François Maspero (1932-2015) and Spain

François Maspero (Wikipedia article) was a French publisher, translator, etc. who died on April 11, 2015. La Vanguardia newspaper published an obituary by Rafael Poch, their Paris correspondent, under the title “The small big outraged publisher of Paris”. Some parts of it, especially those concerning Maspero’s relation to Spain, are reproduced here:

[…] Publisher, author, translator and untypical personality in the world of Parisian intellectuals. … Maspero was a humble man totally oblivious to any form of arrogance. … He was the editor of a whole series of fundamental books for the Left of his age, marked by the war, Algeria, anti-colonialism, disillusionment with the Soviet system, love for Cuba and fascinated by Latin America. Very young, at age 23, and without money, he bought a bookstore at the Quartier Latin. …

His older brother Jean died in the ranks of the French resistance, … , his father died at Buchenwald, his mother returned as if by miracle alive from Ravensbrück. Years later first a daughter and then his wife died from cancer.

In 1959 he founded the Maspero publishing house. The first book was Spanish; a quite weak essay on the Spanish Civil War by Pietro Nenni, “the result of the shame provoked by the memory of France’s attitude towards the Spanish Republic.” … In one of the freest countries in Europe the publisher Maspero was sentenced 17 times. He received five months of imprisonment for a book that messed with Mobutu, the king of African dictators. …

Maspero was a friend of José Martínez [Guerricabeitia, 1921-1986]. Ten years older, the editor of Ruedo Ibérico [publishing house] was his Spanish alter ego, because both belonged to a Left they were not ashamed of belonging, and precisely for this reason, Martínez did not fit into the Spanish “transition”. Maspero is responsible for the most precise epitaph for Martínez …: “He died in exile in his own country.”

In the 1970s, when both the bookstores of Martínez (rue de Latran) and Maspero’s publishing house were the targets of bomb attacks, Maspero was the one to face the danger as formally the director of the magazine Cuadernos de Ruedo Ibérico [lit. Iberian arena notebooks], the most interesting and open publication of the anti-Franco movement. The French law required a French director, so that in 1972, when they prosecuted Luciano Rincón in Madrid as the author of a biography of Franco (under the pseudonym of Luis Ramírez), Maspero went there to testify. He said that he was the author and not Rincón, and he gave two reasons: the first, that he was a manic of insulting foreign heads of state and that he had already been condemned in his country for having insulted Mobutu (the analogy was not liked); the second, because his father-in-law, Miguel González Batlle, had been shot in Barcelona in 1939. “Obviously I was detained when I left the court and immediately expelled from the country,” he remembered in 2008. “Maybe it served so that Rincón was sentenced to four years instead of 15.”

For ten years, the two publishers had breakfast together in their neighborhood. When Martínez died, he was correcting the proofs of Maspero’s autobiographic Le Sourire du chat [The cat’s smile] that he had translated into Spanish.

Maspero closed the publishing house in 1982 and also the bookstore, … Some cretins thought that he was a rich man. He wasn’t in money terms but in many other aspects as has been demonstrated. At the end of his life he regretted not having spent more energy on poetry.

Verso Books offers this interview with Maspero.

SOURCE: La Vanguardia, April 25, 2015, p. 41 (printed edition)

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