when does intellectual submission speak the truth? Or if you prefer, if intellectual submission says so, it's a lie. By using the term spectacle as if it were common knowledge and an accepted fact, M-E Nabe participates in this process of deceit. In spite of his denials and insults, he is a sycophant and a victim of Debord. He authenticates Debord's deception by affirming the existence of a society of the spectacle.

       Actually, the spectacle in its ordinary sense doesn't bother me at all. Who does it bother, really? I don't watch television or read the newspapers. I don't read inept books published by imbeciles. It is a pleasure for me to insult Mr. Lévy. Meanwhile, nobody can escape the stubborn mutism of this world, not even the rich and powerful.

       I knew this world well in 1958, a time when television was barely around and only a few years before the Situationists put forth the term "commodity spectacle" (1962), and I see no change since then, except for the development of television, which is a phenomenon of no particular importance. Actually, Debord liked referring to film as "this little industry." What is new today is that the blue-collar slaves are less numerous while the office worker slaves (a particularly despicable species, Dr. Freud's clients) have become more numerous. And this world's stubborn mutism keeps growing. Already before 1930 Musil and Broch meticulously documented the relationship between commerce and mutism. Mutism weighs down more heavily in a society filled mainly with office workers than when it was populated mostly by blue-collar workers, who were more "outspoken" as they used to say. Office workers are a particularly disgusting species of slaves. At night, as we all know, they metamorphose into beetles, and their first thought in the morning is to figure out how to get back to the office. It appears that the problem will soon be solved and that the beetles will be able to stay home all day. The Internet is truly an information highway, which is to say stay-at-home traffic jams. ATM[16] and fiber optics won't change a thing. Despite ever longer and wider freeways, traffic jams continue unabated. Telecommunication can never hope to replace communication.

       More generally, I think that this world has been completely immobile for the last two centuries. In his amusing dictionary of literature, Edern Hallier[17] says that this world was created by Balzac, who thus is God. Indeed, nothing has changed since Balzac's time, except for the fact that in France the struggle for political power has become pointless since the fall of Napoleon III, given that this power is definitively under the control of business if not directly in its hands (so business has hands, invisible ones at that!). It was not Baudrillard who said that nowadays we no longer have craftsmanship, just products. It was Balzac in 1840.

       For the last two centuries slaves have gone more or less docilely to their factories and offices, and it isn't the media or television that has pushed them there. The difference today is that slaves are motorized. And the journalists that Balzac depicted are the same as can be seen today. He even noted their passion for making puns. Today all they have left are puns. The brilliant Parisian life of 1840 is gone. Mutism has spread ever since.

       Just as the circus occupied the idle plebian, automobiles and television occupy the needy slave during the six hours per day fallaciously known as free time. It is entirely possible that the effect of television on slaves is not exclusively harmful. Marx said that " city air " was liberating. I would be tempted to say that television is liberating: it replaces the local form of degradation with a universal one, so that modern slaves are as degraded in Charente as they are in Texas. Clearly, that's progress. Even the universal must progress through its bad side, as must everything, if Hegel is right.

It's Crazy How Many Things Don't Exist

       Elsewhere I wrote that the role of thought was not to say what should be, but more modestly to say what is. I now realize that even that was enormously presumptuous. The role of thought is not to say what is, but what is not. And this task is immense, so numerous are the things that do not exist but which nevertheless are talked about, in total mutism, day in and day out. Thus "the population," "all the inhabitants," "all the animals," "the economy." The population and all the animals are mathematical entities. The economy isn't even that, it's just a word devoid of meaning. Debord explicitly claimed to make a critique of the economy. But given that his aim was to make a critique of something that does not exist, it is hardly surprising that his critique did not exist either. That's the very least one could expect. The society of the spectacle doesn't exist any more than does the economy. And it is just as impossible to make a critique of the society of the spectacle as it is of the economy. I already wrote elsewhere that the critique of phlogistics is the discovery of oxygen and napalm. As Engels was fond of saying, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

       In a famous passage of the Grundrisse, Marx says that at first sight it seems that the study of reality should start with the population. The population seems to be the immediate actuality that one encounters at first. But he shows that it is nothing like that. The population does not exist, or when it does, it is only as a mathematical entity. One is tempted to say that it is very simple, that "the population" is a set of all the inhabitants of a city, region or country. But a set of inhabitants is a mathematical entity that only exists in thought. It is only an idea, and if such a set exists, it exists only as an idea. Something exists, however, notably the city, but not the population or all the inhabitants.

       Similarly, "all the animals" doesn't exist. It exists only as an idea. One can legitimately say that "animals exist," but not "all the animals." This does not mean that the idea "all the animals" is without effect just because it is only an idea. When Hitler or Himmler stated "All the Jews must be gassed," though "all the Jews" doesn't exist, "Jews" were gassed nonetheless. This example gives us a sense of the fearsome power of ideas. In contrast, the Alps exist, Hegel himself was forced to admit it, or so they say. But apart from burying a few ski bums under an avalanche or two, they never harm anyone. In general, the power of ideas is bad; it's probably the famous "negative" that Hegel constantly discusses. Socrates' fellow citizens got it right. This is why thought worthy of its name is bad (negative), and it is almost a pleonasm to say a "bad thought" and an oxymoron to say a "good thought."

       In this orgy of things that don't exist, it seems to me that it would be comforting if I could cite something that does exist and that can be named. Even if the population doesn't exist, the nation does. It manifests itself in each of us at every moment whether we are thinking of it or not. And it crops up as well in those reality shows where some specimen of Frenchman, usually the "hunting and fishing" type, acts out for the television cameras a modestly heroic episode of his life. Certainly, it is not Valmy,[18] yet the nation is tangible. It is equally tangible - and tragic - in those American sitcoms like "The Joe Blow Family." On this point Marx lost out to Hegel: the spirit of a people is the immediate actuality; even in an American sitcom the Volksgeist manifests itself.

       Thanks to the history of mathematics, we know what troubles the sets approach led to. For instance, it drove Cantor mad but it also led to the facetious theorem of Gödel, who died mad as well. (Gödel, like Howard Hughes, refused to eat, fearing food poisoning. As for Turing, you can choose: either he was assassinated by the English secret service, or he committed suicide, or he accidentally poisoned himself with cyanide). All classical thought strives to eliminate the observer. But experience constantly and unceasingly reintroduces the need for the observer. In a way, experience is opposed to "the final solution" for the observer. OBserver: an observer with a large ZOB.[19] Many people would like to put an end to the observer. (Isn't the literary ideal that of the observer?) Wasn't Proust the prince of observers? Gödel's theorem, and also quantum mechanics, prohibits trying to do without the observer. Gödel showed that in arithmetic one could at any moment ask and even demand that the observer introduce a new axiom so that an otherwise undecideable proposition can be decided. Arithmetic is not complete, it needs an observer. So arithmetic is an experimental science! Neils Bohr commanded: "Thou shalt not speak of the atomic world in-itself, in classical terms thou shalt describe reality." There is no such thing as a quantum concept, there is no such thing as a quantum object. In classical terms? These are pretty much the same as those used in television shows such as "The Price Is Right" or "The Wheel of Fortune," everyday terms used by everybody, the terms of the representable. Each time I watch these television game shows, I hear people use words such as waves and particles, which are classical terms.[20]

       One of the reasons that I was enthusiastic about discovering the Situationists in 1966 was that they seemed to favor the point of view of the observer. Alas, as their history unfolded, it became clear that that was only an illusion, that like nature in the 18th century, they abhorred a void. Thought is indeed the activity of that which does not exist within that which exists. Nature in the 20th century has truly changed since Dirac's[21] ocean (Oh, old ocean!); it is a century that loves quantum fluctuations.

The Disgusting Sluggishness of Souls[22]

       If there is a spectacle, it is only a spectacle of disgusting sluggishness with runny Camembert,[23] shriveled Vacherin[24] and foreskin thought.[25] Just as one swallow doesn't bring on spring, an intellectual slut doesn't bring on misery. The spectacle is only the spectacle of the idiots who talk about it. All this is just blah-blah but, even so, this society is not the society of blah-blah. Likewise, the great number of intellectual sluts doesn't mean that this society is the society of intellectual sluts. There were as many intellectual sluts in Balzac's time, I presume. Stendhal, attending a meeting of the Institut,[26] stated that the illustrious mathematician Cauchy was a major idiot! True, he said it in English. He didn't dare be so direct in French.

       Since the middle of the 70s, no disgusting sluggishness has descended on us. The whole world wants to move, and those who approach the super wall that blocks the road to real life are filled with enthusiasm by its thickness and the hilarious vileness of the sentinels who guard it.

       The wall's thickness guarantees the exalting grandeur of what is at stake. When Parmentier wanted the Parisians to stop slighting his potatoes, he put guards around the plot on the Monceau plain where he grew them, but only during the day. The Parisians then promptly went out and stole them at night. Another reason I became so enthusiastic about the Situationists was their assertion that nobody knew how people live, beginning with the police, and that one could not prejudge what people were capable of doing or wanting. Each person is unique, except that they don't know it or don't want to know it. On the other hand, people know very well how the guardians of the wall live and what they want. And if they don't, then they have to find out. If the word "spectacle" has any sense that is not trivial, that is not the trivial sense spectacle = television, spectacle = media, it is really that this so-called disgusting sluggishness is a pure spectacle. But "spectacle" is too big a word where "propaganda" suffices completely. That fat man up there on the stage, who suffers from corns and whose stomach is hideously distended by the painful digestion of a copious plate of duck confit accompanied by potatoes sautéed in goose fat and chased down by a bottle and a half of Madiran, is evidently not Hamlet, but everyone sees Hamlet. That is a spectacle. One can easily perceive when watching "The Price Is Right" or "The Wheel of Fortune" an underlying tragedy no different from that of Eschylus' Persus: tragedy in the losers' camp.

       According to M-E Nabe, an anarchist in 1900 could easily explain why a priest was a son of a bitch. A wretched of the earth in 1936 could easily explain how capitalism exploited him. Big deal. What good did it do them? On the contrary, I think their reasoning was fallacious. How can a true thought be defeated? How could you prevent the atomic bomb from existing, and above all from being detonated, after the Schrödinger equation was not only posed but solved? The world is eager for thought; the propagation of thought has not posed and will never pose any difficulty. The only difficulty is that of its existence. Should it take the trouble to exist, the rest will take care of itself. Today a slave does not know that he is a slave, or he tries not to know it, or he knows it and says nothing. Today those who suffer do not know why they suffer. Excellent, this is real progress. At least they don't put forth a series of false reasons that have clearly proved to be inane and imbecilic. The great multinational revolt of 1968 exploded in a perfect silence of false reasons. Finally, everything happens for the best in the best of worlds. The counter-offensive has precisely consisted in opposing this revolt with a profusion of false protests: the dykes, the fags, the oil crisis, unemployment, AIDS, the students and their future, the immigrants and the film-makers.

       The fact that someone like me will not ignore the existence of Bernard-Henri Lévy[27] is a scandal. Lévy will just have to suffer the consequences, which is the least you could expect.

M-E Nabe reproached Debord for not appearing on television. But what did Debord have to say, what did he ever have to say when he had all the time in the world to express himself? I understand why Debord didn't dare go on television, since he had nothing to say. But when one has something to say, one doesn't have to say it on television. And what did M-E Nabe have to say when he went on television: "Leon Bloy, Leon Bloy."[28] I still prefer the voice of Claudel calling out through the fog, "Verlaine."[29]

       Novels always describe the impossibility of the idyllic (In Arcadia ego: death existed in Arcadia.)[30]

       Communication has deserted life that thus becomes the everyday.

       Slavery leads to mutism. A slave is someone who has no voice.

       Non-World of Frivolity:[31] Only intellectual sluts are frivolous. There is only a spectacle of frivolity. There is nothing more serious than commerce, alas. Contrary to his despicable co-conspirators, nobody is more serious than the businessman Lévy posing as one among the literati. This is why his colleagues resent him so.

       Non-World of Ephemerality:[32] Modern slavery has lasted for two centuries and promises to go on. There is only a spectacle of ephemerality. Only the slave's satisfaction is ephemeral, and that word is too strong: it is furtive, like an American stealth bomber.

1. This reply to Marc-Edouard Nabe appears in the book Limites de conversation by Jean-Pierre Voyer, published by Éditions Anonymes, 67000 Strasbourg,, 1998 (pp. 167 -185).

2.  Urbane man of letters known in France for his ongoing literary memoirs, such as his Journal Intime : I. Nabe's Dream, II. Tohu-Bohu, III. Inch'Allah, IV. Kamikaze, Editions du Rocher.

4. Popu: Céline's neologism in his pamphlet Mea Culpa, written on his return from Russia, to refer to "the people" (in French: population, populace, populo).

5. Professor Henri Godard, author of Céline Scandal, published by Gallimard. Edited the complete works of Céline published by Gallimard, Bibliothèque La Pléiade.

6. Que d'eau! Que d'eau! While visiting a flooded city along the Loire River, this was the only reply French president Mac-Mahon (1873) could think to make when asked to comment on the situation by accompanying journalists.

7. Brigitte Cornand, the director of Debord's last film: Son Art et Son Temps

8. Actuel - hip weekly. Stupid and trendy.

9. Loulou Gasté, a songwriter and the husband of Line Renaud, a well-known cabaret singer who performed in Las Vegas for many years.

10. Libération-Chargeurs: Libération was saved from bankruptcy by being acquired by the "Chargeurs Réunis" shipping company.

11. Jean-Pierre Elkabbash, conducted a well-known interview with Mitterand. Currently president of a major French television network.

12. Roger-Pol Droit, heavyweight journalo-whore writing for Le Monde.

13. Arielle Dombasle, French film star whose picture graces Jean-Pierre Voyer's website. She is also the wife of Bernard-Henri Lévy, who was a founding member of the "new philosophers" movement in the 80s and who continues to be a celebrated poseur and distinguished beneficiary of many thoughtful letters written to him by Jean-Pierre Voyer.

14. LICRA: acronym of the French anti-defamation group Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l'Antisémitisme (International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism).

15. Herman Broch, Austrian author who was a contemporary of Musil.

16. Asynchronous Transfer Mode

17. Edern Hallier, controversial French writer and owner of the magazine l'Idiot international.

18. Crucial 1793 French Revolutionary battle where France defeated the rest of Europe.

19. Observateur : un observateur avec un gros OB... By emphasizing the liaison you produce the word "zob," which is colloquial French for a man's cock.

20. Allusion to Niels Bohr's interpretation of quantum mechanics. He insisted that one had to speak of the results of quantum mechanics in classical terms, which necessitated paying strict attention to the meaning of these terms. For Bohr there is no such thing as a quantum object.

21. P.A.M. Dirac, famous author of Quantum Mechanics, PUF. Dirac coined the term "anti-matter" and his ocean is an ocean of anti-matter. Today we call it a quantum vacuum.

22. Ironic allusion to Milan Kundera's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being."

23. Pascal Bruckner, a so-called "new philosopher."

24. André Glucksmann, a so-called "new philosopher."

25. Pensée prépuce = a so-called thought of a so-called "new philosopher." Allusion to a work by Derrida.

26. Science Academy founded by Louis XIV.

27. From 1992 to 1997, Jean-Pierre Voyer addressed over 30 letters to Bernard-Henri Lévy. All have been published in Limites de conversation (ibid.).

28. Léon Bloy, 19th century maverick French author who wrote, among other works, Histoires désobligdeantes and a famous journal.


"Nothing but the sharp thwack of the mainsail filling with wind and the sound of a mighty bow in the foam.
Nothing but a voice, almost the voice of a woman or a child, or that of an angel calling through the fog - Verlaine!"

Paul Claudel, Le Faible Verlaine from Feuilles de Saints. This calls to mind Wagner's The Flying Dutchman or James Mason and Ava Gardner in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.

30. In a painting by Nicholas Poussin, Arcadian shepherds contemplate a gravestone inscribed with the words, In Arcadia ego - "Even in Arcadia, there am I." This is death talking.

31. Reference to Rideau by M-E Nabe.

32. Reference to the cretin Gilles Lipovetsky (the French equivalent of the cretin Alvin Toffler) author of La nature a horreur de Lipovetsky (L'Ere du vide).

The Talented Mr. Ripley