François Angelier's "pockets" column

François Angelier’s “pockets” column

“Memories of a literary treasure hunter”, by Jean-Claude Zylberstein, Christian Bourgois, “Title”, 426 p., €12.

“From the Bible to Kafka”, by George Steiner, translated from English by Pierre-Emmanuel Dauzat, Les Belles Lettres, “The taste of ideas”, 210 p., €15.

“Praise of bookstores”, by Maël Renouard, Pocket Rivages, “Little library”, 122 p., €7.50.

What if it was a movie? Then it would be the famous sequence ofAlphaville, by Godard (1965), where Eddie Constantine runs in a corridor, chaining, gun in hand, the door openings. Thus seizes us with urgency, narrated in these Memories of a literary treasure hunter with feverish meticulousness and a fragile smile, the intellectual and sentimental adventure of Jean-Claude Zylberstein, lawyer of letters and fiery jazzophile, unrepentant seducer and tenacious friend. An ogresque reader who will mark out his career as a publisher for Robert Laffont, 10/18 or Les Belles Lettres of books by Philip José Farmer or Winston Churchill, Mickey Spillane or Primo Levi. An intimate life or at the helm, the three knocks of which were struck, one morning in 1941, at the family door, by the French Gestapo, but of which he postpones since 1938 to an improbable day after the fall of the curtain, multiplying the acts, the files, causes, loves and discoveries. The doors he spends his life opening without warning open onto Jean Paulhan writing one of his millions of letters, Bud Powell at the piano, Françoise Sagan dancing at the Palace or Dominique Aury preparing a duck with sage, Christian Bourgois, Jim Thompson or Daft Punk. Suddenly, one of them opens onto the void, the absence, that of his lifelong muse-wife, Marie-Christine, who died in 2016. Fifty years of publishing history lived at the front and on mission . To be sure that we don’t get lost, alone in the night, Jean-Claude Zylberstein stuffs our pockets in conclusion, as a first aid kit and goodbye, two hundred books, discs and films that are not very dispensable. With life, you never know.

If it is at the foot of the wall that we see the mason, it is by turning the display that we judge a publisher. Since 2007, Jean-Claude Zylberstein has given his “taste for ideas” the appearance, all dressed in white, of a Belles Lettres collection, an agora where Mitterrand and Bernanos, Bainville and Ribemont-Dessaignes cross paths without noise. George Steiner is at home there, between Kafka and Thibaudet. With From the Bible to Kafka, we see at work his unique ability to drill sources in classical texts, to reverse or accelerate the circulation of meaning and, above all, to bring out the drama at the heart of the words. Two texts as an example: his inaugural meditation on the consequences of non-Jewishness to Christian messianism – pronounced in homage to the historian of the Shoah Raul Hilberg – and an analysis of a volume of the “Pléiade” bringing together the last proses of Péguy, the man who hadt “the art of knocking on doors”. We follow a formidable parallel between the author ofEve and Homeric Ajax, “both masters in the art of enrage” : “Like Ajax, he had made his life a duel, a hand-to-hand fight: against compromise, against the oily reflections of political discourse, financial manipulation, against ease in public or private relations. Against world. »

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