Monday, 6 February 2012

Andrew Hussey, "The game of war: the life and death of Guy Debord" (2001)

I'm torn about this book. While reading it I was distracted by Hussey's interjection of personal anecdotes regarding his drinking interviews with Debord associates. These smacked of insecurity, as if Hussey was desperate to assure us that he was 'cool' enough to wander Paris' Left Bank, to share cognac with Alice Becker-Ho, and to mix comfortably and confidently with these notoriously catty theoreticians and revolutionaries.

On the other hand, his explication of Debord's theories at times was rather simplistic. For the common reader, this would be helpful, though I can't help but wonder how many 'common' readers were likely to pick such a book up?

In short, Game of War was akin to an extended Rolling Stone biography. Pithy, loaded with personal insights, and light on philosophical and political insights. I can say, however, that I had never known that Debord once opened a bar in Paris, and designed advertising for the bar before he became involved as a co-manager.

As an addendum, particularly given the title of this book I was disappointed to find that Hussey did not offer a translation (or really even a mention) of Debord's 1987 text that outlined the rules for the kriegspiel he invented (the only version of the text that I have found was the translation in Len Bracken's Guy Debord: Revolutionary, and frankly, the editing quality of that volume was so bad that I can't help but regard anything in the book as being a bit dodgy). As Hussey discusses Debord and Becker-Ho wiling away many days playing this game, and suggests the game was a metaphor in some ways for Debord's later thinking about politics and revolution, this oversight feels significant.

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