Friday, January 16, 2009

Farewell to Richard Seaver

Another important recent death which has escaped general notice, at least in the blogging worlds I frequent, is that of American editor, publisher and translator Richard Seaver. He died last Monday at the age of 82.

You can read a full NEW YORK TIMES obit here, but Mr. Seaver was invaluable to my literary upbringing and consciousness as the editor-in-chief at Grove Press during their 1960s heyday. During those years, he approved or perpetuated Grove's sponsorship of such writers as Samuel Beckett, William S. Burroughs, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Henry Miller, Marguerite Duras, Hubert Selby Jr., and even the Marquis de Sade (whose works he personally translated). He also translated many books for the company, notably THE STORY OF O by the pseudonymous Pauline Réàge, which he pseudonymously translated under the alluring name Sabine d'Estrée. When he left Grove to become an editor at Viking Press, with his own subimprint ("A Richard Seaver Book"), he took Burroughs with him; it was at Viking that Burroughs published the important trilogy of works that began with CITIES OF THE RED NIGHT. Seaver was also responsible for a valiant attempt to find an American audience for the great Irish comic novelist Flann O'Brien. He later founded Arcade Publishing. According to the NEW YORK TIMES, he completed a memoir of his life in publishing shortly before his death.

Richard Seaver was one of progressive publishing's great brand names, perhaps its last great brand name. Anything that bore his byline or endorsement was certain to be challenging, elevating and pleasurable, always well worth reading.

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