A Political Education
Coming of Age in Paris and New York
By Andre Schiffrin
(Melville House, Hardcover, 9781933633152, 225pp.)
Publication Date: March 1, 2007
List Price: $24.95*
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“Schiffrin evokes the bittersweet tang of émigré life in New York.”
—The New York Times Book Review
André Schiffrin was born the son of one of France’s most esteemed publishers, in a world peopled by some of the day’s leading writers and intellectuals, such as André Gide, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. But this world was torn apart when the Nazis marched into Paris on young André’s fifth birthday.
Beginning with the family’s dramatic escape to Casablanca—thanks to the help of the legendary Varian Fry—and eventually New York, A Political Education recounts the surprising twists and turns of a life that saw Schiffrin become, himself, one of the world’s most respected publishers. Emerging from the émigré community of wartime New York (a community that included his father’s friends Hannah Arendt and Helen and Kurt Wolff), he would go on to develop an insatiable appetite for literature and politics: heading a national student group he renamed the Students for a Democratic Society—the SDS . . . leading student groups at European conferences, once, as an unwitting front man for the CIA . . . and eventually being appointed by Random House chief Bennett Cerf to head the very imprint cofounded by his father—Pantheon.
There, he would discover and publish some of the world’s leading writers, including Noam Chomsky, Michel Foucault, Art Spiegelman, Studs Terkel, and Marguerite Duras.
But in a move that would make headlines, Schiffrin would ultimately rebel at corporate ownership and form his own publishing house—The New Press—where he would go on to set a new standard for independent publishing. A Political Education is a fascinating intellectual memoir that tells not only the story of a unique and important figure, but of the tumultuous political times that shaped him.
For thirty years, André Schiffrin (1935–2013) was the publisher of Pantheon Books, where he showcased some of the world’s leading writers, including Noam Chomsky, Michel Foucault, Eric Hobsbawm, Art Spiegelman, Simone de Beauvoir, Studs Terkel, and Marguerite Duras. In 1990, he left Pantheon to found The New Press, and many of those writers went with him. He was the author of an acclaimed study of the book industry, The Business of Books: How International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read—which was published in twenty-three foreign editions—and Words & Money.