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Phong Bui on the beauty of independent publishing


In the Brooklyn Rail, the magazine’s publisher and editor in chief reviews Encounters: My Life in Publishing by George Braziller, one of the pioneers of independent publishing in the US, who was among the first to publish international authors such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Nathalie Sarraute. Here’s a snippet:

It was “Part Three: Publishing,” however, that I relished most. His career in publishing began on his thirty-ninth birthday, in 1955, as he learned the nuts and bolts of the business with enthusiasm, met people in the trade magazine Publishers Weekly, reached out to the editors of the New York Times Book Review along with book distributors and buyers, and attended the Frankfurt Book Fair to meet European publishers—Collins from England, Gallimard from France, Einaudi from Italy, among others—all in an effort to, as he wrote, “make my face familiar everywhere.” Equally productive were his multiple trips to Europe in May 1968 and intermittent trips thereafter, to meet writers such as André Malraux, Claude Mauriac, and countless others. (In one interview Braziller noted that he missed the chance to meet Samuel Beckett because Barney Rosset arrived to Paris first.) The rest is a rich history that sifts through various memories of encounters with Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe, and Picasso, to vivid descriptions of working relationships with the editors, authors, and artists he published. This social history is intermingled with personal vignettes like his visit to the house where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis, or his successful coaxing of Eugene Power, the businessman/inventor of microfilm, to keep the Caxton manuscript (volume one of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, translated and printed in 1480 by William Caxton, England’s first printer) in England.

The last two pages are dedicated to his favorite philosopher Denis Diderot, “a freethinker and atheist,” as Braziller aspired to be, which include a heartwarming commentary on a photograph of himself at the age of twelve, looking as though he is “expecting to be asked something.” He would supply his answer in abundance as he learned to embrace life with a sense of adventure. To this day his sense of adventure inspires.