Science

A publishing house cannot do without publishers, let’s face it! Pierre Assoulin

In what other country would the death of a major publisher make the front page of a national daily newspaper and the cover of a cultural magazine? That Jérôme Lindon was thus honored the day after his death by Liberation, and that Paul Otczakowski-Laurent was in turn honored under the same circumstances seventeen years after his model by both Liberation and Inrocks , says something about the exclusivity of French culture. Something joyful, despite the sadness of the event.

We owe the writer and literary critic Matthieu Lindon to make this connection in L’Archive, a filial tale dedicated to the memory of his father, who for decades was the soul and inspiration of the Minuit editions; it appears precisely in POL, the opportunity to celebrate your own editor in a strange mirror effect. This book, full of anecdotes, events seen, commentaries reported, accomplishes the feat of being entertaining, amusing, instructive, while being so badly written that some paragraphs of gibberish that defy conventional syntax remain incomprehensible to us. What he reports must be original so that we can read it in one breath! It is true that the author, so touching when he expresses his love for the closest of distant fathers, had the honor of living in the shadow of “family friends” from an early age.

Because the authors of Minuit, having failed to create a school or create its illusion under the shaky banner of New Roman, were nonetheless a spiritual family. House and House were one. Nathalie Sarrot, Marguerite Duras, Michel Butor, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Robert Pinget, Claude Simon, and especially Samuel Beckett, guardian of the tribe and godfather of the author, regularly paraded there at the table or in the living room. For a literature-loving teenager, there is a worse start in life than eavesdropping on their conversations. We understand that Mathieu Lindon positions himself as a living archive. A witness, not an actor in the history of literature.

“We need to archive you just right”

He does not hide the shortcomings of the editor (greed, distrust, perfectionism), although the balance is dominated by qualities: curiosity, flair, accessibility, efficiency, pugnacity, while not forgetting the two most important merged in a purse created for him alone: ​​”intelligent” (even if one could see rather the perversity in his 15th birthday present to his son: the complete works of Robbe-Grillet!). With a joyful freedom of tone that contrasts so strongly with paternal discretion bordering on a cult of secrecy, she reveals heritage details and more, not all in honor of Jérôme Lyndon. But they are dispelled by the poignant portrait that he draws of himself constantly, with the risk of repetition: a cripple from grief, chained to his desk, tirelessly writing letters not to prestigious authors, but to his only grandson. will never know as they live in the same city and his other son forbids him from seeing him due to family estrangement.

“We must archive you just right,” Mathieu Lindon writes at the end of his story. When summoning a loved one, do not talk too much or too little about him. Fine balance. It seems unlikely, but during a Parisian existence entirely devoted to books, the critic and publisher Maurice Nadeau hardly met Jérôme Lindon; they preferred to write to each other, a practice still common in the 20th century. Nevertheless, he paid him the most striking tribute to his death: “He was the conscience of all of us, publishers, journalists, booksellers … His disappearance will affect all those who will increasingly realize that, despite the weight of money and all the technological advances, publishing cannot do without publishers.

These highly topical lines, although written in 2001, can be found in the third and final volume of the Soixante ans de vie littéraire. A total of several thousand fascinating pages of critical information, where judgment goes hand in hand with independence of mind, collecting its articles in Combat, then in Lettres nouvelles, and finally in Literary Fortnight. He has it only for work, and only for work, which is “always worth more than the good or bad that is said about it.” Which lesson!

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