La Traversée du livre

by Jean-Jacques Pauvert

LaTraverseeduLivreThe English translation and publishing rights to La Traversée du livre (2004) or (SADE’S PUBLISHER: A Journey in Books), were acquired from Editions Viviane-Hamy in August 2013. Publication by the Paris Writers Press is scheduled for late 2015. The translation is by Lynn Jeffress.

In his prize-winning memoir La Traversée du livre  (SADE’S PUBLISHER: A journey in Books), Jean-Jacques Pauvert recounts in vivid detail his meteoric rise to the top of the French book world and how by the tender age of twenty, he openly published the banned works of the Marquis de Sade, which led to a protracted legal struggle with the French authorities.

A similar firestorm erupted when he published Histoire D’O (The Story of O) in 1954, a daring work by Pauline Reage, a pseudonym used by Dominique Aury. Pauvert started his career in 1942 working in the mail room of the venerable publishing house run by Gaston Gallimard, rubbing elbows with the likes of Albert Camus and Raymond Queneau. The sixteen year old soon broke into the rare book business as World War II and the Occupation rendered literature as an increasingly precious commodity.

After being arrested and jailed for three months in Tours by the Nazis for his role as a courier in the Resistance, he returned to Paris and printed his first book under the imprint of Le Palimugre, a slim essay by Sartre on Camus. A work by Gide soon followed. He published such literary luminaries as Sartre, Genet, Breton, Vian, Ernest and Bataille. By the 1960’s, when Pauvert’s publishing house had been firmly established, his name had come to be associated with the fight against censorious decency laws, the freedom of expression, and the championing of provocative erotic and intellectually stimulating literature.

Pauvert’s lively memoir is full of charming tableaux, fascinating recollections, plentiful insights into his editorial decisions, unique photograph, photocopies of handwritten notes by famous authors, and pictures of Pauvert’s original first edition covers. La Traversée du livre is not only a captivating story of a young man figuring out how to be a publisher as he went along, but also an invaluable social history of art, literature, politic and Parisian life from World War II to the May 1968 revolution.


Winner of 2005  Elle Magazine Reader’s Grand Prize

The First Edition (Viviane-Hamy, 2004) is available on French Amazon (