guy debord

The Night


By Brendan Byrne.


“Language is the poisoned air we live in. In spite of all our jokers, words don’t play; and in spite of Breton, they don’t make love except in dreams. Words work, to the profit of the dominant organisation of life.”

The above quote is from the polemic ‘All the King’s Men’ which appeared in Internationale Situationniste #8 in 1963, three years after Michèle Bernstein’s novel All the King’s Horses. The titles are not taken from the same source. The editors of Internationale Situationniste (of whom Bernstein was one) explicitly reference Humpty-Dumpty, whereas her novel takes its title from a traditional French ballad. In ‘Aux Marches du Palais’, the coupling of a royal and a commoner is imagined, creating what Greil Marcus called “as deep and singular an image of revolution as there was ever been”. This different ethic of love fuels the shared plot (such as it is) of All the Kings Horses and its successor The Night (1961): a married couple’s seduction and abandonment of two young lovers. All the King’s Horses tells the story in an irony on the style of Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse. The Night mimics Alain Robbe-Grillet’s nouveau roman, fracturing the more or less undisturbed chronology of its predecessor.

Margins of the city


‘Baudelaire, Benjamin and the Birth of the Flâneur’ by Bobby Seal.

It is, therefore, clear that Baudelaire established a tradition that moved through the early modernists, to the Surrealists and on to the Situationists. As part of the latter movement, Guy Debord developed the notions of the dérive and the ‘spectacle’. A dérive (in English ‘drift’) is the means by which ‘psycho-geographies’ are achieved. A drift is an unplanned walk, usually through a city or marginal area, and a psycho-geography involves the walker creating a mental map of the city which, “depends on the walker ‘seeing’ and being drawn into events, situations and images by an abandonment to wholly unanticipated attraction.” (Chris Jenks (ed), ‘Visual Culture’)