GASTON GALLIMARD: A Half-century of French Publishing by Pierre Assouline

GASTON GALLIMARD: A Half-century of French Publishing

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

The first biography in English of the man who, as publisher of such authors as Proust, Sartre, Camus, and Simenon, could--and did--say with some justification, ""French literature, c'est moi."" That boast, echoing as it does the Sun King himself, is a clear indication of how Gallimard viewed his place in the world. His story makes fascinating reading. The son of a wealthy dilettante/rouÉ whose art collection included a Fragonard, an E1 Greco, several Delacroix, and a stunning collection of Impressionists, Gaston was raised with a great sense of self. It never deserted him, even when, during WW I, he shamelessly pulled every string available to avoid military service. And again, during WW II, his actions were just as controversial--Gallimard's contemporaries accused him of collaboration when the House of Gallimard continued to operate under the Nazi occupation. Alternately openhanded and tightfisted, sociable but a ruthless business adversary, quick-tempered but patient when attempting to lure a reluctant author away from his competitors, Gallimard was a complex character. Assouline has captured in lucid, splendidly translated prose the contradictions in the French publisher's personality. Ranging over a half-century of French letters, the work is chockablock with revealing anecdotes. Typical is a brief synopsis of Jean-Paul Sartre's wartime ""resistance."" Sartre spent the days writing Being or Nothingness at the CafÉ de Flore, submitting to having his manuscripts censored by the Germans, and having them published by Gallimard. Commenting on Sartre's many contemporaries who lost their lives in the Resistance, Assouline comments drily, ""No one ever died of philosophizing at the CafÉ de Flore."" An absolutely essential read for all those interested in French writing in this century.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1988
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich