Gaston Gallimard: A Half-Century of French Publishing

Pierre Assouline, Author, Harold J. Salemson, Translator Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $35 (430p) ISBN 978-0-15-134293-8
A life of the eponymous founder of the illustrious French publishing house is indeed a traversal of the major artistic, economic and political currents in French literary publishing during this century. Assouline has done a remarkable job in weaving together all the strands in a rich and complex career. Born to wealth, Gallimard early developed a personality at once devious, idealistic and unscrupulousone that fitted him ideally to be a publisher in a literary world as ideological and sensitive as that of Paris through two world wars. The first of these he avoided by apparently willing himself into illness; during the second he hovered discreetly around the edges of collaborationbut all, always, for the sake of his list and his authors. Most of the great names of French 20th century writing passed through that list, or through Gallimard's long life: Proust, Gide, Valery, Mauriac, Malraux, Camus, Sartre. ""French literature, c'est moi,'' he was fond of saying, and Assouline's meticulously researched book both justifies that claim and is an anecdotal trove of author-publisher relations that should be treasured by many in both fields. Samelson's translation is a model of claritythough so many unfamiliar literary names crop up that brief notes on them would have been welcome for English-language readers. (May)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1988
Release date: 06/01/1988
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