An Anarchist Playbook


Radical Translation

  Edited by Sanja Perovic, Rosa Mucignat,
  Jacob McGuinn, & Cristina Viti (with the NoUP editors)
  Tenement Press / No University Press #1
  ISBN: 978-1-7393851-3-2
  210pp (approx) / 140 x 216mm
  Designed and typeset by Traven T. Croves

  Forthcoming January 2024

 An anthology of translations 
 pertaining to the ongoing work of 
 the Radical Translations group: a collective 
 that looks to the French Revolution to recover 
 the vitality of Europe’s shared radical past, 
 via an ongoing experiment in collaborative 
 translation and collectivity ... 

Let us not forget that numerous writers have situated the prosperity of nations in the multiplicity of needs, the ever-increasing diversity of material enjoyments, ceaseless toil, unlimited commerce, rapid circulation of currency, and in the last analysis, in the restless and insatiable greed of citizens. […] And while some have deemed the brutish misery of the workforce necessary to the prosperity of the whole, others have offered unimited trade and financial liberty as a remedy to present inequality, thus paving the way for further corruption and renewed inequalities.  

Philippe Buonarroti

The Conspiracy of Equals (1796) is often hailed as the first revolution against a revolutionary state. Even if the conspirators were soon found out and put on trial, their ideas of radical equality and liberty shaped future generations of revolutionaries worldwide. An Anarchist Playbook—the first publication in Tenement’s new imprint, No University Press—gathers together many of the key documents from their trial across a myriad forms, with a number of these texts appearing herein in their first English-language translation.

Assembled in the Playbook are the last words of Gracchus Babeuf, the leader of the conspiracy and a radical proponent of the abolition of private property, and of his fellow conspirator Augustin Darthé, as they faced the guillotine. We’ve a letter, written in the popular idiom of the sans-culottes, that urges the common soldier to rebel; the score and lyrics of a street song that names the new class enemy: the wealthy bourgeoisie who have profited from the revolution; a first-time English translation of The Last Judgement of All Kings—an extraordinary one-act play by Sylvain Maréchal, the unofficial poet of the Conspiracy, that was performed to considerable acclaim in Year II of the Revolution (and that the Workshop is in the process of adapting for contemporary audiences). Many of these texts were never published in their own time, and form a part of the testament left behind by Philippe Buonarroti, a leading conspirator who inspired new generations of revolutionaries across Europe over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Among the best known works included is the Manifesto of Equals, long considered a founding text of social, communist and anarchist revolutions. The Playbook presents a translation of the Manifesto alongside other key texts by the conspirators, reconstructing the richness and variety of revolutionary communication that informs the editorship, shape, and scope of this volume.

The works gathered in the Playbook were written in the context of a collective struggle for greater rights and equality, and the translations assembled in this collection have been produced collaboratively in an attempt to bring this collective process back to life. This publication is the outcome of a set of co-translations written by the Radical Translation Workshop (see radicaltranslations.org); an informal group that included translators, performers, university students and lecturers from Britain, France and Italy—all united in their desire to find new ways of translating historic revolutionary thought for our present time. Guided by translator, poet, and frequent Tenement collaborator Cristina Viti, the workshops engaged with the liveliness of revolutionary language as participants discussed the meaning of key concepts and expressions and arrived at a shared sense of a translation that would show their relevance in contemporary terms.  

The Playbook is thus a celebration of hybridity—be it the Protean aspect of a revolutionary text as it moves in and out of its immediate context, or the revolutionary practice of translation, collaboration, and creative cooperation itself—and reflects the still ongoing vitality of the “workshop” as a means of approaching the kernel and swell of revolutionary thought today. In this way, the Playbook is not the official translation of some historical relics, but a living document posing unresolved questions that remain resonant. When does equality become a political project? What would an equal society look like? What do the terms liberty and equality mean today? Such questions both bind these pages, and underscore the degree of collectivity that underpins this publication as a collaborative venture.


Sarah Méric-Ducos
Léa Heid
Kathryn Woods
Katharine Morris
Erin Bradshaw
Rachel Isaacs
Esmond Easton Lamb
Claire Ó Nuállain
Maria Aliboni
Giovanna Demopoulos
Iffat Mirza
Andra Damaschin
Katie-Rose Nandhra
Felicity Moffatt
Theodora Broyd
Jessica Hooper

Workshop participants, framed in a window of Sands Studios, London (2022)



Translation is a craft.
The artisan carefully threads the fabrics
between meaning, message and culture.

Translation is an art.
The maestro guides the pace and the melody to fulfill
the audience’s dreams.

Translation is an act.
A camouflage of the actor’s presence,
a cunning copy of the mighty original,

And, as some say, a treachery, a fraud.
A wonderfully counterfeited clause,
that the audience willfully falls for.

Alas, the translator is but a slave to the piece,
invisible yet blinding,
all-knowing but merely a marionette whose strings
are tied to units of language.

Translation is a safeguard. It spreads ideas and saves them from censorship, or worse, from fading into oblivion. Translation is a vital political tool in a globalized world. Through history and through borders, ideas and stories must be shared and told again and again as our humanity lies within our experiences. This collection of translations shows that certain issues remain topical through decades and centuries, such as conflicts between the People and the State, the tools of oppression, the ways in which the oppressed survive, the resistance against the hegemony of the ruling class—whatever name that class bears at that particular time and place. When we share our stories, our feelings and our deepest thoughts we cultivate humanity, we cultivate empathy and our ability to have an open mind. Participating in this project has allowed me to see this crucial piece of my country’s history from a completely new perspective, far from the narrative depicted in school curricula. A revolution is a process, not an event, it is the collection of a myriad of individual actions, of anger, of loneliness and of resentment that brought people together under one singular banner: hope.

As my mother tongue is French this project made me discover my language under a new light. It pushed my understanding of my native language to evolve. Being confronted to 18th century French was, at times, similar to starting to learn a new language. My own country centuries in the past might as well be a foreign country. To translate is to adopt the point of view of each culture, of the author and of the audience, simultaneously, successively and ultimately to paint a continuum from one side to the other. Translation can be a magical process but it is usually practiced in seclusion. Therefore, to be able to work collaboratively for this project created space for each one of us to incorporate their knowledge and skills into the translations. It has been an extremely enriching process to witness other people’s thought processes and to see how one’s scholarly background shines through. Sometimes one is confronted to a dilemma, unable to convey the exact weight and shape of an idea. To not be alone in the third space between a cultural element and its equivalent in the target language has been comforting and challenging.

Sarah Méric-Ducos

Sanja Perovic is Reader in Eighteenth-Century French studies at King’s College London. She specialises in the long eighteenth century in France, with publications covering both the French Enlightenment and the French Revolution. She also has broader interests in the politics and representation of time from the early modern period to the present. Her publications include Performance Art and Revolution: Stuart Brisley's Cuts in Time (Manchester University Press, 2023), and The Calendar in Revolutionary France: Perceptions of Time in Literature, Culture, Politics (Cambridge University Press, 2012). In Radical Translations, she is Principal-Investigator with a special interest in how translation functions as a social and historical event.  

Rosa Mucignat is Reader in Comparative Literature at King’s College London. She has published widely on nineteenth-century realism, space, and historical thought. As contributor to the Radical Translations project, she is working on political theatre, revolutionary newspapers, focusing in particular on Italo-French relations. Another area of her research focuses on literature in translation, particularly from minority and endangered languages.

Jacob McGuinn obtained a PhD in English at Queen Mary in 2017. His main research interests are in reading philosophical aesthetics and poetics from a comparative perspective, working across English, French, and German. He has a particular interest in Kantian philosophy and its redeployment in later contexts, in correlations of form and history in literature, and in thinking about the points of contact between literature, philosophy, and politics in conceptions of reading and interpretation. His work on these issues has appeared, recently, in Textual Practice and Modern Language Notes. for Radical Translations, he works on the database of translations, and in particular on conceptualising the literary dimensions of the materials.

Cristina Viti is a translator and poet working with Italian, English and French. Recent publications include a full translation of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s La rabbia / Anger (Tenement Press, 2023), Luca Rastello’s The Rain’s Falling Up (Seagull Books, 2022), a seminal novel exploring the politics and spirit of the Seventies in Italy; the Selected Poems of Luigi Di Ruscio (Seagull Books, 2023); and a co-translation (with Souheila Haïmiche) of Anna Gréki’s collection Temps fortsThe Streets of Algiers (Smokestack Books, 2020). Among earlier translations are the Selected Poems of Dino Campana (Survivors Press, 2006), which includes the full text of the Orphic Songs, and Elsa Morante’s The World Saved by Kids and Other Epics (Seagull Books, 2016), shortlisted for the John Florio Prize. Viti’s Italian rendition of Orson Welles’ Moby Dick—Rehearsed is in production with the Teatro dell’Elfo in Milan. Her translation of Furio Jesi’s essays on literature, myth and revolt, Time & Festivity (Seagull Books, 2021) is the subject of one of three video presentations on Jesi commissioned by the Italian Institute in London.

Image(s)—Top down ...


        Jean- Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806),                                           
        (Girl Seen from Behind)

        Giandomenico Tiepolo (1727-1804),                                              
        ‘Punchinello at the Circus Swinging on a Rope’

        Workshop participants, as framed in a window
        of Sands Studios, London (2022)
        Ferdinado Galli di Bibbiena (1657-1743),                                      
        The Interior of a Theatre 
        (wrongly supposed to be the Teatro Farnese, Parma)


    The indicated images are excerpted from
       Jean Starobinski’s The Invention of Liberty, 1700-1789 (Skira, 1964)