HISTORY AND HISTORIOGRAPHIES OF “NATIONAL BOOK” SERIES

In its epilogue, Degiovani’s study offers long-lasting hypotheses for visualizing some of the series that transformed the schemes of Rojas and Ingenieros between 1930 and 1960. He highlights, among others, the Grandes Escritores Argentinos (Great Argentine Writers) series, directed by Alberto Palcos between 1927 and 1947 and published in three different periods by the Gleizer, El Ateneo, and Jack- son publishing houses. Despite his socialist past, Palcos aligned his choices with official cultural policies, similar to Rojas. In the 1960s, Degiovani notes the appearance of the Del Siglo у Medio (The Century and a Half) series, coordinated by Horacio Achaval at the Buenos Aires University Press (Eudeba). The El Pasado Argentino series is not included in these genealogies because Degiovani (2007: 333) considers that “its specific purpose was not the diffusion of a retrospective canon of national classics”. As it is evident, I do not agree with this normative appreciation: the type of authors and genres covered, the material forms of the volumes, and Weinberg’s explicit reflection on his series as a continuation of Rojas’ and Ingenieros’ projects do not leave any doubt about the framing of El Pasado Argentino (and its fragmentation under other names) as a project for the reconfiguration of a canon of national thought:

G. SORA: “What background do you recognize for the profile of a series like El Pasado Argentino?

G. WEINBERG: Jose ingenieros and Ricardo Rojas. With other characteristics. That is, all my books have prologues, all of them. Studies made expressly by specialists of different tendencies. I would tell them that they had the widest freedom to express their points of view, but the only commitment was that they would tell the reader why the hell that book was being published. For example, why was a book published 100,150 years ago? The series of Jose Ingenieros and Ricardo Rojas had a rather political background. I wanted to give it a social, economic and moral stamp”.

(Sora 2006: 467)

Apart from the consideration of foreign agents that surrounded the appearance of El Pasado Argentino in its Hachette phase, this chapter explores the extent to which the publication of national authors depended on the tireless work of Gregorio Weinberg as a translator, that is, another “external” facet that cannot be ignored for the symbolic differentiation of a national literature and thought (Casanova 2001; Willson 2004).

For M. Elias Palasi, the general manager of the Argentine branch, the prize gave Hachette legitimacy in the eyes of the “Argentine authorities” and the intellectual milieu. Instead of transferring the prize money to Weinberg, it was used to expand Hachette’s general outreach in the country. In that year of patriotic celebrations, the series gained publicity. The symbolic and veiled economic benefits of an exhibition by the foreign publisher through the series of Argentine thought were evident.

Elias Palasi was a long-time employee of the Hachette company, whose only concern was to maintain a financial balance and to adapt the evolution of the branch to the requirements of the Departement ttranger.10 He never had faith in Weinberg’s projects.

Palasi was a beautiful person, but he was an accountant. What he wanted was to send the monthly account to Paris with a cash balance. We told him: ‘But look at it, Mr. Palasi, look at the inflation...’ It was very difficult. I can tell you 20 stories about him. Even so, I was able to continue with my El Pasado Argentino series. To give you an idea of the working atmosphere, I’ll tell you the story of the publication of a title: In the United States, Aspectos economicos del federalismo argentino (Economic Characteristics of Argentine Federalism) had been published. The name of the author [Miron Murgin], a Pole exiled in the United States, escapes me today. A very important book. I found out about it from history journals and I asked for it through a literary agent, as was done then. I got the English copy and I had it on my desk. Palasi was very nice and came to see me every day. One day I told him:

  • - ‘I am reading this book and I find it extraordinary. There is nothing better about Argentine federalism, except the book by Juan Alvarez, which is something different.
  • - Who is the author?
  • - He’s a Pole who emigrated and got his Ph.D. with this book.’

He always discouraged our projects for fear of passing enthusiasm. Palasi would come and go, look at this book and not speak to me. And one day I was called by the literary agent, Mr. Lawrence Smith, who was a gentleman, a very correct English literary agent because when he offered a book to someone, no one else knew. So, he was acting like a real book professional. He called me and said, ‘Look, Don Gregorio, Emece is asking for the book and you have

“To the Argentine Republic in its sesquicentenary-An homage from El Pasado Argentino series

Figure 2.1 “To the Argentine Republic in its sesquicentenary-An homage from El Pasado Argentino series. Hachette - Buenos Aires”. Back cover image edited in Noticia Bibliografica IX (62), May 1960, Hachette’s bibliographical magazine © Bibliographic source - image taken from a copy in the author’s own library.

El Pasado Argentino series advertisement published in Noticia Bib- liografica IX (62), May 1960 © Bibliographic source - image taken from a copy in the author’s own library

Figure 2.2 El Pasado Argentino series advertisement published in Noticia Bib- liografica IX (62), May 1960 © Bibliographic source - image taken from a copy in the author’s own library.

the preference because you have had it for three months. But if you don’t make up your mind, I’ll have to give it to Emece. And then I answered: ‘Look Mr. Smith, call Palasi directly and tell him what you are telling me. Then tell me the result.’ He immediately called, and five minutes later, Palasi comes to me in a rage, and says: ‘Ah, but Don Gregorio, with these indecisions we’re going to lose all our books. We have to make decisions! Emece can’t take the lead!”

(Sora 2006: 464)

 
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