Sunshine Abroad

The trials and rewards of French translation and beyond

RIP André Schiffrin

André Schiffrin, a pioneer of independent publishing, has passed away.

There's a NYTimes obit, but I like this one from Melville House better.

This man left a profound imprint on the entire world of publishing, in more ways than I could possibly list. But most importantly for this translator's story, he founded The New Press with Diane Wachtell (now its executive director). The two of them decided that it was important to publish good books as an independent press, but they also decided that it was important to help young people get into the publishing industry. Hundreds of people have gone through their internship program, starting with the woman who first got me interested in translation, Emmanuelle Ertel.

I got my turn from Nov. 2011 to Mar. 2012, and it's the reason I know anything at all about how publishing works. It's why I had the opportunity to receive guidance while writing my first reader's report. It's how I found the contacts to get my foot in the door at a rich handful of other publishing houses and agencies. It's how I've gotten jobs, and learned how to act as a writer and translator so that your editor (and managing editor and accountant and production head and everyone else) doesn't hate you.

I also was privileged enough to work a couple of TNP shindigs that André and his wife hosted at their apartment in New York City. Even if I hadn't known the man, his penthouse apartment would have been legacy enough. There were no walls. Well, no bare walls. Every single wall -- including part of the kitchen, and except for the formal salon -- was made of bookshelves. Sagging bookshelves, crammed with everything he ever wrote or edited or studied or published or enjoyed, in several languages. My then-fiancé was so impressed that it's become a permanent part of our dream house.

So, André, although I knew you for a very brief time, and although you probably didn't remember my name (but you would have remembered that I spoke French), and although we weren't close colleagues or good friends or even from the same era, you have my deepest gratitude and utmost appreciation for everything you did for me and for all of us in translation and publishing. Thank you. Rest in peace.