Vaneigem's Imaginary Journal

Among the thirty some books bought on my first visit this summer to Toulouse’s great bookstore, Ombres Blanches, I picked Raoul Vaneigem’s Journal Imaginaire (Le Cherche-midi Editeur, 2006) to start off with (maybe because its form, short epigrammatic paragraphs fit well into days shrapnelled with war news and further deranged with a throat infection). Of the core Situationiss, Vaneigem has always seemed to me ar least as interesting and often more so than his ex-companion, Guy Debord (of whom there was a book in the store I didn’t buy, a collaboration with Alice Becker-Ho and which was a visual reproduction of a large, in fact the total number of attacking — nomadic war-machine — moves in a game of go.)
Here are a few paragraphs (stanzas, I want to call them — Vaneigem’s stylistic power giving the prose sentences the charge of poetry, at least in French as my quick English versions do not manage to bring over the sheer beauty in phrasing of the original):


What’s the point of discovering who I am if it isn’t to know who I want to be?


The necessity to adapt to the surrounding environment for survival is an animal behavior. The primary human action consists in creating an environment that is favorable to the development of life.


Our ideas, our imaginary games, our wild dreams, our most unreasonable speculations sketch out in us a plurality of inhabitable worlds. We own only meteoric fragments of them, pigeon-holed as they are by common sense into the drawers of the nonsensical.


The reality that imposes the economic mangameent of beings and things is the lie that engenders all the other lies. Where is the truth of the living in religion, philosophy, ideology, culture, science, art, ethics? We have of it but the mirrors of its negation.


Cosmgonic myths and initiatory legends suggest the existence of worlds that a timeless fluidity entangles, superposes, locates in hidden recesses where the most certain laws of our Aristotelian sciences and of our geometrical apperception, as inherited from the Great Watchmaker, are abrogated.


We never open other doors than those of the body. The cosmic labyrinth is in us as we are in it. It forms and deforms the texture of our carnal substance. The forgery of religion counterfeited its Gods at the core of an evolutional matter to whose power, omnipresence and omniscience we now lay claim to — because they belong to our human specificity.


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2 Responses

  1. McKenzie Wark says:

    Thanks for the translations! RV is due for some citical recognition.

  1. February 20, 2013

    […] of this blog will know, I have kept up with Vaneigem’s writings over the years — here & here & here — and so it is a pleasure to report on a retranslation of the Traité by Donald […]

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