Bernstein was born in Paris on 28 April, 1932, of Russian Jewish descent. In 1952, bored by her studies at the nearby Sorbonne, she began to frequent Chez Moineau, a bar at 22 rue du Four. There she encountered a circle of artists, writers, vagabonds and petty criminals who were beginning to establish themselves as the Letterist International. With one of these, Patrick Straram, she toured Le Havre in August, 1952, in order to see the places upon which Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea had been modelled.
Aside from simply getting drunk at Moineau's and other nearby bars—which was far from a minor part of their activity—the Letterist International were primarily concerned with (i) transcending traditional artistic activities to produce 'situations' for themselves; (ii) to drifting aimlessly around urban environments in order to assess their psychogeography; and (iii) to diverting pre-existing texts and other materials to new ends.
Thereafter, Bernstein contributed a number of articles to the situationists' journal, Internationale situationniste, either alone or in collaboration with the other members. She also had two novels published through Buchet/Chastel (the same publishing house as would later first publish Debord's major theoretical text, The Society of the Spectacle, in 1967).
During the first ten years of its existence, the situationists continued the work of the Letterist International, and extended them in new directions. Feeling that they had already adequately transcended art, the group began to take on much more of a socio-political character, as they sought to realise their philosophy.
A few years later, Bernstein happened to encounter Ralph Rumney. Rumney, notwithstanding his presence at the foundation of the Situationist International, had been excluded after only about nine months. They had not seen one another for some twenty years, but they fell in together again and got married. Rumney later speculated that her primary reason for marrying him was to get British citizenship.
To me, she is the most Situationist of all. She was the one in Cosio who picked everyone up on the fact that one does not say "Situationism" but "Situationist", because when it becomes an "-ism" chances are that it will turn into an ideology, a sect. She would surely deny this, but I had the impression that she had a certain authority over Guy. She used it sparingly, but at the right moments. She knew how to rein him in when he slipped into the worst kind of exaggerations. Between Guy and Michèle there was a serious, lasting complicity when they were together, and even afterwards.
1 Editorial note in Patrick Straram, Les bouteilles se couchent (Paris: Allia, 2006), 135.
2 Andrew Hussey, The Game of War (London: Jonathan Cape, 2001), 95.
3Interview with Kristin Ross, in Guy Debord and the Situationist International, ed. Tom McDonough (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), 268.
4Ralph Rumney, The Consul (London: Verso, 2002), 107.