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Leaving the 20th Century: Incomplete Work of the Situationist International

Leaving the 20th Century: Incomplete Work of the Situationist International

First published in 1974, Leaving The 20th Century was the first collection of Situationist writing in English. Chris Gray, its editor, was himself a member of the SI. Long out of print, it has gained an enormous reputation. This new, lavish, oversize edition keeps the original provocativeness, in easy translations, along with SI's cut and paste graphics, poster-art, and cartoons.

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Firstly, this is neither a textbook on, nor an introduction to, the art/science of situationism. This is what was written by those involved when nothing like it had ever been said before. This does mean that it doesn't make for good holiday reading. It also means, however, that you aren't simply reading the retrospective thoughts of some outsider with nothing but hyperbole and uncritical praise to add to the subject matter. The ideas, in this case, are allowed to speak for themselves and the reader is allowed to draw their own conclusion on whether they are vital and true or detatched, rambling nonsense. And it is, at times, hard to tell the two apart when dealing with situationists. The range of subjects illuminated on in this book is undeniably impressive, however. Contributions range from populist propaganda to deeply theoretical musings from the likes of the lovably cryptic Guy Debord, and nothing here will allow skim-reading. If there is an underlying logic to the order of selections here i confess it eludes me, but this only reinforces the fact that no-one involved in this book is trying to make it easy for you. Anyone claiming to be interested in the subject should read this book, but it probably isn't wise to do so if you have no prior knowledge of the subject.

 

We are only concerned with the moments when life shatters the glaciation of survival -- from the front cover

"It is high time to put an end to the dead time that has dominated this century and to finish the Christian era with the same stroke. The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom. Ours is the best effort so far towards leaving the 20th century."

In 1964 when these words were written they seemed to have little relevance. By 1968 ten million workers were on strike and France was near revolution -- "Our ideas are in everyone's minds".

If any single idea lay at the heart of May '68, it was Situationism. The search for a 'Northwest Passage' from the banal tyranny of the modern bourgeois order into the 'world that has never been' was signposted most clearly by the Situationists. Through a thousand acts of refusal and rebellion the route is revealed. The task was simple -- to 'reconstruct' life itself.

Published in 1974, Leaving the 20th Century was the first collection of Situationist writing in English. Chris Gray, its editor, was himself a member of the Situationist International. Long out of print, it has gained an enormous reputation and now it is time for a new generation of readers to take up this remarkable book.

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