TRAVEL DIARIES

Fall 1997

(Paris, with side trips to Angoulême, Venice, Bergerac, and Limousin. 2½ months.)

 

September 4. Esther picked me up at 5:20 a.m. and drove me to San Francisco airport. At stopover in Toronto watched a bit of the U.S. Tennis Open on a bar TV. Read Simenon most of the trip, watched part of a spy thriller, virtually no sleep.

 
 
 
Publicity for the book
Public Secrets
My new book

September 5. Christian met me at airport. We picked up Will* at Rue du Département, where I’ll be staying (he also till next week). To Christian and Marta’s new place on Rue du Bac, where Marta was welcoming guys moving in a new wall-sized shelf. Out to lunch. Back there, some talk re Public Secrets.** Marta, Will, and I to the garden of the Rodin Museum. Cheese and bread picnic. Will and I by Métro back to Rue du Département (hereafter, “home”). Unpacked, read a bit, and crashed, really exhausted, in early evening.

*Will Staple, an old friend of mine from the Gary Snyder poetry/Zen scene in the Sierra foothills of California. I had introduced him to my Parisian friend Christian Camus during the latter’s 1985 visit to California. Will was at this time visiting Paris and staying at Christian’s old apartment in the 18th Arrondissement.

**Public Secrets: a recently published collection of my writings from 1970-1997:

September 6. Slept eleven hours. Zazen and breakfast with Will. Headed out on my own all day. Two or three hours at Parallèles perusing new situ texts — nothing very important, but a number of minor developments (new editions, new collections, etc.). Couscous lunch in Latin Quarter. A lot of record and book stores browsing. Back to the 18th Arrondissement, slight grocery shopping, light meal at home.

With Will, Marta, and Christian
With Will, Marta, and Christian at the château

September 7. Will and I to Christian’s. Will read us a poem he’d written re the Rodin garden. All of us to a Chinese lunch in south Paris, then to a store to buy stuff for their apartment (paint, shutters, etc.), then to the Château de Sceaux, strolling around the immense garden, ponds, etc. Back to Paris. Sent out for a chicken dinner. Home at 10:00.

September 8. Showed Will SI Anthology articles re surrealism and dérives. Christian over with an agent who will try to sell the apartments. Got phone hooked up. Will and I to Tommy Mittelstädt’s and Sara’s. Chatted in English re Germany-U.S.-France differences etc. Took walk to park with Tommy and their baby. Will and I separated — me to a record store near the Louvre, then walking to Chartier for dinner, then back home.

September 9. Laundry with Will, brief home lunch, then Will and I went to see André Bernard. Will talked with him briefly (I translated), then he went to Christian’s to do a little work on their window. Talked with André re my relative indifference to much of ACL’s* publications (“libertarian culture,” “anarchy and surrealism,” etc.) and re various aspects of my démarche (responding to some questions of his). Left him Secrets Publics,** which he’ll show to the Lyons folks. Bought flowers for Marta (her birthday’s tomorrow). To Christian’s. Sebastian there talking with Will. Cécile (radiologist, ex-girlfriend of Juan’s) also there. Sebastian had to leave early, but the rest of us had a good dinner and chatted till 11:00.

The Relevance of Rexroth in French
The Relevance of
Rexroth
in French

*Atelier de Création Libertaire: a Lyons anarchist group that had recently published Éloge de Kenneth Rexroth, the French translation of my book The Relevance of Rexroth. André Bernard was the main ACL person involved with that project.

**I had made a draft translation into French of my book Public Secrets and brought several copies to France. This enabled some of my French friends and contacts to get a better idea of what I had written, and I also hoped that one or more of them would be inspired to improve my French style and publish some of the texts.

September 10. Called Joël and Nadine and Françou re visits south. Will off to spend the night at Shakespeare & Co. I wandered the 18th and 17th Arrondissements, checking out a few record stores and eating out. Finished Simenon’s Les Caves du Majestic.

September 11. Christian over. He and Marta are going to Venice next week and invited me to join them. I decided to do so. Lunch with him at a Japanese restaurant. To Éditions Ivréa [new name of Éditions Champ Libre/Éditions Gérard Lebovici], where I talked with Lorenzo Valentin and left him Public Secrets along with the French version. Met Will at Shakespeare & Co. Chatted with him and his writer friend William upstairs where they’d stayed. Strolled around with them an hour, then back to Shakespeare, where we met Laetitia, Claude, and Janine — much wine, chatting, singing, then to a Chinese restaurant. Home at 11:30.

September 12. Will stayed at Shakespeare again. Met him there and we went to Christian’s at 2:00 for lunch, then drove Will to airport. Back in Paris, I cashed some traveler’s checks near Opéra, then home. Got a bunch of books from Joël’s* room to look over.

*Joël Camous, Christian’s brother, lived in an adjoining apartment, though he was out of town at this time.

September 13. Luc Mercier called. Met him (with his three-year-old daughter Alice) at a café in Belleville. Brief chat re our respective projects,* as he had to go soon. Gave him Secrets Publics. Bought Angoulême ticket. Lunch at Routiers. Finished going through Joël’s library for things to look through. To Belleville again, to a bar where a friend of Cécile’s was singing Parisian songs. Christian and Marta there too. Excellent ambience — chansons réalistes etc., with everyone knowing a lot of the words. Talked with the singer — Guénaëlle — re other places to find such scenes. Home at 11:00.

*In addition to his own numerous writings over the years (articles, leaflets, pamphlets, etc.), Luc had translated and published Écrits complets de la Section Italienne de l’Internationale Situationniste (1969-1972) and Archives Situationnistes, volume 1, the latter consisting of French translations of all the German and British SI texts.

September 14. Christian and Marta over to pick up stuff for their apartment. To flea market — got a few cheap records. Read Bounan’s Incitation à l’auto-défence.

Françou at the family home
 
Françou at the family home
Françou at his family farm house

September 15. Train to Angoulême, where Françou picked me up.* He showed me around their farm — gardens, old equipment and buildings, etc. Met his mother, then later his brother and the latter’s partner briefly while feeding ducks and chickens. Talk re Public Secrets, political correctness, his country youth, etc.

*I had visited Jean-François (“Françou”) Labrugère in Grenoble during my 1991 trip. He had since moved back to the family farm near Angoulême where he had grown up. He had recently collaborated with me on the French translation of The Relevance of Rexroth.

September 16. Went over Françou’s few comments on Secrets Publics (mainly a few French texts he’d located). Discussed various aspects of The Joy of Revolution (especially re antitechs).* With him to haul logs. To his sister Isabelle and Laurent Chaumette’s for dinner. (They have two kids, one adopted from their stay in Polynesia.) Played them some songs.

*In The Joy of Revolution (one of the main texts in Public Secrets) I briefly criticized the delirious primitivist and antitechnology notions then prevalent among many radicals. Those criticisms provoked heated reactions, particularly in the US but to a lesser extent also in Europe, which I later responded to with The Poverty of Primitivism.

Francou showing me Brantome
Francou showing me Brantome
Françou showing me Brantôme
With Françou and Pierrette
With Françou and Pierrette

September 17. Over breakfast and then lunch we rapped re various people, Critical Mass, Orwell, Bernanos, Bookchin, Semprún and the Encyclopédie des Nuisances (I criticized notably the depressing continually repeated pessimism of the latter). To Pierrette and Frances’s* for dinner. Chatted outside while looking at their albums of photos from Polynesia, then chicken dinner inside. Home at 1:00.

*Pierrette Labrugère (Françou’s sister) and her partner Frances. I had met them in Barcelona during my 1991 trip, but since then they’d moved back to France.

September 18. To Brantôme, where we walked around the old town, castle, river, and ate an outdoor lunch. More talk re Public Secrets, Sanguinetti, our respective younger days, etc. To train station in Angoulême. Arrived in Paris a bit before midnight. Finished the pamphlet Orwell devant ses calomniateurs and Bounan’s L’art de Céline et son temps.

September 19. Bought Venice ticket. (Christian has reserved me a hotel near theirs.) Lunched with them, then to Pompidou library to check French book citations etc.* Home for a quiet evening.

*In the process of improving my Secrets Publics translations, I was searching for French versions of things I’d quoted in my original texts. For example, when I quoted a Whitman poem or a Shakespeare passage, I wanted to compare various published French translations of those texts.

September 20. A few emails and calls to let people know I’m in Paris. Lunch at Routiers. Montreuil flea market (nothing). Home, went more through Joël’s books and records (since Christian told me he’ll be returning next week). Christian and Marta dropped by with a Puerto Rican artist and we all went to a nearby Indian restaurant.

September 21. Hung around home till 3:00, reading etc. To Christian’s. Typed letter I’d drafted to Bracken, warning him not to cite me as approving of his Debord book.* Ate there. Cécile and Juan over — I sang them a few American folksongs (one of Joël’s guitars is there). Cab to Gare de Lyon. Train for Venice left at 8:00 p.m.

*I had sent Len Bracken a thank-you for sending me his book Guy DebordRevolutionary, including a few polite compliments, but then worried that he might quote me in a book blurb when in reality I was very dubious about many aspects of his book.

September 22. Some sleep, but rather erratic. Train arrived in Venice 8:45 a.m. Left stuff at our hotels. Boated and walked around San Marco and nearby districts. To hotels early afternoon. (I showered and napped.) 3:00 lunch. Boat to Lido — beach, ice cream. Back for more wandering. To bed early.

Venice
Venice
Venice
With Christian and Marta in Venice
With Christian and Marta in Venice

September 23. Breakfast furnished by the hotel. Christian over. With him to a couple churches, then we went to get Marta. All day walking around or boating. A couple hours at La Scuola di San Rocco, devoted almost exclusively to Tintoretto.* An adequate lunch and an excellent dinner outside.

*I had looked forward to this ever since reading Rexroth’s 1967 newspaper column Tintoretto and the Painters of Venice.

September 24. Much of the morning in the Palace of the Doges. A poor caféteria lunch. Boat to Burano. Back to Venice. Late dinner.

September 25. To Accademia art museum alone. Met them for lunch and more wandering around, including an expensive hot chocolate at the centuries-famous Café Florian on San Marco square. Train back to Paris overnight.

September 26. Uncomfortable on train, didn’t get much sleep. Paris at 9:00 a.m. Home, shopping, wrote several postcards, picked up a package of texts by/from Gérard Lambert.* Late couscous lunch. Read Semprún’s L’abîme se repeuple. Finished most of Braunstein and Delort’s Venise: portrait historique d’une cité.

*I had seen Gérard frequently during my 1971 and 1973 Paris trips, but he had since moved to Brittany.

September 27. At noon met Baudet and his partner Marie-Jo and Christine Pédarriosse and her partner Xavier at the Bois de Boulogne. Much walking and talking (Christine talked at length re her experiences and contacts in Russia and East Europe). Late afternoon went with Jean-Pierre and Marie-Jo to Belleville, then to their place in the Mairie des Lilas (Christine and Xavier rejoined us there). I made some critical responses to Jean-Pierre re a letter he had not sent but just gave me — notably re the predictable situ obsession against religion. Though my response to his letter was rather sharp, he (as well as the others, who didn’t say much, as they hadn’t read my book or his letter) remained friendly, disagreed with some points, conceded others. This led eventually to my describing my Zen experiences etc. Late dinner. Home after midnight.*

*Jean-Pierre Baudet had recently visited me in Berkeley, but like his friend Jeff Martos he had apparently hesitated as to whether my Religion pamphlet and certain other passages in Public Secrets were too heretical in relation to the anti-religion situationist orthodoxy espoused by him and Martos and many other people in the situ milieu. Thus, he wrote this critical letter, then didn’t send it to me, then gave it to me when he decided to see me in Paris. As you will see below, he then once again decided to discontinue any relation with me, though he failed to communicate this decision with any clarity. My later public response to Baudet’s letter can be found here.

September 28. Christian and Marta over to try (unsuccessfully) to fix a leaky faucet and a broken door of our absent neighbor. To Thai-Chinese lunch with them. Then I went downtown, but except for Shakespeare & Co., most stores were closed (since it was Sunday). To dinner at Christian and Marta’s with Alicia Torres (on a Paris stopover) and Juan. Talk with Christian re yesterday’s meeting with Baudet, etc, and sang a few folksongs. Called Andy and Lora* — things going fine.

*A Bay Area friends who were checking my Berkeley P.O. box while I was gone.

September 29. Called Quim (Barcelona) and Teresa (Lisbon). To Latin Quarter. Lunch, several record stores, then Gibert* to get books for Jim and Marta. Home at 8:00.

*Gibert Joseph and Gibert Jeune: two huge new and used bookstores on Boulevard Saint-Michel.

September 30. Went swimming. Lunch at Routiers. To Éditions Allia — Berréby not there, but I talked with his assistant and made an appointment for tomorrow. FNAC and other record stores in the area. Have found several likely new CDs, but will scout around more before buying. Called Germany and talked to Tilla awhile. They liked my Autobiography* and are disappointed that I probably won’t be visiting them.

*Confessions of a Mild-Mannered Enemy of the State, a short autobiography included in Public Secrets.

October 1. Lunch with André Trillaud. Found a good disquaire [record dealer] who said he’d record any of Germaine Montero’s records for 100 francs each. Met Berréby at Allia, who returned the SI texts I’d lent him (the project he was going to use them in has been abandoned due to copyright problems). Got several books at Parallèles (including Debord’s Panégyrique II). Home at 6:00. Joël Camous arrived at 7:30 (getting ready to move his stuff to his new home in the Dordogne). Chatted awhile with him. He started looking over the Autobiography (in my French draft), suggesting numerous translation improvements.

Chicago Review
Rexroth issue

October 2. Met Christian for squash late morning. Back to his place for lunch (ordered a pizza). Talk re Don Quixote, which he and Marta are reading in Spanish. Cécile dropped by briefly. To music library near Place d’Italie. 6:00 concert of Agnès Debord, who sang French songs 1900-1950 with accordion accompaniment. Met Max Blechman* for dinner. He talked a lot re his old Morea-Motherfucker researches, and we discussed Rexroth etc. He’s studying at the Sorbonne. Only 26. He also talked re Chasse, Elwell, Bookchin, 1994 manifs in Paris, etc.

*Editor of the anarchist literary journal Drunken Boat. He later edited the book Revolutionary Romanticism (City Lights, 1999) and a large Chicago Review special Rexroth issue (Autumn 2006):

October 3. Françou called. Called Joël and Nadine re trip. Met Maurice Fhima, who took me to lunch in the Latin Quarter. He talked re his (mostly long-past) experiences in Pouvoir Ouvrier, Worker-Student Action Committees, etc., then asked me various questions re the religion/Zen aspects of Public Secrets. He himself is into Oriental martial arts, and is an old friend of Lorraine Perlman, Roger Grégoire, etc. At 3:00 he went to the Sorbonne (where he’s a math prof). I looked through some remainder bookstores on Rue des Écoles, then to Beaubourg (closed), then home. The planned dinner at Patrick’s was postponed. Instead, Joël and I had bread and cheese while chatting about Bounan, records, etc. Then he started packing books (he’ll be moving next week).

October 4. Called Chasse and Brigitte Cornand (will see her next Thursday). To Vanves flea market, then a bookfair at Georges Brassens Park. There was also an exposition on Brassens there. A disquaire directed me to a record-collectors fair which I also went to (found several Monteros, but mostly at very high prices). Home at 6:00.

October 5. Met Christian and Marta at Passage Brady — a festival du quartier which included Les Moineaux (Guénaëlle and her friend). Indian lunch. Discussed my ideas re points of practical action (e.g. my response to Maurice Fhima re focusing precisely on a problem in order to flip it, instead of evading it).* Then they went home and I went to Brassens Park to hear several performers do Brassens songs. Then back to their place. Long talk with Christian re early 60s, psychedelics, and Zen. Met Pascal Moatti at Joël’s, but was too tired to talk much.

*Maurice had bemoaned the fact that few people read radical texts, so that when he put out a leaflet he got almost no responses. I suggested that rather than passively complaining about that lack of response, it might be more effective to directly attack that problem. For example, one could write a leaflet precisely about why people tend not to read such leaflets (which might well be more challenging and provocative than merely repeating more predictable radical topics).

October 6. Finished Bodinat’s La vie sur terre. Wandered around the Goutte d’Or neighborhood and by Martos’s place (but the apartment front door was locked and coded). Chinese lunch at Rue Torcy. To Place de l’Opéra to cash my last traveler’s checks. FNAC music (got an Yvette Guilbert double-CD). Met Christian at Grand Palais for an exhibit of Prud’hon paintings. Home, called Paulette Cudek re locating the Deneverts — she suggested that I try Minitel [a French pre-Internet online communications service].

October 7. Went to Minitel center and a woman helped me search for Daniel and Françoise. Found that they live in Bretagne with an unlisted number. But I now have their zip code. To Taillandiers disquaire to pick up one of the Montero cassettes the owner had made for me, and talked with another guy there who was well informed about her recordings. Gibert. Home at 6:30, then to Patrick Grauer’s where Joël had invited a dozen people (those who will be helping him load the truck for his move) for dinner. Three women — Cathérine, Évelyne, and Brigitte Kufel (the latter a friend of Isa’s whom I’d known in 1973) — and several guys: Ahmed, Henri, Philippe, Fabrice, Géraud, and Stéphane. Much of the talk I couldn’t follow (anecdotes about mushroom hunting, etc.). When they asked me questions about the US, Ahmed dominated obnoxiously, repeating platitudes about what he’d seen about America on TV, and then, when I mentioned the religion question, repeating other platitudes and anticlerical slogans. (I later realized I’d missed a good chance to pour his wine glass to overflowing to illustrate how full he is of such platitudes and preconceptions.)* Others discussed Chiapas, Jimmy Carr, etc. Though the dialogue was unsatisfactory, the evening was not unpleasant. When I looked at my watch it was 1:30. Jogged all the way home (about a mile).

*I was thinking of the first story in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, about a university professor who came to a Japanese Zen master to learn about Zen. The master poured him a cup of tea, but kept on pouring till it began to overflow. When the shocked guest exclaimed that the cup was already full, the master replied: “Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

October 8. To J-F Lepez’s.* Talked there, then at restaurant, then back to his place for most of the afternoon. He did most of the talking. He’s in poor health, but still drinking and smoking nonstop. Home, then to Cécile’s for dinner. 14-15 people, about half from Chile, plus Marta and some French people. I sang several US folksongs and a couple of the Chilean guys reciprocated. There was a Métro strike so I took a cab home at 1:00.

*Jean-François Lepez had visited me in Berkeley a year or two earlier. Before then he had lived in Japan for some time, where he had met my old friend Tommy Haruki.

October 9. To music bookstore to check out lyrics and chords for Brassens and other French singers. Then to Librairie Libertaire, then to the office of Libération, where I got a back issue with an article on Montero. To Ivréa, but Valentin wasn’t there and I was told he hadn’t had time to examine the text of Public Secrets. To Gibert, where I found an unexpectedly cheap edition of Mac Orlan’s songs. Home. Ate with Joël, he talking re Brassens.

In the corner bar afterwards
In the corner bar afterwards
Loading the van
Loading the van
One of his huge Paris maps
One of his huge Paris maps
Joel Camous ready for the move
Joël Camous ready for the move

October 10. To Pascal Moatti’s at noon. Though a friend of Joël’s and of Bounan’s, he’s not really very situ — has mystical interests, is into organic food, etc. He can barely read English, so I explained the rationale of some of my activities and attitudes described in Public Secrets. At 3:30 left to go to Bibliothèque Nationale. Didn’t find much. (Actually, I’ve just about exhausted my Public Secrets list of texts to check, having either found them or found that there’s no French version.) Back home at 6:00, where around fifteen friends were already starting to haul all Joël’s stuff down six flights of stairs. A huge operation, lasting three hours, what with a few tricky pieces of furniture and Joël’s huge collection of maps, in addition to all his books. Afterwards to the corner bar for beers. Talked with several of them — including some who weren’t at the dinner at Patrick’s: Pierre (pretty good English), Jean-Denis (who’d been in the US a year when he was young), Marc (who remembered our previous encounter chez Patrick six years ago and felt that I’d acted as a “monstre idéologique” — he had mistakenly taken my pointing out the limits of their antinuke projects as a contemptuous denunciation). Home after midnight.

October 11. To Christian and Marta’s at noon. Christian talked re his recent Grasse trip (company politics, etc.), I re recent encounters. Lunch there. We drove west of Paris, first to make some sort of payment to a guy living across the street from their old Carrières home, then to an antique fair (due to rain, few people were there). They went off to dinner at a friend’s. I had a Chinese dinner near Place d’Italie, then home.

October 12. Christian called: Daniel Denevert had left a message for me to phone him tomorrow. To Pascal’s to drop off Secrets Publics. As he was there, we talked an hour or so. Then to Clignancourt flea market. Lunch with accordion accompaniment. Record browsing. Rain. To another club at 4:30 where a blues group from Missouri was playing. (When I chatted with them afterwards, it turned out they knew Mary Dee.*) Got a few records. Chow fun dinner at Tourcy. Called Andy — no significant new developments.

*A musician friend of mine who lives in the St. Louis area.

October 13. Called Daniel and arranged to meet him when he’s in Paris Thursday. Bought train ticket. To Brigitte Cornand’s.* She was very friendly, and offered several contacts that may be of help in getting a French version of Public Secrets published. Took me to lunch. Talk re her work (documentaries re plastic arts). To Christian and Marta’s (Christian at work), where I called a couple of the publisher contacts Brigitte had given me, then went to drop off Public Secrets at both of them, then back to Christian’s. Mateusz called from Poland and we talked a bit. With Christian and Marta to restaurant. Home.

*Brigitte Cornand had collaborated with Debord on the video Guy Debord, son art et son temps, made just before his death in 1994.

October 14. Met André and Évelyne* for lunch (their grown-up daughter Phoebe also dropped by for a few minutes). They had both enjoyed my Autobiography, particularly the stories about the sixties. We discussed the rather closed views of Europeans by comparison, and also a book that Évelyne had written about Zola’s wife. Picked up Montero tapes at Taillendiers, left copies of Public Secrets at Libertaire bookstore (Rue Amelot), then to Lady Solo (Rue Keller) and to Parallèles, where I got several cheap records. To Daligands’** for dinner. Conversation re their various trips and some of his “art” projects, of which the most amazing was a parodic book on supposed Mickey Mouse imagery in Louis XIV’s Versailles garden that was actually published and seriously reviewed. Home at midnight.

*André Trillaud and Évelyne Bloch had visited me in Berkeley in 1977 and André had returned for another visit a few years later. Since that time they had divorced and each remarried. André has continued to write and publish a large number of invariably interesting and perceptive books and pamphlets on a wide variety of topics. Évelyne has authored several excellent books, two of which, Madame Proust (about Proust’s mother) and Vegetables: A Biography, have been translated into English. For more about André’s publications, see https://editions13bis.wordpress.com/. For more about Évelyne’s books, see www.ebloch-dano.com/livres/.

**I had gotten to know Daniel and Christiane Daligand during my 1976 Paris trip. Since reconnecting with them during this trip, I’ve seen them at least once or twice every time I’ve gone to Paris, and Daniel has helped me out with the translations of some of my writings into French.

October 15. All afternoon at the Louvre. Saw most of the paintings: Dutch and Flemish at least glancing at most, French mostly just walking past, stopping for a few (Poussin, Lorrain, Chardin, Delacroix, etc.) and similarly briefly past the Italians, Spanish, and English. Home at 6:00. Christian dropped by and we went to a Chinese restaurant (talk re the choices/attitudes in life of various people — Daligands, Patrick and friends, Trillaud, etc.).

October 16. Picked up Secrets Publics from Marie-Jo (who hadn’t read it yet). Met Daniel Denevert at a café in the 7th Arrondissement. We walked to a Mexican restaurant near Montparnasse. He briefly described his life since 1980: He, Françoise, and Évelyne Jaeglé left Paris and left behind virtually all their old friends and ceased any radical activity. To make ends meet he ended up creating some sort of computer program that became widely used by doctors, hospitals, etc. I described my démarches and of course gave him the English and French versions of Public Secrets and The Relevance of Rexroth. He invited me to visit them in their little hideaway cottage in central France at the end of the month. Then he took the train back to Bretagne. A good meeting. It remains to be seen how we’ll get along absent the old political commonality. Picked up a Public Secrets copy at Christian’s and left it at Fayard. Browsing in Latin Quarter, then home.

Rexroth poems in French
Rexroth poems in French
The attic bedroom
The attic bedroom where I stayed
Joel and Nadine
Joël and Nadine in their bookstore
Joel and Nadine's bookstore

October 17. Train to Bergerac. To Librairie La Brèche, where Joël Cornuault was working. Nadine showed up soon after. She and I picked up Gabrielle from school and drove home, Joël arriving later after closing the store. After dinner I sang Gabrielle a few American songs at their piano.

October 18. Went over some new translations of Rexroth poems with Joël* (Nadine at the store, though home for lunch). At 4:00 to Bergerac with Joël and Gabrielle. A while at the store — talked with a guy who liked Rexroth’s poems and who with his wife is doing archeological research on prehistoric tools. Walked around the town with Joël and Gabrielle, then they closed the store and I took them to a restaurant. I asked their opinions/feelings on Public Secrets. They didn’t go into detail, but were not completely unfavorable, even if they themselves have less they would want to retain from the old days. Home, showed Gabrielle some constellations.

*Joël had already translated a volume of Rexroth’s poems, Lautomne en California (1994), and he was preparing a second volume, Les constellations dhiver, which appeared in 1999.

Montaigne's ceiling
The ceiling features provocative quotes
from Greek and Latin classics
Montaigne's study
Montaigne's home
Montaigne’s home, with the famous corner
tower where he wrote his Essays

October 19. With Nadine and Gabrielle to Issigeac for shopping. More going over Rexroth questions with Joël. To Montaigne’s home/tower nearby for a brief tour. Sang more songs for Gabrielle in the car on the way back. Called Dominique, but she won’t be free to see me (maybe later in Paris). After dinner talk re possible Rexroth projects, problems of publishing and distribution, Joël’s childhood asthma, Proust, Occitan nationalism, French wines, etc.

October 20. Gabrielle to school. Walked around countryside with Joël and Nadine, including exploring an old vacant house and barn. Nadine to town to pick up Gabrielle. Discussion with Joël re him possibly translating a selection of Rexroth essays and excerpts, though there’s always the problem of finding a publisher. With Gabrielle awhile while she drew pictures. Got Nadine to play a couple piano pieces, though she’s out of practice. During dinner and afterwards we discussed various old contacts, Debord, some of the bizarre tendencies in the situ milieu. A few years ago, they said, they wouldn’t even have been willing to discuss the past, but now they feel bit more comfortable doing so. I’m the only contact they’ve retained from the old situ scene.

Outings with Joel and Nadine
Outings with Joel and Nadine
Outings with Joel and Nadine
Other outings with Joel, Nadine, and Gabrielle

October 21. To Bergerac with Nadine and Gabrielle. Dropped Gabrielle at school, coffee with Nadine (talk re possible trip to California) and she dropped me at 9:00 train to Paris (via Bordeaux). A nice visit. On the train read Joël and Nadine’s edition of excerpts from Maine de Biran. Home in Paris at midafternoon. Stayed there, reading some of Joël’s essays and a bunch of bizarre articles sent by Lahaeye re quantum physics etc.

October 22. Christian over with a plumber friend. The latter hooked up the gas heater and fixed the toilet leak while Christian and I cleaned up Joël’s place. Restaurant lunch with them — talked with Christian re the Daniel encounter and Joël and Nadine. Called various people, leaving messages or making rendezvous. Called Gérard Lambert to tell him I wouldn’t be able to come out to his place, and we chatted awhile. Chinese dinner and picked up photos. Wrote a few more postcards. Called Wolf to say I couldn’t come there, and we talked awhile.

October 23. Up early to listen to a program on Reclus on the radio, but unfortunately none of the interview with Joël* was included. Dropped by Pascal’s. He had another rendezvous so we just had a brief exchange (re my failure to see much interest in the text by Jacques Poulain that he had given me). All afternoon in the Latin Quarter (lunch at the place Max had taken me). To a café in the 10th Arrondissement where music was advertised, but gave up when it was an hour late and walked home.

*Joël Cornuault had been interviewed regarding a booklet he had written about Élisée Reclus, a nineteenth-century anarchist and ecologist somewhat similar to Kropotkin.

October 24. Met Christian for squash, then Indian lunch, then to their place. Gave them photos and helped Marta decipher some East Bay Express personals ads (which I’d used to wrap some books I’d sent myself from Berkeley to Paris). Browsing in the 5th Arrondissement. To Jean-Paul and Odile’s for dinner. Talk re Venice (where Jean-Pierre and Pierrette Labrugère had spent several idyllic months back in the 1970s), then re the diminishing number of “off-the-grid” places that remain (in certain rural areas in Europe and wilderness areas in the U.S.), then (rather tediously and lengthily) re the Unabomber etc.* It being after midnight when we stopped, they drove me home. Gave them the French version of The Relevance of Rexroth and loaned them Secrets Publics.

*I considered the Unabomber’s actions and perspectives to be idiotic, but in Europe, as in the US, they were seen by some radicals as having some significance.

October 25. Christian over to straighten up Joël’s apartment. Talked re Parade’s End, Nerval’s Aurélia, etc. I had a Chinese lunch, then went to a few English-language stores for Public Secrets possibilities. Rejected by two, but struck gold with Village Voice, the owner being a Rexroth admirer (he bought 3 Public Secrets and requested more of my Rexroth book). Blvd. Saint-Michel browsing, then home.

October 26. Nick called from London to say he’ll be in Paris this week. To Luc Mercier’s at noon. Exchanged and discussed a few miscellaneous texts and he helped me find a few French references. Over hors-d’oeuvres we discussed Public Secrets — mainly the perennial “religion” question. I don’t know that I really won him over, but I had a chance to explain my position in detail and he seemed to at least listen carefully. Out for a late couscous lunch, we continued talking — he asked my opinion/impression re France now (we discussed the sense of acute pessimism and depression here) and various responses to Public Secrets. He described a project of his re the Rumanian surrealists and also a number of anecdotes about the situ scene, mostly not very pleasant. He then explained the antireligion tradition in France as being partly due to an ultrarationalist current since the Enlightenment. I asked him if he thought that the situ movement had conducted itself very rationally during the last 30 years . . .* Much more walking and talking. He mentioned a nearby café frequented by Martos, which turned out to be Fanfan, where I went to see Guénaëlle singing after Luc went home. I stayed only an hour or so then walked home.

*The question was of course purely rhetorical. The answer was so obviously “no” that Luc just looked at me and rolled his eyes in silent acknowledgment of my point.

October 27. To Bercy auditorium all afternoon to see the Paris Tennis Open. The Center Court seat was disappointingly distant, but the two side courts (mostly doubles) were more intimate. In the evening met Christian and Marta near Montparnasse to see Molière’s Le Médecin malgré lui.

October 28. To Pascal’s at 11:00. Talked awhile there, then out walking. He criticized Public Secrets as not being sufficient for the goal(s) I had set myself; he felt that the basic banalities were largely irrelevant now that qualitatively changed conditions have made things more desperate, which he feels calls for a radical reorientation based on the “solid rock” of a more “spiritual” vision (though what he means by that remains somewhat vague to me). He also said that Public Secrets lacked “art,” in a sense. I granted that that might be so, but said I had put all I was capable of into it. We parted on friendly terms (he’s returning to Italy Friday). Latin Quarter, then to Vincennes to see Potlatch, a dramatized reading from Debord ’s In girum. Being simply that, it wasn’t bad. (I’d expected it to be really stupid.)

October 29. Met Gérard-Georges Lemaire (Éditions Christian Bourgois) and gave him Public Secrets. To Christian and Marta’s, then out to lunch, then back there to watch a tennis match on TV. Sold a couple more Public Secrets to a bookstore near Saint-Michel. To dinner with Nick,* who’s staying with a couple in Montreuil (he and they each with a daughter, 3 and 2 years old). Some arguing with Nick re his objections to Public Secrets, most of which amounted to his saying that I hadn’t sufficiently discussed contemporary events (similar to critiques found in the Aufheben review of Public Secrets he brought me). I was perhaps a bit gruff with him, trying to fit in a number of responses/points within the limited time we had together and impatient with his obtuse manner of scarcely noticing all the new issues and tactics raised in Public Secrets while blandly recommending those silly pedantic Aufheben articles.

*Nick Brandt, visiting from London. I had met him in Paris and London in 1976 and he had visited our Bay Area group in 1977, but I had not seen him since then. Nor have I had much communication with him since the brief meeting mentioned here. I would, however, like to acknowledge that when I was working on the original edition of my Situationist International Anthology (1981) and was preparing to risk my life’s savings to self-publish a book that, for all I knew, might be a total flop (no commercial publishers had shown any interest, and a self-published book would in the best of cases be difficult to distribute beyond a small network of radical stores), Nick loaned me several thousand dollars to help with the printing expense. He also requested to be repaid mostly in copies of the book, which he then circulated in the UK. He probably ended up not losing any money from this transaction, but he did not know that that would be the case — he was simply determined to get the book around, whatever the cost.

October 30. Train to Limousin to visit Daniel, Françoise, and Évelyne. They’ve done an impressive amount of house fixing up. We drove to a lake, then later with Daniel to see some neighbors. Conversation (tending to be slow and low-key — I relax and await their rhythm) re old friends, Public Secrets, a few recent situ developments, etc.

Visiting the Deneverts
Visiting the Deneverts
Visiting the Deneverts
Visiting Daniel, Francoise and Evelyne
Visiting Daniel, Françoise, and Évelyne

October 31. Daniel and I split a bunch of logs, then he hurt his back and had to stop. In the afternoon to a medieval church-fortress, then to see some Roman-Gallic ruins. On the way back I asked Daniel and Françoise a bit about their perspective when they disappeared. Once we were back home, they went into detail about their subsequent activities and feelings. François (“Tonton”), a local doctor friend of theirs, stopped by — hard to understand due to his thick regional accent. Played French Scrabble with Évelyne.

November 1. More log-splitting. Talk with Daniel re my hopes for Public Secrets translators. With Françoise and Évelyne to an island containing a lot of outdoor statues. After dinner Martine came over, the wife or ex-wife of Tonton, with an (ex?) pro-situ friend — i.e. she’s familiar with situs. A discussion of breaks led me to have her read aloud the relevant pages in the French translation of my Autobiography. Later the talk centered around understanding versus condoning wars, genocides, etc. (Yugoslavia, Algeria, etc.). To bed after 1:00 a.m.

November 2. Finished wood-splitting with Daniel. To Martine’s for lunch. Played one song (“Mean Mama”), then lunched quickly as my train was at 1:45. They dropped me there with cordial goodbyes. A good visit. It remains to be seen what they’ll think of Public Secrets (they’d just started reading the translation, their English being rusty) and if that will lead to any new developments with them.* Arrived in Paris after 7:00.

*As it turned out, we ended up having little communication after this meeting, and I have not seen them since then (their decision). Meanwhile, in recent years Daniel wrote occasional articles for some small periodicals in the rural region where I had visited them, and in 2018 he collected and published a selection of those articles: Dérider le Désert. I translated one of them: Farces and Fiascos Before the Cataclysm.
        Just as I was about to upload these diaries (November 2021) I learned that Daniel had died. For three years, 1973-1976, he was one of the closest friends I ever had.

November 3. To Jaime Semprún’s* office in Belleville from 3:00-7:00. I criticized the too-simplistic/defeatist tone of the Encyclopédie des Nuisances publications. He was receptive, though he explained aspects of French situation which he felt made such an approach more appropriate. Related discussion re technology and, once again, the Unabomber. Re Public Secrets, he thought I gave too great a weight to (or too little critique of) the Deneverts, and I talked about them. We also talked re their Orwell essay project. He was very cordial. We may get together again, though he leaves town at the end of the week.

*Jaime Semprún, author of several books, including La guerre sociale au Portugal (1975), Précis de Récupération (1976), and La Nucléarisation du monde (1980), and one of the main contributors to the journal Encyclopédie des Nuisances (1984-1992). In 1992 the E.d.N. switched from being a journal to being a publisher. Jaime was the main editor of the E.d.N.’s publications, and he and two or three others were at this time in the process of translating Orwell’s complete essays and reviews, which eventually were published in four volumes. With the notable exception of that Orwell collection, the E.d.N. publications tended to reflect a rather pessimistic anti-technology attitude which I have always found silly; hence the references to my arguments with Jaime and others re the Unabomber, etc.

Rexroth's San Francisco columns in French
Rexroth’s San Francisco
columns in French

November 4. Picked up photos and 5 copies of Le San Francisco de Kenneth Rexroth* mailed by Joël Cornuault. To lunch with Christian and Marta. Talked with Christian re the relative success (I think) with most of my encounters here, including with some people who are rather sharply opposed to each other. We also talked re Parade’s End (he’s finished the first volume).** He to work, I to home. Called Irénée Lastelle (Éditions Sulliver in Arles), whom Pascal had interested in Public Secrets. Packed a copy of it and the French version to send him. Several calls and returns of calls to establish rendezvous, including talk with Luc Mercier and André Trillaud re Deneverts.

*Joël Cornuault’s translation of a selection of Rexroth’s newspaper columns:

**Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End is one of numerous books that I was turned on to long ago by Rexroth and that I have in turn encouraged others to read. As with many of the greatest classics, the point is not so much the ostensible story as an underlying attitude toward life that is subtly implied by the story.

November 5. Called Lorenzo Valentin re Public Secrets. He hadn’t yet read it, but promised to do so this weekend. Made appointment for next week. Mailed books, photos, etc. to Lastelle, Françou, Joël and Nadine, and the Deneverts. Dropped Public Secrets by Chasse’s. Though he was typically dour, he brightened up a bit when I said that some of his writings had been a significant influence on me during the period when I was first learning about the situationists. Then to see André Bernard. He mentioned the possibility of the ACL printing excerpts of Public Secrets in their forthcoming journal. Also there: Alice Mayoux (daughter of the surrealist poet Jehan Mayoux who the ACL has just published). Then to André Trillaud’s 50th birthday party. Met his present wife, Cathérine, and their two daughters. Cathérine was excited to meet me, as André had been talking up Public Secrets to her and others. A dozen other friends there. I sang a few songs with guitar. Home at 11:00. Overall, today as yesterday, had the impression that things are really starting to click, both with person-to-person connections and with people’s enthusiasms about my writings. But it’s also starting to get pretty frenetic as the number of encounters increases with rapidly decreasing time left here.

Andre Trillaud's birthday party
At André Trillaud’s birthday party

November 6. Christian over to show the apartments to a real estate agent. Joël Cornuault called re his shipment of Le San Francisco de Kenneth Rexroth. To Actualités bookstore (6th Arrondissement), where the owner said he’d be happy to take my texts. Miscellaneous browsing, then to a café on Rue Ménilmontant where I met Odile, Jean-Paul, and Jaime Semprun. Odile and Jean-Paul had brief mixed reactions to Secrets Publics (which they had only rapidly and incompletely read). To a restaurant (soon joined by Jaime’s girlfriend Sophia). Some discussion among them re the decline of the chanson populaire (unless Rap might be considered an exception). Eventually, foreseeing a possible evening of consequenceless talk, I plunged in to point out that on this subject, as with technology, etc., they ended up concluding nothing, merely nuancing their awareness of details and reinforcing their sense of overall hopelessness. This led to quite a long discussion, mainly between Jaime and me, re technology etc. (previously discussed) and re tactics and postrevolution possibilities. (Jean-Paul felt that discussion of the latter was untimely or even irrelevant.) I criticized Jaime’s and the E.d.N.’s tendency to dwell on simplistic pessimistic conclusions, asking them in effect: “So what? What do your conclusions mean/lead to practically?” Finished at 12:30. Cordial partings. While I may have been a little more abrasive than I would have wanted, I think I managed to cram in a lot of stuff for them to think about in a short time.

November 7. Mailed Parade’s End to Joël and Nadine. Met Luc for lunch — exchange of texts (he’d also found several of the remaining Public Secrets French quotes), discussed the Encyclopédie des Nuisances group, etc. Sold 3 Public Secrets to Parallèles and 3 to Actualités. Found a virtually complete Trenet* 7-CD set for 250 francs. To Christian and Marta’s. Gave them 2000 francs for assorted bills. Recorded Montero tapes for Joël Camous. Home at 11:00.

*Charles Trenet (1913-2001): a delightfully zany singer-songwriter who someone called a combination of Danny Kaye and Salvador Dali. Here he is singing Le Jardin Extraordinaire (The Extraordinary Garden). And here is his most famous song, La Mer (The Sea).

November 8. Several calls to make rendezvous or say goodbye. Chinese lunch. To Paulette Cudek’s. Gave her Public Secrets and chatted with her and her friend Michel re finding the Deneverts. Sold 3 more Public Secrets to Actualités (while there a guy came in looking for Jack Vance books and we discussed him briefly). Home, called Françou and talked nearly an hour re developments since I saw him.

November 9. Continued unsuccessful calls to Baudet and Pédarriosse — seems more and more likely they’ve decided to avoid me (like their friend Martos). In all day going through papers and starting to pack. Christian over with Raphael for some repairs. I took them and Juan to dinner. They talked re the French Caribbean (where Raphael is from).

November 10. To Max’s. Took him to lunch. Talked about his plans for No. 3 of Drunken Boat, etc. Called Christian re a possible letter to Christine Pédarriosse — he recommended a simple note, with no reference to their possible turnabout re me. Gave 2 Public Secrets to George Whitman at Shakespeare & Co., much to his surprise.* On the way home, ran into a large march for peace in Algeria. Called Flo (Nick’s friend) to say goodbye and chatted awhile..

*George Whitman was the owner of the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore. The dialogue went something like this: KK (handing him a copy of Public Secrets): “Hi, I’m the author of this book.” GW: “Would you like to stay here?” KK: “Thanks, but I already have a place.” GW (disappointed and with a somewhat resigned expression): “Oh, then I guess you want me to buy some copies of your books and set up a reading here for you?” KK: “No, I’m not interested in doing a reading here, but I want to give you these books. You can sell them for whatever you want and keep the money. GW (taken aback): “Oh! Okay, thanks.” As you will see, during my next Paris trip (2001) I eventually did accept his offer of hospitality and lived at the bookstore for a couple weeks.

November 11. Mailed note to Christine P. As it was a holiday, most stores were closed, but at some sidewalk stands I did manage to get several cheap CDs of French songs for gifts back in the US. Tired in late afternoon, sat awhile in Notre-Dame. Was stopped in the street by an Iranian woman pleading for help for Iranian children orphaned by executions etc. Very possibly a scam, but I gave her $20. To dinner at Maurice Fhima and Michèle Bloch’s. Pleasant, low-key talk re Venice, Paris, etc. Maurice posed a couple of rather broad-abstract questions re the role of science. I responded evoking a few of the more concrete points in The Joy of Revolution. We also talked re Fredy and Lorraine Perlman. Home at midnight.

November 12. Bought a bottle of wine for Cathérine Olivier, the Minitel employee who had helped me find the Deneverts (unfortunately she was on vacation, so I had to simply leave it at the Minitel office with a note). To La Hune to push my Rexroth book, then met André Trillaud (with his friend Pierre Chaplin, who had met the Deneverts) for lunch. André praised my Autobiography, but I stressed that the other texts formed an integral whole with it. Then with him to get discounted Debord books from Fayard and Gallimard.* While we were at Fayard I met Henri Truber, who had got Public Secrets but hadn’t understood my project. He said he’d write me re his conclusion. Wild goose chase looking for Piaf lyrics from 5th Arrondissement to Bastille. Final visit to Taillandiers disquaire (who had another Montero cassette for me) and Lady Long Solo, then to Libertaire bookstore (Rue Amelot), then home. Called Daligands to say goodbye. Called Joël Camous and talked a long time — re his new home, my recent encounters, etc.

*André got a discount because he worked as a proofreader for those two publishers, among others. He later wrote an interesting and often amusing book about his experiences working with certain prominent authors: Souvenirs de la maison des mots.

November 13. To see Lorenzo Valentin (Éditions Ivréa) at 10:30. He began with a rather extensive response to “The Joy of Revolution” (the only part of Public Secrets he’d read), stating his questioning much of the old situ language, evoking some more subjective and even “religious” themes. He also manifested a technophobia somewhat similar to Jaime’s. I responded that I was (pleasantly) surprised to hear him invoking many of the same things I was in favor of (leaving aside the antitech issue) — because those concerns were expressed more in the parts of the book he hadn’t read (the Autobiography, Religion pamphlet, etc.). I also took the occasion to speak about my overall tactics, how the book was conceived as an integral whole, including places where I attempted to pull the rug out from under various ideological rigidities. After 3½ hours (!) of discussion he agreed that he should read the whole thing, and that now he had a corrected idea of what it’s about. He’ll let me know if he’s interested in publishing it within two or three months. But he certainly agreed that there isn’t much competition (one reason he hasn’t published many books during the last several years). Whatever the result, I feel I had a good chance to present the importance and qualities of Public Secrets. Then to lunch with Jean-François Lepez. (I was over an hour late, but fortunately he had given me the number of the restaurant so I’d been able to call him while I was still talking with Valentin.) He treated me to a lavish Chinese feast, then we went to a nearby bar. After 2½ hours (making a total of 6 hours of nonstop conversation for me) I left him. Brief browsing at Gibert, then to Rue Amelot to collect money for 4 Public Secrets, then home at 7:00.

November 14. Mailed more books to Françou. Met Berréby at 3:00 — chatted for an hour re Bracken’s book, mine, the SI-rights situation, etc. Then to meet Luc for a drink. He talked re the “Irradiés” antinuke group. Then to Christian and Marta’s. Talk with Christian re Berréby, Valentin, diverse Public Secrets responses. He talked re recent economic developments (multinationals dominating the small companies, etc.), which have tended to foster people’s antitech feelings. Then we went to an Italian restaurant. Jokes. Responding to Christian, I said I had the impression that my encounters this trip have been in some ways richer and more varied than during previous trips. We discussed how being in another country can foster such openings. Back to their place for a tisane, asked Christian his opinion re my notion of making a brochure responding to diverse Public Secrets responses.* Home after midnight.

*I later put together such a response: A Look at Some of the Reactions to Public Secrets.

November 15. Called Irénée Lastelle (Éditions Sulliver). He was relatively favorable to Public Secrets, which he had read rapidly, but wished to suspend his decision till he had reread it more carefully and discussed it with friends. I took the occasion to explain some of my main perspectives (why I included X but not Y, how I see Public Secrets as unique and potentially important, etc.). He seemed to understand and said he’d respond in writing within two or three weeks. Called Patrick — too busy to see me, but we chatted a few minutes. Called Odile and Jean-Paul and talked probably an hour. The usual clarifications re Public Secrets, latest developments, overview of diverse encounters here, etc. I think I succeeded in negating any sense of dissatisfaction they may have had after the encounter with Jaime, expressing amicable sentiments, explaining the stress + interest of successively meeting people of diverse types of personalities and viewpoints. Indian lunch, then last-minute browsing in the Latin Quarter. To Christian’s. Talk re encounters, Public Secrets reviews, Céline, Raymond Chandler. Marta returned, then Juan also showed up. Dinner. Home at 11:00.

With Pierre, Michel, Angeline and Evelyne
With Pierre, Michel, Angeline, and Évelyne

November 16. Called Daniel in the Limousin. Christian and Marta over to straighten up chez Joël. Train to Évelyne Bloch-Dano’s in the banlieu. Also there: her husband Pierre, their two kids (Benjamin and Lisa), and their friends Michel and Angeline (the latter Rwandan). Lunch. Talked with Angeline re her experiences during the 1994 genocide (most of her family were killed) and with Michel re different nuances of American vs. French culture. We all took a walk, during which I talked with Évelyne re her Zola book, her notion of making a novel based on her and Trillaud’s adventures twenty years ago, women in the situ milieu, etc. Michel and Angeline drove me to the Métro. To Christian and Marta’s. Took them to dinner at an expensive restaurant. Talked about the possibility of writing about books I recommended.* Goodbyes and thanks to them, home at 10:00. Packing. Called Jean Pérès, whom my note had been forwarded to.

*Several years later I put together an annotated list of 500+ books: Gateway to the Vast Realms: Recommended Readings from Literature to Revolution.

November 17. Up early. Extremely tough lugging all my luggage to Gare du Nord. And no wonder — once I arrived at the airport I found that my two large bags weighed 70 + 36 pounds!* (In addition to two smaller shoulder bags.) Flight to Toronto, then to San Francisco, arriving at 7:00 p.m. Shuttle home.

*Partly due to books, but mostly to the nearly 100 LPs of French songs I’d accumulated. Fortunately the check-in agent took pity on me and let me slip through without paying for all the excess weight.

 


Account of Ken Knabb’s 1997 Paris trip.
No copyright.

Next Trip (2001)
Other Travel Diaries