DEBORD, Guy; STRARAM, Patrick. (Ed. Sylvano Santini). D’une révolution à l’autre. Correspondance Debord-Straram suivi de Cahier pour un paysage à inventer et autres textes. Montréal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal (PUM), 27 March 2023. 416 p.; ill.; 21.5 x 15 cm.; white wrappers with text in blue.
With the exception of perhaps two dozen publications in academic journals, a couple of dissertations, a biography by Marc Vachon (L’arpenteur de la ville : l’utopie urbaine situationniste et Patrick Straram, 2003), Patrick Straram has remained an unjustly neglected figure of the twentieth century avant-garde. Further, and with the exception of Lettre à Guy Debord de Patrick Straram and La veuve blanche et noire un peu détournée (Sens & Tonka, 2006, for both) many of Straram’s writings remain either out-of-print or unpublished.
D’une révolution à l’autre. Correspondance Debord-Straram suivi de Cahier pour un paysage à inventer et autres textes, released last month by the Presses de l’Université de Montréal, attempts to remedy this gap. The book focuses on Straram’s intellectual development in the years following his immigration to Canada (1954) through the publication of the Cahier pour un paysage à inventer (1960).
D’une révolution à l’autre is structured in five sections:
- A critical text by Sylvano Santini
- A reproduction of the letters between Guy Debord and Patrick Straram (1954-1963)
- A reproduction of the full text of the Cahier pour un paysage à inventer
- A reproduction of a select number of other texts by Straram from the 1953-1963 period
- A postface by Guillaume Bellehumeur
Santini’s text is a comparative study of Debord and Straram’s friendship and intellectual development from 1953 to 1963, and contextualizes the two men’s relationship within their respective milieu. Having accessed Straram’s letters to the actor Jacques Blot (1951-1960), Santini sheds a new light on a very poorly understood part of the man’s life: his 4 years working at a lumberjack in British Columbia, prior to his arrival in Montreal in June 1958. For instance, one is surprised to learn about Straram’s interest in Ayn Rand, and the strong influence the character of Howard Roark in The Fountainhead (1943) had on him at the time. For this reason, and many others, Santini’s article is an innovative and welcome contribution to Situationist scholarship.
The reproduction of the letters between Debord and Straram is useful, though with one exception, those had already appeared in either Guy Debord’s Correspondance or Lettre à Guy Debord de Patrick Straram. It may have been judicious to include the yet-unpublished letters between Straram and Blot instead.
The reproduction of the full text of the Cahier pour un paysage à inventer, should be celebrated. The first and only issue of the Situationist-influenced, Quebec-based periodical has remained extremely scarce, with only three copies on OCLC, all in Canada (Sherbrooke, Montreal, UQAM). This publication includes articles, poems and critical texts by Quebec writers (Gaston Miron, Marie-France O’Leary, Paul-Marie Lapointe, Gilles Hénault, Serge Garant, Marcel Dubé…) and members of the Internationale Situationniste (Asger Jorn, Gilles Ivain, Guy-Ernest Debord…).
The penultimate section of the book includes several hard-to-find texts by Straram. The reprint of Straram’s mythical article in Tremplin, the bulletin of the patients of the psychiatric hospital of Ville-Evrard (where the author was briefly interned), is very worthwhile. Likewise, Quelque part Salt Spring had never been published before, and appears here for the first time. These are important milestones in Straram’s intellectual journey, and help us better understand his personal trajectory.
Finally, a postface by Guillaume Bellehumeur with the tongue-and-cheek title of “De la diffusion de la pensée de l’IS en milieu québécois, considérée sous ses aspects culturel, cinématographique et notamment littéraire, et de quelques figures qui y ont contribué” (a reference to Mustapha Khayat’s pamphlet), demonstrates the ways in which the Situationist International influenced Quebecois intellectual culture, and how a second issue of the Cahier had been well underway.
Overall, D’une révolution à l’autre is an important for those interested in Guy Debord, Patrick Straram, the Quebecois counterculture of the early 1960s, and the intersection of all three.
Note: Our review copy was graciously provided by the Presses de l’Université de Montréal