The Book is the Weapon Part II

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Five years ago I wrote an essay about one of my favorite books, Uwe Wandrey’s Kampfreime,  which in 1968 was designed and published as a weapon for self-defense following the death of Benne Ohnesorg in the ’68 protests. In the years since I’ve not been able to find any more references to books designed as weapons, until a few months ago I opened a package from Berlin and to discover a second book that is a weapon – this one also German.

50 Gramm zensierter Most in der Tüte appears to be an artists’ book by Künstlergruppe AV`88, consisting of a shredded xerox copy of Johan Most’s Revolutionäre Kriegswissenschaften” (1875) – the famed German anarchists rare instruction manual for the manufacture of bombs. According to the printed title sheet, the shredded book has been censured in advance by the group, which also notes that smoking the material within could be dangerous for health of the state. Presumably, the strips are to be used as tinder, metaphorically or physically.

Most’s work has become largely obscured these days, and I admire the inventive way that it references a work published more than 100 years earlier. I don’t know much about other works by the group, if there are any, and welcome any information.

Neither OCLC nor KVK locate any holdings.

Künstlergruppe AV’88. 50 Gramm zensierter Most in der Tüte. Ein Projekt der Künstlergruppe AV`88. [Frankfurt]: Verlag Edition AV 88, [1988]. Sealed plastic bag filled with xeroxed and shredded strips from Johann Most’s book “Revolutionäre Kriegswissenschaften”, with printed red title sheet sealed within.

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Chris Marker’s Petite Planète Series: Germany

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Chris Marker’s Petite Planète series, which he founded for Editions Seuil and which he directed for the first 19 books, have received a lot attention lately, with articles and exhibitions drawing attention to them. The attention is well-deserved. It is hard to think of a more profound déternoument of a by-then moribund literary format, the travel guide. With their inventive layout, playful irony, and mixture of found images with original photography – by Marker himself, as well as friends such as Agnes Varda – they rank among the most interesting publications of the 20th century. The anecdotes are well-known – the fictional guide to Mars in the Resnais and Marker documentary Toute le Mémoire du Monde, the influence on William Klein’s Life is Good and Good For You in New York – but what is less known is that English translations of some of the volumes exist, published by Vista Books in London in 50’s and early 60’s. The English editions largely preserve the format and layout of the French originals, giving the English readers a chance to enjoy them. In the coming days we’ll be profiling several of these, beginning with one of the best – Joseph Rovan’s Germany, which was originally published by Editions Seuil as the 7th book in the Petite Planète series. Marker also contributes 11 of his own photographs to the book.

 

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This was likely an important volume for Marker in the series, as it was written by his close friend Joseph Rovan, who was Marker’s employer at the Centre national de documentation de la culture populaire, and was also involved with Travail et Culture and Esprit, the magazine in which Marker published his first stories, poems and travelogues.

 

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Rovan spent his youth in Germany, and during the war was imprisoned at Dachua by the Nazi’s for his activities in the Resistance. After the war he spent time in French-occupied Germany engaged in educational activities, part of an effort at postwar reconciliation between the two nations which was a passionate cause for Rovan. Marker sometimes accompanied him on these trips, which he recounted in an essay in Esprit. Rovan’s autobiography, Mémoires d’un Français qui se souvient d’avoir été Allemand, contains some beautiful reminscences of Marker, playing piano one of these German trips, and also sleeping on the table at the DOC offices in the 50’s when he was young and had no place to sleep. Rovan’s book is an amazing work in its own right, and deserves a translation into English. I am very grateful to Catherine Lupton’s excellent study of Chris Marker, Memories of the Future, which is where I first read of the passages about Marker in Rovan’s book.

 

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Rovan, Joseph [Chris Marker]. Germany. London: Edward Hulton, 1959. First edition thus. 12mo, 192 pp, photographically illustrated wraps. Translated into English by Margaret Crosland.

Books related to Chris Marker available to purchase from Division Leap.

What Would Happen If I Were to Stand Up?

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I first encountered the art of James Francis Horrabin in his illustrations for his friend H. G. Well’s The Outline of History, the work for which he is best known. Luckily, that led me to Horrabin’s own work, such as the fascinating The Plebs Atlas (1926) – which along with his other works on mapping, represent one of the most sustained pre-WWII efforts at a radical, socialist cartography.

Before yesterday’s mail, however, I’d never seen his striking cover illustration for the Plebs League pamphlet Do Your Own Thinking, which shows that Horrabin also had an eye for mapping more abstract social spaces as well. A muscular worker – The Man Underneath – kneels on one knee beneath a table on which dance a line of pudgy men and women in evening wear. Our worker casts a grave and thoughtful eye towards the reader, and states, rather than asks, “I’m just thinking what would happen if I were to stand up!”

 

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[Horrabin, J. F.]. Do Your Own Thinking. London: Plebs League, nd [c. 1920’s]. First edition. Small 8vo, 14 pp, saddle-stapled illustrated wraps. Inquire.

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Good Old Solomon

 

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I’ve been fascinated lately by publications from the German underground in the 60’s and 70’s, specifically those that came from communes. There are a surprising number, and for some reason they are largely unknown on these shores. This book, Guter Alter Salomon, was published by Klepperkommune Mainz in 1970.

It was printed by Geburtstagpresse, one of the key underground presses of the time, and like many of their books it utilizes a great, narrow 4to format – narrow enough to fit into a pocket, but the height gives a larger printing field for images. The choice of format may have also been economical, as a book in this format would likely use a standard sized sheet of paper with little trim loss.

The book is a collection of old testament and religious quotes about sex, interspersed with provocative, political pop art illustrations by one Wolfgang Blacha. I’ve been able to find out little about the artist, but would be glad to hear from anyone who knows of other work by him, or have more information about Klepperkommune Mainz.

Klepperkommune Mainz. Guter Alter Salomon. Mainz: Geburtstagpresse, 1970.

B. Traven and the Flight of the Buchergilde Gutenberg from Germany

 

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20. Traven, B. Der Marsch ins Reich der Caoba. Zurich, Vienna, Prague: Buchergilde Gutenberg, 1933. First edition. 8vo, 254 pp, bound in full slate blue cloth with red blind-stamped titles. Printed dust jacket.

The first edition of the third book in the Mahogany series, and the first book published by the Buchergilde Gutenberg in exile following the seizure of the Berlin Press by the Nazis earlier in that year. This was the first Traven title from the press to bear a dust jacket, and it was a striking one, reproducing a chalk drawing attributed to “FUCK.”

This wasn’t necessarily a middle finger extended to the Nazi’s, but rather the name of the artist, Bruno Fuck – a pseudonym of Boris Angelushev, a Bulgarian artist whose work is featured on a number of socialist publications of the 30’s.

The book didn’t appear in English until the 1961 British edition, under the title March to Coabaland, reprinted in 1964 by Dell as March to Monteria. Treverton 705.

A fine copy in a striking, near fine example of the dust jacket, with several short marginal tears which have been neatly repaired at verso. Sold.

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