During the past decade, more and more attention has been paid to the role that certain publishers played in French literary life of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Books about Louis Hachette, Georges Char-pentier, Bernard Grasset, and now Gaston Gallimard—the subject of a new biography by Pierre Assouline[1]—illuminate the peculiar conditions defining a business that has always been held to transcend mere business, in which men who could rightfully account themselves captains of the industry they helped to create also figured as soldiers of intellect and promoters of cultural reform. Such men have become almost legendary. The imprints with which each one marked his age no longer bespeak a personal temperament, style, or adventure but survive, where they do survive, as ornaments that lend moral prestige to bland, corporate entities.

Born in 1881,...


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