François Maspero: Publisher, (P)artisan

La Joie de Lire, rue Saint-Séverin, Paris
La Joie de Lire, rue Saint-Séverin, Paris

This arti­cle first appeared as “François Maspero, édi­teur (p)artisan,” in Con­tretemps, n°13 (Paris: Édi­tions Syllepse, 2005), 100-108.

The life of François Maspero unfold­ed through writ­ing: by turns, read­er, book­seller, pub­lish­er, then trans­la­tor, and today writer.1 Grand­son of Egyp­tol­o­gist Gas­ton Maspero and son of the sinol­o­gist Hen­ri Maspero, who died at Buchen­wald, he is a man who illus­trates in his own way the pro­duc­tive pair­ing of the book­seller-pub­lish­er in the world of let­ters. First, book­seller at l’Escalier, on the rue Mon­sieur-le-Prince; next, under his own direc­tion, at the book­store La joie de lire, rue Saint-Séverin, begin­ning in 1956; then in 1959 he launched into pub­lish­ing, pre­sid­ing over his pub­lish­ing house until 1982.2 The series of por­traits ded­i­cat­ed to con­tem­po­rary pub­lish­ers by Livres Heb­do in 1999 offered him only a mere fold-up seat on the train of the com­mem­o­rat­ed great fig­ures.3 This was, how­ev­er, no more than doing jus­tice to a man who con­tributed to renew­ing the pub­lish­ing field, plac­ing the fig­ure of the pub­lish­er at the lev­el of the com­mit­ted intel­lec­tu­als of the 20th Cen­tu­ry. While the post­war years mourned the hopes of an pub­lish­ing upheaval of a Max Pol-Fouchet or an Edmond Char­lot, François Maspero con­sti­tut­ed the French side of a new gen­er­a­tion of polit­i­cal pub­lish­ers from the far left in Europe in the era of the advent of con­sumer soci­ety and the arrival of the pock­et­book in pub­lish­ing.4 François Maspero in France, Gian­gia­co­mo Fel­trinel­li in Milan 1955, or Klaus Wagen­bach in Berlin 1964, endeav­ored, each in his polit­i­cal, cul­tur­al, and nation­al con­text, to use new media to dis­sem­i­nate a polit­i­cal mes­sage in the new wave of Third World­ism and of the revival of the work­ers’ move­ment, and to pro­mote the pair­ing of pub­lish­ing and pol­i­tics in a cre­ative and mil­i­tant way.

Pub­lish­ing and Pol­i­tics: An Unlike­ly Pair­ing?

In France as in Europe, there are few polit­i­cal­ly com­mit­ted, medi­um-sized pub­lish­ing hous­es, in which a polit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion serves as its rai­son d’être and struc­tures its cat­a­logue. One finds the proof of this in L’Histoire des droites: “There were, there are always, com­mit­ted pub­lish­ers, but those who made their polit­i­cal stand­point into their sole pub­lish­ing pol­i­cy remain rel­a­tive­ly rare.”5 In this cat­e­go­ry, among the pub­lish­ers who have last­ing­ly attained an aver­age place in the pub­lish­ing field, in France one can count at best Édi­tions sociales on the left, and Table ronde on the right, besides Édi­tions Maspero.6 This last of these is very much the excep­tion in the post­war peri­od, by its longevi­ty (over 20 years), which says much about its orig­i­nal­i­ty, but also the dif­fi­cul­ties of such a busi­ness, espe­cial­ly when not sus­tained by a par­tic­u­lar par­ty and remain­ing attached to a high­ly plu­ral­ist the­o­ret­i­cal pro­duc­tion (from Althuss­er to Gilbert Mury, pass­ing by way of Alain Badiou, Ernest Man­del, Pierre Frank, Charles Bet­tel­heim, Alain Brossat, Kostas Mavrakis, and many oth­ers). This is all the more sig­nif­i­cant when faced with an pub­lish­ing field that is large­ly con­ser­v­a­tive, often reluc­tant to leave the lit­er­ary domain for struc­tur­al, ide­o­log­i­cal, or his­tor­i­cal rea­sons.7 As Jean Yves Mol­lier high­lights, “the pub­lish­ing firm’s atti­tude dur­ing the Alger­ian War – two mar­gin­als, François Maspero and Jérôme Lin­don monop­o­liz­ing polit­i­cal­ly com­mit­ted and banned books – should lead one to reflect on the system’s lethar­gy and its refusal to sup­port avant-garde posi­tions out­side of lit­er­a­ture.”8 It is there­fore in con­join­ing the ethics of con­vic­tion with that of respon­si­bil­i­ty that François Maspero com­mit­ted his book­store, then his pub­lish­ing house, on the path of resis­tance dur­ing the War in Alge­ria.

The Found­ing Episode of the Alger­ian War: A Book­store at the Fore­front of the Strug­gle

The book­store Joie de lire was effec­tive­ly at the fore­front of the strug­gle against cen­sor­ship dur­ing the Alger­ian War. François Maspero, quite active in that strug­gle, was con­nect­ed to the net­work of “suit­case car­ri­ers” such as Jean­son and Curiel, meet­ing many col­lab­o­ra­tors who would lat­er sur­round the pub­lish­ing house, such as Jean-Philippe Tal­bo or Pierre Vidal-Naquet. The book­store, beyond its large stock of con­tem­po­rary lit­er­a­ture, dis­trib­uted many books banned by the cen­sors, help­ing to dis­perse those that had escaped seizure and from being pulped.9 This wasn’t easy: when Maspero decid­ed to repub­lish Fanon’s A Dying Colo­nial­ism, with his own pref­ace denounc­ing cen­sor­ship, he could not find prac­ti­cal­ly any­one to dis­trib­ute it; even the Présence africaine book­store, fear­ing seizure, refused. Joie de lire there­fore became one of the ral­ly­ing points of mil­i­tants opposed to the Alger­ian War, before being the cru­cible and lifeblood of the young pub­lish­ers. A favored tar­get of the OAS, the object of tight and unbear­able police sur­veil­lance, it was defend­ed in 1960-1961 by the stu­dents of the Front uni­ver­si­taire antifas­ciste, before being blown up.10 Faced with the fee­ble­ness of left­ist par­ties and groups in the world of pub­lish­ing, the book­store affirmed the need for a tri­bune and alter­na­tive dis­tri­b­u­tion sys­tem of counter-infor­ma­tion. This was the big chal­lenge for these small net­works: to have at their dis­pos­al a sys­tem of net­works that could express the mean­ing of their strug­gle in the open, so as not to remain in the anonymi­ty of clan­des­tin­i­ty. This is what led to the cre­ation of Vérités-Pour, the organ of the Jean­son net­work, with up to 5,000 copies mailed out begin­ning in 1958.11 Deter­mined to go fur­ther, François Maspero decid­ed to take the plunge by cre­at­ing his own pub­lish­ing house to crit­i­cize cen­sor­ship and seizure, with the review Par­ti­sans as its key­stone.

The Édi­tions François Maspero, the Avant-Garde of the Pub­lish­ing Field

The Alger­ian War was the rai­son d’être of François Maspero’s polit­i­cal com­mit­ment in pub­lish­ing: “I was very impressed by Édi­tions Minu­it; at that time, oppo­si­tion to Paris was spread­ing across France, and I thought that it made per­fect sense to give polit­i­cal texts and doc­u­ments to all the mil­i­tants who need­ed them, and who hadn’t been giv­en them, or not suf­fi­cient­ly so.”12 He there­fore launched, with lim­it­ed means, and prac­ti­cal­ly alone, his own pub­lish­ing firm. His “Cahiers libres” – his first col­lec­tion – made ref­er­ence to Charles Péguy to claim his inde­pen­dence and out­spo­ken­ness. His “Cahiers rouges,” pub­lished in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Ligue com­mu­niste révo­lu­tion­aire, from 1968 to 1973, were also a nod to the inter­war Gras­set. In 1959, Pietro Nenni’s La Guerre d’Espagne and Frantz Fanon’s L’An V de la Révo­lu­tion Algéri­enne [A Dying Colo­nial­ism] appeared, fol­lowed in the begin­ning of 1960 by Paul Nizan’s Aden Ara­bie and Les Chiens de garde [The Watch­dogs], and Jean Jaurès’s Les Orig­ines du social­isme alle­mand. His books denounced the lies of the state, the state of excep­tion in the city, such as Les Harkis à Paris, on the net­work of Alger­ian aux­il­iaries to the French police; or Raton­nades à Paris, after Octo­ber 17, 1961;13 deliv­er­ing accounts of con­scripts and draft dodgers, such as Robert Barrat’s Officiers en Algérie, Mau­rice Maschino’s Le Refus, or Georges Mattei’s Disponibles, which were fol­lowed by Droit à l’insoumission; or Maspero pub­lished for the first time the entire­ty of the Man­i­festo of the 121, with an enlarged num­ber of sig­na­tures;14 or still the min­utes of the Procès Jean­son. He thus inau­gu­rat­ed the form of the infor­ma­tion­al dossier, col­lec­tions of texts, man­i­festos, news­pa­per arti­cles, in direct con­tact with the event, which con­tributed to pop­u­lar­iz­ing it. Very quick­ly, the harsh­ness of the cen­sor­ship proved just how intense his com­mit­ment was. Cer­tain books, such as no. 2 of Par­ti­sans or Raton­nades à Paris, were seized at the bind­ing, and nev­er saw the light of day. François Maspero then set out on a pub­lish­ing mis­sion of counter-infor­ma­tion: he was able to say lat­er that he had devot­ed him­self to this mil­i­tant activ­i­ty at the expense of oth­er polit­i­cal or lit­er­ary work, which would have shown itself to be incom­pat­i­ble with his edi­to­r­i­al and pub­lish­ing work.

The Com­mit­ted Pub­lish­er in his Time

François Maspero was the only pub­lish­er at the head of his firm, which, with­out a for­mal review com­mit­tee, relied on the pub­lish­ing house’s close col­lab­o­ra­tors (Jean-Philippe Tal­bo-Berni­gaud, Fan­chi­ta Gon­za­lez-Bat­tle, Émile Copfer­mann) and the edi­tors of the var­i­ous col­lec­tions (Charles Bet­tel­heim, Louis Althuss­er, Pierre Vidal-Naquet…) had a say in what to pub­lish, as well as on l’Association des amis des édi­tions François Maspero, in which Yves Lacoste played a large role dur­ing times of dif­fi­cul­ty. Like most small pub­lish­ing hous­es, it was above all the per­son­al­i­ty of the pub­lish­er that took shape through the con­stel­la­tion of books released. Com­mit­ted to the idea of books for every­one, in the 1960s François Maspero was one of the lead­ing pro­po­nents of eas­i­ly acces­si­ble polit­i­cal books about spe­cif­ic top­ics, and then short­er books whose force­ful and edu­ca­tion­al form guar­an­teed their suc­cess: such as Pierre Jalée’s Pil­lage du tiers-monde in 1967…He was, then, among those who dared to intro­duce [lancer] the polit­i­cal book into the con­sumer paper­back sphere through the “Petit Col­lec­tion Maspero,” which was met with great suc­cess by a new audi­ence, com­posed most­ly of stu­dents.  But François Maspero’s polit­i­cal com­mit­ment was not just a mat­ter of his choic­es as a pub­lish­er.

He was in fact fierce­ly involved in defend­ing his authors. Régis Debray is the most well-known exam­ple of this. In July 1967, Maspero trav­eled to Bolivia to defend Debray, arrest­ed while took part in the gueril­la strug­gle: his trip was simul­ta­ne­ous­ly aimed at both learn­ing about the sit­u­a­tion and refut­ing the accu­sa­tions brought against his author by argu­ing that Debray was in South Amer­i­ca in order to write a book on behalf of his pub­lish­ers. In 1970, Maspero defend­ed Sabri Geries, an Arab lawyer impris­oned in Israel who had just pub­lished Les Arabes en Israël. A mem­ber of the Arab move­ment El Arad, he had writ­ten the book before the June 1967 war in a crit­i­cal spir­it with noth­ing real­ly extrem­ist to it; more­over, his book was writ­ten in Hebrew in order to address the Israeli com­mu­ni­ty. But its trans­la­tion into Ara­bic and its mas­sive dis­tri­b­u­tion changed the pub­lic sta­tus and recep­tion of the PLO, bring­ing the wrath of the Israeli author­i­ties down on its author. In 1971, Maspero intend­ed to defend, in the same way, Cléophas Kami­tatu when he was pres­sured by Mobu­tu to with­draw his book from sale, La Grande Mys­ti­fi­ca­tion du Con­go Kin­shasa.

After­wards, the pub­lish­er led a much larg­er strug­gle – which was as long as it was expen­sive – for free­dom of speech. He was com­mit­ted to repub­lish­ing the seized or banned books, enhanced with pref­aces by his own hand, which crit­i­cized the state of excep­tion and stig­ma­tized the rule of self-cen­sure in the pub­lish­ing milieu. This was the case through­out the his­to­ry of the pub­lish­ing house, as with Frantz Fanon’s A Dying Colo­nial­ism, or Ander­sen and Hansen’s Le Petit livre rouge des étu­di­ants et des lycéens in 1971. But this finan­cial­ly expen­sive tug of war with the author­i­ties made the dai­ly life of the pub­lish­ing house a demand­ing, per­ma­nent strug­gle.

At the Risk of Cen­sor­ship and Bans: A Con­stant Bat­tle

François Maspero’s polit­i­cal engage­ment in oppo­si­tion to the Alger­ian War is with­out a doubt one of the most strik­ing. Cen­sor­ship man­i­fest­ed itself above all through seizures of books with­out tri­als (at the time, tri­als could turn into polit­i­cal plat­forms, for exam­ple, the tri­als of George Arnaud or of the Jean­son net­work) which bled the pub­lish­ing house dry: they were hit with 13 seizures or bans, 9 of them in 1961.15 But one for­gets too quick­ly that it was Ray­mond Mar­cellin, Min­is­ter of the Inte­ri­or after 1968, who estab­lished one of the most implaca­ble cen­sor­ship regimes in 20th Cen­tu­ry France, which rest­ed on the May 6, 1939 decree mod­i­fy­ing Arti­cle 14 of the Law of July 29, 1881, intend­ed for pub­li­ca­tions of for­eign ori­gin.16 A for­mi­da­ble arti­cle, because it dis­pensed with legal moti­va­tion: sim­ply the for­eign ori­gin of an author could be enough to con­demn with­out appeal. The French edi­tion of the Tri­con­ti­nen­tal review, the organ of the Orga­ni­za­tion of Latin Amer­i­can Sol­i­dar­i­ty (OLAS), found­ed at the Havana Con­fer­ence in 1966, and pub­lished by François Maspero, was in this way attacked with­out mer­cy: Ray­mond Mar­cellin effec­tive­ly intend­ed to break the pub­lish­ing house’s back. François Maspero lost this show­down, despite renewed protests in the press, which elicit­ed few shows of sol­i­dar­i­ty from oth­er pub­lish­ers.17

In the 1970s, the ebb of the far left, ide­o­log­i­cal counter offen­sive against Third World­ism, and declin­ing sales of polit­i­cal books fur­ther weak­ened his posi­tion, despite the active sup­port of authors and sym­pa­this­ers regrouped in the l’Association des amis des édi­tions – such that the pub­lish­ing house and the book­store grew sig­nif­i­cant­ly (over 20 titles pub­lished in 1965, over 50 in 1968, and over 70 in 1975). They were only more dif­fi­cult to man­age and make prof­itable, thus becom­ing more vul­ner­a­ble. It’s here, with­out a doubt, that one can find, along with the tena­cious sever­i­ty of the police and judi­cia­ry for over 20 years (with­out count­ing the num­ber of thefts from the library), the rea­sons for the cri­sis, which led in 1981-1982 to the end of the pub­lish­ing house, which already had to sep­a­rate from the Joie de lire book­store in 1974, a ver­i­ta­ble heart­break for François Maspero and his com­rades, so con­nect­ed was the book­store to their polit­i­cal adven­ture. But their work, their cat­a­logue remained, tes­ti­fy­ing to their rev­o­lu­tion­ary com­mit­ment as much as their cre­ativ­i­ty and their open­ness to new cur­rents of thought emerg­ing on the left and in the social sci­ences, in tur­moil in the 1960s and 1970s.

At the Cross­roads of a Polit­i­cal Renew­al on the Far Left

Edi­tions Maspero pub­lished an impor­tant part of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary resur­gence, fol­low­ing a pro­duc­tive form of rev­o­lu­tion­ary plu­ral­ism that Maspero became very attached to, and which could also deter­mine the con­tent of the book­shop shelves. It served as a lab­o­ra­to­ry and a favored tri­bune for a far left in for­ma­tion dur­ing the 1960s and 1970s. Its cat­a­logue of over 1300 titles con­sti­tut­ed invalu­able mate­r­i­al for think­ing the his­to­ry of the left in the con­text of the Thir­ty Glo­ri­ous Years in France. It includ­ed the pro­po­nents of a new com­mu­nist path inside the PCF (Cri­tique de base – Jean Baby’s le PCF entre le passé et l’avenir, 1960) or in Europe (what would lat­er be called the Ital­ian road to com­mu­nism, with Palmiro Togliatti’s Le PC ital­ien). But one of the back­bones of this cat­a­logue was Third World­ism: it was the prin­ci­pal organ in France of this cur­rent which at the time seemed to renew the rev­o­lu­tion­ary hori­zons and strate­gies of the indus­tri­al­ized coun­tries. This ori­en­ta­tion came very ear­ly on, with, from 1960, Jomo Kenyatta’s Au pied du mont Kenya; then, in 1961, Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth with a pref­ace by Jean-Paul Sartre,18 then the works of Fidel Cas­tro, Che Guevara’s Diary, the writ­ings of Giap or of Mal­colm X. After 1968, the Édi­tions Maspero and their founder met, and pub­lished, the maoists of the Union de jeuness­es marx­istes-lénin­istes (UJC(m-l)), those of the groups Révo­lu­tion, and above all the Ligue com­mu­niste révo­lu­tion­nire, for which the Édi­tions became the favored tri­bune (with the “Cahiers rouges” already men­tioned, the “Clas­siques rouges,” and final­ly the “Poches rouges”) until the lat­ter set off on its own (François Maspero him­self was a mem­ber of the Ligue at that time). One equal­ly finds in the cat­a­logue the texts of the strik­ing stu­dents or the first fem­i­nist man­i­festos (Libéra­tion des femmes, année 0 in the Par­ti­sans dossiers, 1972). One finds as well impor­tant repub­li­cans of clas­sic texts from the work­ers’ move­ment, such as Jau­rès or Rosa Lux­em­burg, Isaac Roubine, Roman Ros­dol­sky, exhumed by the non-com­mu­nist New Left to renew the tra­di­tion­al Marx­ist approach.

Maspero and the Renew­al of Social The­o­ry Porter l’écho des sci­ences humaines en plein boule­verse­ment

The oth­er great inno­v­a­tive domain of this cat­a­logue – which did not includ­ed much lit­er­a­ture (but knew how to wel­come North African fran­coph­o­ne authors such as Tahar Ben Jel­loun or Malek Had­dad, and also a poet­ry cat­a­logue, Voix) – was the social sci­ences, of which the suc­cess and echo was one of the great char­ac­ter­is­tics of the pub­lish­ing house in those years. At the time, the social sci­ences car­ried a con­crete polit­i­cal dis­course. Polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy and the “Théorie” col­lec­tion (Louis Althusser’s Read­ing Cap­i­tal, 1968), his­to­ry (Jean-Pierre Ver­nant, Mythe et pen­sée chez les grecs, 1971), soci­ol­o­gy (C. Wright Mills, Les Cols blancs, 1966), econ­o­my (Arighi Emmanuel, L’Échange iné­gal, 1969; Charles Bet­tel­heim; the review Cri­tique de l’économie poli­tique), ped­a­gogy, (A.S. Neill, Les Libres Enfants de Sum­mer­hill, 1970), anthro­pol­o­gy (Mau­rice Gode­lier, Hori­zons, tra­jets marx­istes en anthro­polo­gie) – so many great sub­jects that found a place with François Maspero in the col­lec­tion “Textes à l’appui,” and found a suc­cess that would leave many of today’s social sci­ence pub­lish­ers dream­ing.19 The enu­mer­a­tion of these works can­not by itself sum­ma­rize François Maspero’s inno­v­a­tive con­tri­bu­tion to the renew­al of the social sci­ences in France in the 1960s and 1970s.

There are decid­ed­ly many rea­sons to con­sid­er François Maspero as a major pub­lish­er in 20th Cen­tu­ry France. His pub­lish­ing house remains a rare exam­ple of polit­i­cal­ly com­mit­ted and inde­pen­dent firm at a time of great reor­ga­ni­za­tion in the pub­li­ca­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of books, dur­ing the arrival of con­sumer soci­ety, on the eve of the for­ma­tion of large pub­lish­ing firms sus­tained by finance cap­i­tal, which threat­ens to make the fig­ure of the pub­lish­er and the cre­ativ­i­ty of the pub­lish­ing house dis­ap­pear.20 At the cross­roads of new cur­rents of thought and pol­i­tics, its pub­lish­ing oeu­vre was rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the 1960s and 1970s, of the suc­cess of the polit­i­cal book, just as much as that of the social sci­ences, which intend­ed to make their con­tri­bu­tion to the trans­for­ma­tion of the world. François Maspero’s jour­ney also illus­trates the itin­er­ary of a com­mit­ted intel­lec­tu­al on the path of Third World­ism and the anti-cap­i­tal­ist New Left. In a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry of con­sid­er­able pro­duc­tion he pro­vid­ed an unfor­get­table lab­o­ra­to­ry for the redis­cov­ery of the roots of com­mu­nism, for the explo­ration of new social con­flicts (he was one of the first to be inter­est­ed in the prob­lems of immi­gra­tion), and for the inter­con­ti­nen­tal expan­sion – even before what we now call “glob­al­iza­tion” – of the out­look of the con­tem­po­rary world.

Trans­lat­ed by Salar Mohan­desi. The trans­la­tor would like to thank Patrick King, David Broder, and Félix Bog­gio Éwan­jé-Épée for com­ments on this draft.

  1. The read­er should refer to his books, which, from Figu­ier (Le Seuil, 1988) to Les Abeilles et la Guêpe (Le Seuil, 2004), bor­row from the styles of the nov­el and auto­bi­og­ra­phy. They restore, or illus­trate, each in its own way, by frag­ments, François Maspero’s tra­jec­to­ry. His most recent work, Les Abeilles et la Guêpe, is par­tic­u­lar­ly remark­able. A deep med­i­ta­tion on polit­i­cal com­mit­ment and the role of mem­o­ry in his itin­er­ary, it begins with an excerpt from the famous epony­mous poem by Jean Paul­han. In the first part, François Maspero tries to return to the trag­ic “fam­i­ly nov­el,” from which he shapes, through the tes­ti­monies of his father’s com­pan­ions – his father died at Buchen­wald – to retrace, with the clues and evi­dence that he was able to gath­er since, the life his father dur­ing his final days in the camp. This metic­u­lous his­tor­i­cal inquiry then con­tra­dicts in a con­fus­ing way the tes­ti­monies of the sur­vivors, notably that of Sem­prun… 

  2. As if this bygone qual­i­ty must today be con­demned to insignif­i­cance with­out appeal. 

  3. The series: “Douze édi­teurs dans le siè­cle,” pub­lished in Livres Heb­do, nos. 350 to 362 (Sep­tem­ber 1999 - Decem­ber 1999): « Gas­ton [Gal­li­mard] Pre­mier », « Arthème [Fayard] Le Grand », « Mon­sieur [Albin] Michel », « Bernard Gras­set, le Con­quérant », « Maître [Fer­nand] Nathan », « Robert Denoël, le Décou­vreur », « René Jul­liard, le Flam­beur », « Sven Nielsen, le Viking », « Hen­ri Flam­mar­i­on, le Refon­da­teur », « Paul Fla­mand, l’Engagement », « Robert Laf­font, le Précurseur », « Jérôme Lin­don, le Mil­i­tant ». To which was added, « Édi­teurs du XXe siè­cle » : « François Maspero, l’Insurgé », Livres Heb­do, n° 362, 17 décem­bre 1999, 60-64. 

  4. Julien Hage, “Fel­trinel­li, Maspero, Wagen­bach : une nou­velle généra­tion d’éditeurs poli­tiques d’extrême gauche, his­toire com­parée, his­toire croisée, 1955-1982 ‚” (PhD Dis­ser­ta­tion, l’Université de Ver­sailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yve­lines, Decem­ber 2010). 

  5. Pas­cal Fouche, “L’édition,” in His­toire des droites en France vol. 2, “Cul­tures,” Jean-François  Sirinel­li, ed. (Paris: Gal­li­mard, 1992), 257. 

  6. Translator’s note: Édi­tions sociales, the pub­lish­ing house of the French Com­mu­nist Par­ty (PCF); Édi­tions de la Table ronde, a right-wing press found­ed in 1944, which pub­lished, among oth­ers, authors black­list­ed for accu­sa­tions of col­lab­o­ra­tion dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. 

  7. Jean-Yves Mol­lier, “Édi­tion et poli­tique,” in Axes et méth­odes de l’édition poli­tique, Serge Berstein, ed. (Paris: PUF, 1998), 437. 

  8. Ibid., 438. 

  9. See Pierre Mesmer’s peti­tion to the Keep­er of the Seals, August 31, 1960, to put an end to these prac­tices: “I am told that many works that were seized and were the object of legal pros­e­cu­tion are present­ly being sold in cer­tain Parisian book­stores. These are espe­cial­ly the fol­low­ing books: Frantz Fanon’s A Dying Colo­nial­ism, Maurienne’s Le Déser­teur, Mau­rice Maschino’s Le Refus, Fran­cis Jeanson’s Notre guerre. These works can be pur­chased, not least, at the François Maspero book­store or be ordered at Vérité-Lib­erté.” Jus­tice Min­istry Archies, BB 18 60-82-G-159. More gen­er­al­ly on this theme, see Mar­tine Pou­lian, “La cen­sure,” in Pas­cal Fouche, L’Édition française après 1945 (Paris: Cer­cle de la librairie, 1998), 554-593. 

  10. Translator’s Note: The Organ­i­sa­tion de l’armée secrète (OAS) or Orga­ni­za­tion of the Secret Army, was a dis­si­dent far-right para­mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tion dur­ing the Alger­ian War that resort­ed to armed strug­gle to pre­vent Algeria’s inde­pen­dence from French colo­nial rule. 

  11. Sub­ti­tled, fur­ther­more, “Cen­trale d’information sur le fas­cisme en Algérie.” 

  12. François Maspero, “Édi­teur et révo­lu­tion­naire,” in Le Mag­a­zine Lit­téraire, no. 29 (1969), 39. 

  13. Translator’s Note: On Octo­ber 17, 1961, under orders from the head of the Parisian police, Mau­rice Papon, the French police attacked a demon­stra­tion of some 30,000 pro-FLN Alge­ri­ans, mas­sacring as many as 200, with bod­ies fished out of the Seine the fol­low­ing days. 

  14. Translator’s Note: The Man­i­festo of the 121 was an open let­ter signed by 121 intel­lec­tu­als first pub­lished on Sep­tem­ber 6, 1960 to sup­port Alger­ian inde­pen­dence, denounce the war, and con­demn the use of tor­ture. 

  15. In which François Maspero par­tic­i­pat­ed; see, on this point, Georges Arnaud, Mon procès (Paris: Minu­it, 1961). 

  16. An arti­cle used (for exam­ple) in the first days of the Sec­ond World War against Ger­man pub­li­ca­tions, and more recent­ly, by Charles Pasqua, to ban the arrival of Islam­ic pub­li­ca­tions in France. 

  17. Except for the move­ment against the ban­ning of Car­los Marighella’s Pour la libéra­tion du Brésil, pub­lished by Seuil in 1970, and repub­lished by 24 pub­lish­ers, one finds few exam­ples. 

  18. A text which would have, at least in the short term in France, as much of a res­o­nance as that of Fanon’s. When Sartre died, Ray­mond Aron could write in l’Express that it deserved to be includ­ed in “an anthol­o­gy of anti fas­cist lit­er­a­ture …” 

  19. We need only think of the print run for works of polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy or even the 300,000 copies of the Libres Enfants de Sum­mer­hill. Com­pare this with the present-day assess­ment pro­vid­ed by Sophie Bar­luet, Édi­tion de sci­ences humaines et sociales: le coeur en dan­ger (Paris: PUF, 2004). 

  20. A devel­op­ment con­demned by André Schrif­fin for North Amer­i­can and Europe in his books, Édi­tion sans édi­teurs (Paris: La Fab­rique, 1999), then Le Con­trôle de la parole

Author of the article

is a historian at Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University, and the author of L’édition politique d’extrême gauche au XXᵉ siècle, essai d’histoire globale.