A Political Education: Coming of Age in Paris and New York

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9781933633152: A Political Education: Coming of Age in Paris and New York
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"A beautifully written and melancholy update, if you will, of Democracy in America by the Frenchman de Tocqueville, this book also written by a man born in France, but one who has spent most of his life in America, most famously as a publisher of books in support of peace and we the people."
Kurt Vonnegut

"This remarkable work is more than a flesh-and-blood tale of growing up. It is the stunning and revelatory road map of a seeker. It is an autobiography of ideas."
—Studs Terkel

"André Schiffrin’s life story is a riveting journey, from the ‘commanding heights’ of American culture in the 1940s through the culture crash of the Reagan-Bush era. Along the way we meet the ‘great and the good’—heroes like André Gide, who really cared about freedom—as well as villains who just didn’t give a damn. This is the best literary and political memoir I’ve read in years—an indispensable text for understanding what we’ve lost."
—John R. Macarthur

"Life for André Schiffrin has been a continuing course in adult education. His memoir is a master class in living, learning and writing. Sign up now for a fabulous experience."
—Bill Moyers


André Schiffrin was born the son of one of France’s most esteemed publishers, into a world that included some of the day’s leading writers and intellectuals, such as André Gide, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

But this world was torn apart when the Nazis marched into Paris on young André’s fifth birthday.

Beginning with the family’s dramatic escape to Casablanca—thanks to the help of the legendary Varian Fry—and eventually to New York, A Political Education recounts the surprising twists and turns of a life that saw Schiffrin, despite his radically altered circumstances, become, himself, one of the world’s most respected publishers.

Emerging from the émigré community of wartime New York (a community that included his father’s friends Hannah Arendt and Kurt Wolff), he would go on to develop an insatiable appetite for literature and politics: heading a national student group he renamed the Students for a Democratic Society—the SDS...running a magazine called Granta at Cambridge University...leading student groups at European conferences—once, as an unwitting front man for the CIA—and participating in public debate with William F. Buckley....

Eventually, Random House chief Bennett Cerf would appoint Schiffrin to head the very imprint founded by his father and Kurt Wolff—Pantheon. There, Schiffrin would publish some of the world’s leading writers, from Noam Chomsky, Michel Foucault, and Eric Hobsbawm, to Simone De Beauvoir, Studs Terkel, Art Spiegelman, and Marguerite Duras.

But, in a move that made headlines, Schiffrin would ultimately rebel at corporate ownership and form his own publishing house—The New Press—where he would go on to set a new standard for publishing independence.

A Political Education is a fascinating intellectual memoir that tells not only the story of a unique and important literary figure, but provides an absorbing account of the tumultuous political times that shaped him.

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About the Author:

André Schiffrin was born in Paris, the son of a prominent publisher, but fled with his family for the US when the Nazis occupied France. He was, for thirty years, Publisher at Pantheon, but famously resigned when the company was taken over by a conglomerate. Shortly thereafter, he founded the New Press. He lives in Paris and New York.

Review:

“Schiffrin evokes the bittersweet tang of émigré life in New York.” The New York Times Book Review
 
“André Schiffrin’s memoir begins and ends in Paris, neatly encircling a long career as a titan of publishing in New York City, where he managed Pantheon Books for 30 years. An introspective wish to explore his ‘dual nature’ has led him to compose a narrative of fractured halves: of French and American loyalties, of personal history and political opinion and—perhaps most significant—of a father and a son gesturing to each other across death’s divide.” Los Angeles Times
 
“[A Political Education’s] real strength is in its depiction of a childhood that included attending a Quaker school in New York City and growing up with parents displaced from Europe yet deeply connected to it.” —Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune
 
“A beautifully written and melancholy update, if you will, of Democracy in America by the Frenchman de Tocqueville, this book was also written by a man born in France, but one who has spent most of his life in America, most famously as a publisher of books in support of peace and we the people.” —Kurt Vonnegut
 
“Schiffrin’s memoir is a master class in living, learning, and writing. Sign up now for a fabulous experience.” —Bill Moyers
 
“This remarkable work is more than a flesh-and-blood tale of growing up. It is the stunning and revelatory road map of a seeker. It is an autobiography of ideas.” —Studs Terkel
 
“André Schiffrin’s life story is a riveting journey, from the ‘commanding heights’ of American culture in the 1940s through the culture crash of the Reagan-Bush era. Along the way we meet the ‘great and the good’—heroes like André Gide, who really cared about freedom, as well as villains who just didn’t give a damn. This is the best literary and political memoir I’ve read in years—an indispensable text for understanding what we’ve lost.” —John R. MacArthur
 
“The sinewy memoir of a natural child of high European culture as well as a shrewd brief for unblinkering ourselves from fashion and cant . . . From the start, Schiffrin breathed politics and ideas.” —John Leonard, Harper’s Magazine
 
“Schiffrin’s coming-of-age story acts as a springboard for a series of vivid and insightful vignettes about political developments in the United States . . . Poignant memoirs.” Bookforum
 
“Seamlessly weaves his own life story into an overview of the political climate in the United States and Europe from World War II to the present, and demonstrates the chilling effect that the McCarthy era had on freedom of expression in the U.S.” Jewish Book World
 

“Impressive . . . In a time when pliable corporate managers have the final say, Schiffrin writes as an intellectual representative of lost times and attitudes, vehemently defending the importance of independent publishers.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
 
“Exciting . . . A look back on the global evolution of a profession. From his father he inherited the belief that money is used to make beautiful books and spread great ideas, but he suddenly discovered that, in the world in which we live, money is now used to produce money.” Le Nouvel Observateur
 
“Exciting descriptions of fleeing France with his parents . . . and evocative descriptions of postwar America . . . Everything vibrates in the sensitivity of a young eye.”Libération
 
“A fascinating half-century history of life in the United States.” Le Monde

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9781612193632: A Political Education: Coming of Age in Paris and New York

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ISBN 10:  1612193633 ISBN 13:  9781612193632
Publisher: Melville House, 2014
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