Michèle Bernstein: All The King’s Horses
Semiotext(e) 2008, 128 pages, £9.95
von Ricky Trang
The book everyone interested in the Situationists has heard about, but no one has actually read, is finally available in English. Like most parts of Situationist history the origin of this book is hidden in myth and selfhistorification. The story goes that it was solely written to fill the SI’s war chest. Bernstein’s concern about practising a dead art was resolved by Debord who declared it an act of detournement.
And indeed, it’s a slippery rewrite of Laclos’ „Dangerous Liaisons“ that recounts episodes from the lives of Geneviève and Gilles, a young bohemian couple that move in the intellectual and avant-garde circles of the late 50ies. Although the names have been changed, it’s clear that it’s Debord playing the role of the cold libertine with Bernstein as his cohort. „We’re all characters in a novel, haven’t you noticed? You and I speak in dry little sentences. There’s even something unfinished about us.“
They engage in games of seduction, joyful games that are fuelled by a conception of love that is open, playful and influenced by the idea of the potlatch so vital to the early SI.
The Book itself isn’t groundbreaking. It’s just a Situationist trash novel- charming, frivolous and humorous. But it’s an inspiring read, even if you are not familiar with Situationist history. And if you can decipher all the hidden hints it becomes absolutely amazing.
Adornits beware: This is also a book about revolutionaries love of real life.
*It seems that you can’t mention this book without quoting it’s most famous dialog. So will find it packed in a comic strip (again) somewhere in this issue.