Between 1952 and 1954, Jean-Michel Mension haunted Saint-Germain-des-Prés as a member of the legendary Letterist International, direct progenitor of the Situationist International. In a series of conversations, Mension recounts this very particular vie de bohème whiled away with Guy Debord and a rogue’s gallery of hard drinkers and thinkers.
The Tribe is a rare, vivid tour of a moment and milieu barely noticed at the time by the tourists who flocked to the Left Bank for a glimpse of Sartre & Co. The rich iconography includes many of Ed van der Elsken’s celebrated photographs of the tribe and a trove of Letterist leaflets and posters. A rare, vivid tour of a moment and milieu barely noticed at the time by the tourists flocking to Saint-Germain for a glimpse of Sartre & Co.
The Tribe relates the Parisian wanderings of a heterogeneous group of individuals who cultivated laziness and revolt, alcohol and talk, drift and chance, creative hopes and encounters . . . in quest of a Rimbaldian derangement of all the senses, of détournement of art and daily life in the defiance of order, by vandalism, by deliquency, but also by an altogether contemporary quest for a supersession of Marxism.–Le Monde libertaire
In his oral memoir The Tribe, Jean-Michel Mension provides a useful context for [Guy] Debord’s particular estrangement from postwar modernity. Mension reveals a multicultural dimension that is rarely explored in the burgeoning literature on this group . . . –McKenzie Wark, Bookforum
Mension, who began submitting writing to the Letterist journal at 18, recounts life in this fascinating, emphatically improvident, quasi-anarchist subculture, delivering vivid anecdotes and a still-fresh scoff-law sensibility.–Publishers Weekly
Jean-Michel Mension (1934 – 2006) misspent his youth in Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the early 1950s before joining the Communist Party in 1962 and the Ligue Communiste in 1968. The Tribe is Mension’s first book; he published his second in 2001: Le Temps gage: aventures politiques et artistique d’un irrégulier à Paris.