Jacques Binsztok, a former executive at the French trade publisher Le Seuil, will launch his own venture next month under the name Editions du Panama and, even before the release of his first title, has attracted substantial attention and media coverage in Paris and beyond.
The high level of interest is connected to the personality of Binsztok himself, one of the world's most respected children's book publishers. While at Le Seuil, one of France's most prestigious houses, he was responsible for some 150 titles per year—mainly in children's, comics and illustrated books—and he was probably the most influential adviser to Le Seuil's patron Claude Cherki. But when Cherki, in order to counter the pressures of industry consolidation in French publishing, chose to merge his house with La Martinière, Binsztok said "Non," and quit.
It was a "clash of cultures," according to Le Monde. Now Binsztok is back. He has set up shop in new quarters on the Left Bank of Paris. His first book, to be published in late April, is Les survivants(The Survivors) by Patrick Rotman, an illustrated book containing accounts of a dozen Nazi concentration camp survivors, based on a TV documentary.
By 2007, Binsztok plans to have some 100 titles available. Panama will be a trade publisher with some 30 titles per year, he said, focusing on French and international fiction, essays, documentaries, youth and illustrated titles.
He starts with a staff of 10, all from Le Seuil and La Martinière, including four editors: Florence Barraut for French literature, Brigitte Morel for children's, Christel Paris for international fiction and Marc Grinsztajn for nonfiction. Sabine Louali will be responsible for international rights.
The company is held by five shareholders who all work in the house. For Binsztok, the house's modest size allows him to "fit into the niches of the system. At least, this is our bet for the years to come." As for Le Seuil, he just shrugs: "I wouldn't want to address the past."
Editions du Panama can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.