FRIENDS: GREAT BRITAIN AND ARGENTINA

The interview continues:

Another similar case was with the publication of Friends: Great Britain and Argentina, a very important book of which 5 editions were printed.11 It had an enormous repercussion because it is a vision of English and Argentinean relations from the point of view of an Englishman. It was written by a naive, candid man who didn’t know the history of Argentina. He had never been here before, but he tells the truth about the documents he finds. The episode went like this: a long article was published in La Nation newspaper in which it was stated: ‘a sensational book by a professor from the University of Edinburgh on the relations between Great Britain and Argentina has just appeared...’ There he deals with the negotiations that took place between companies and many patrician names involved in bribery. There I said to Palasi: ‘Shall we take it?’, and he answered me: ‘No, the rights must be very expensive.’ Emece asked Mr. Smith for the rights. He gave it to them and it was translated by Mr. Visio. Then I said to Mr. Smith, ‘Look, Emece has the rights. According to the rules they have to publish it in a year, if they don’t, they lose the rights. Why don’t you give me the first option? Write it down in your book. I’m asking you to give me the first choice because I have a feeling that Emece won’t publish it.’ And that’s how it happened. We bought the translation from Emece, it was published (in 1966) and it was a huge success; it’s already a classic. That was the working climate.

(Sora 2006: 464-465)

A year before the Casavalle award, Palasi had received a report from M. Meunier de Houssay, the general manager of Hachette, where he evaluated the catalogue of the Argentine branch and produced detailed instructions for each series. This was his assessment of El Pasado Argentine, along with Diorama (novels), Excelsa (a selection of works in deluxe editions), Numen (arts), and Hachette Library of Philosophy series: “I find these series mediocre; their sales are slow and their stock is very large. No new titles should come out. Be careful not to exceed the current stock”.12

After these trials, the figure of Weinberg at Hachette was also weakened insofar as his work was closely linked to the Philosophy series, which by 1960 was composed of the following titles: Las edades de la inteligencia (The Ages of Intelligence) by L. Brunschvicg; Ciencia griega (Greek Science) by B. Farrington; Ciencia de la logica (Science of Logic) (2 vols.) by G. W. Hegel; Historia de la filosofia (History of Philosophy) (several volumes) by Paolo Lamanna; La estructura del comportamiento (The Structure of Behaviour) by M. Merleau-Ponty; Historia у solution de los problemas de la metafisica (History and Solution of the Problems of Metaphysics) by Ch. Renouvier; Filosofia de la fidelidad (Philosophy

Table 2.1 Sales and stock of the El Pasado Argentino series between August 1957 and August 1958

Stock volumes in 31/8/1957

Releases (new titles and reprints)

Sales for the period

Stock

volumes

31/8/1958

Sales for the year

Stock in 31/8/1958

29.391

copies

18.690

copies

8.696

copies

39.385

copies

252.688 $

532.645 $

Source: Author’s composition on the basis of documentation from the Buenos Aires branch of Hachette, kept in the Hachette archive at IMEC - Caen, France.

Sora, Gustavo. 2010. “Traducir la nacion: Gregorio Weinberg у el racionalismo del pasado argentino”. Estudios lnterdisciplinarios de America Latina у el Caribe 21(1): 77-99. ISSN: 0792-7061.

of Fidelity) by Josiah Royce; La obra de Platon (Plato’s Work) by M. P. Schuhl; Ensayo de la locnra (Essay on Madness) by Erasmus; En los on'genes de la filosofia de la cultura (At the Origins of the Philosophy of Culture) by Rodolfo Mondolfo; and Ensayo sobre las costumbres (Essay on Customs) by Voltaire (General Catalogue of Editions Hachette 1960: 3). All these titles were choices and major projects of Gregorio Weinberg.13 This evidence outlines the general hypothesis of this study: for Weinberg the publication of national thought was inseparable from the publication of universal thought, in its humanist and rationalist tradition. Translating the nation or framing it under intellectual inputs: that would lead to thinking about the universality of Argentina (its uniqueness) and guide the education of the readers towards a progressive civility (its universality).14

Son of Jewish Ukrainian immigrants, Gregorio Weinberg was born in Buenos Aires in 1919 and studied law and philosophy in the late 1930s. As we shall see, around 1944 he worked at Lautaro publishing house and was linked to the reformist movement that in the field of philosophy was led by Francisco Romero. As a consequence, during Peronism, the university was not a field of possible intellectual action for him and he participated in cultural “resistance” activities such as those promoted by the Colegio Libre de Estudios Superiores. Weinberg began working as an employee of Hachette at the beginning of the 1950s. For many teachers and researchers excluded from the university by Peronism, the publishing market offered an alternative employment and a fertile medium for intellectual intervention. Such contradictions would have been well used by Weinberg to convince the French to bet on El Pasado Argentino:

At the time, I made them the proposal of the El Pasado Argentino series, an idea they did not accept with much enthusiasm. But I convinced them by using a somewhat illegitimate argument. I told them: -‘look, we are living in the time of Peron, an excessive nationalism.

And besides, notice that there is a certain xenophobic attitude. There are currency problems and one day they’re going to tell you: ‘what’s happening? You don’t do anything for Argentine culture, you keep bringing in more French books, French magazines.’ It was crates and crates that arrived every week! Well, that argument was what allowed me to start the El Pasado Argentino in 54, before the fall of Peron.

(Sora 2006: 463)

Flachette, like many importers, had experienced serious financial and political problems in 1950 when the control of foreign currencies and import licences intensified. Moreover, during the war, Flachette had been “collaborationist” (Mollier 2015), which is why Gaullist diplomatic authorities took away support from them and benefited competing importers (in Argentina), such as M. Neprowski’s Leru distribution company. Weinberg interpreted the weakening of his employers’ position like no other. Then, as a masterful move, he proposed a plan for Flachette’s cultural approach to Argentina.

The plan was perfect on its symbolic side but uncertain in its economic performance. Towards the end of the 1950s, the financial difficulties of the Hachette branch intensified, owing to both local and external phenomena. On the one hand, there was a certain contraction of the Argentine publishing market which was due to general problems (inflation, obsolescence of printing machinery, an increase in the price of raw materials, aggressive competition from the Spanish market) and specific problems (the displacement of French cultural production due to the growing influence of the English language and Anglo-Saxon cultural fashions). In this context, around 1960, a restructuring of the local company took place, initiated by the arrival of M. Musset, the son of a high official of the matrix company who applied severe reorganization measures. Among other measures, he removed the experienced M. Palasf from the general management.

Around 1957, after the overthrow of Peron, Gregorio Weinberg had returned to focus his professional activity on the University of Buenos Aires. There he took up the chairs of History of Culture and Universal Culture.15 Despite the recognition of the Carlos Casavalle Award, the conditions that prevailed at Hachette made him decide to continue the El Pasado Argentino series independently. That is why he created Solar. This had been the name of a small publishing house belonging to the historian Jose Busaniche, author of the series. Weinberg bought the name of the brand and translations of English travellers’ titles. Hachette put obstacles in the way of the separation: they prevented the use of the name of the series. That is why Weinberg renamed it Dimension Argentina. The negotiation resulted in exclusive distribution by Hachette in exchange for the automatic purchase of 500 copies of each title. The result was a co-edition scheme that, on the one hand, revalidated Hachette’s “contribution” to Argentine culture and, on the other hand, guaranteed the continuity of a series that retained the visual pattern: light blue-bordered covers, white background for vignettes, drawings or black engravings, and the image of an ombu linking the words “past” and “Argentina”.

For the production of new titles, Weinberg no longer had the structure and investment of Hachette. But his career in publishing and

El Pasado Argentino series

Figure 2.3 El Pasado Argentino series: cover of Sarmiento, Domingo F.

1955. Viajes I. De Valparaiso a Paris. Buenos Aires: Hachette © Bibliographic source - image taken from a copy in the author’s own Library.

El Pasado Argentino series

Figure 2.4 El Pasado Argentino series: cover of Ferns, H. S. 1966. Gran Bretaita у Argentina en el siglo XIX. Buenos Aires: Solar / Hachette © Bibliographic source - image taken from a copy in the author’s own Library.

intellectual life had given him extensive networks. Two of his friends, linked with different degrees of intensity to Judaism and the book industry, were the printer Abraham Weiss and Gregorio Schwartz, owner of Siglo XX publishing house and Fausto bookshop.1 Dimension Argentina was financed by Schwartz. For the production of each book, Weinberg had the help of an employee. The launching pace was moderate (about five titles per year) but continued until the end of the 1990s, when the series was redesigned as Nueva Dimension Argentina,

Dimension Argentina series

Figure 2.5 Dimension Argentina series: cover of Josefa E. Sabor, Pedro de Angelas у los origenes de la bibliografia argentina. Buenos Aires: Solar, 1975 © Bibliographic source - image taken from a copy in the author’s own library.

and re-launched by Taurus, a powerful Spanish publishing group (so another foreign company). Books such as Estampas del pasado. Lec- turas de historia argentina (Prints of the Past) by Busaniche, Historia de la ganaderta (History of Livestock Farming) by Spencer and Historia del Trigo (History of Wheat) by Scobie had numerous reissues, although most titles sold slowly. This is how Weinberg described the “philosophy” of the series:

I wanted to give a pluralistic image of the country: history, literature, anthropology, travellers, the conquest of the desert, provincial chronicles, all that panorama. I also published a number of books that were a little bit different from the conventional guidelines. For example, I published for the first time in book form the sainete criollo,18 An eminent Argentine critic called me and said: ‘Gregorio, it can’t be, you publish Sarmiento, Payro, you can’t publish sainete’. I replied: ‘Look, I don’t have a particular taste for sainete. But the sainete is the most beautiful testimony of sociability at the time of the impact of immigration, of the conventillo [popular immigrants’ tenements], of its language... And some of the sainetes are a beauty. I imagined the “ Velorio del Angelito” (Little Angel’s Wake) almost like a ballet: the little guys who come and go. Let’s say I was also unhappy with the atmosphere, lacking the sensitivity to understand that Sarmiento could be next to the sainete.

Sarmiento next to the sainete, criollos (creoles) next to foreign travellers, Argentine and Anglo-Saxon historians, foreign literary agents to compete for titles on local realities written in distant lands: another facet of the approach of the national to the foreign19 was the launch of the Dimension Americana series, throughout the 1960s. Argentina (its thinking, its problems, and its challenges) would be fully understandable as a unit of a continental totality.

 
Source
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >