Mon. Feb 17th, 2020

"The writer is a fragile and infamous animal"

Jorge Herralde He speaks at a steady pace, like an experienced background runner. 50 years have passed since he founded the publishing house Anagram And something that has been demonstrated throughout this time is perseverance and commitment. He has published more than 4,000 titles – “a savage” – and has consolidated a referential catalog of contemporary literature in Spanish and also translated, especially French and Anglo-Saxon.

Anagrama's contribution to the education of Spanish society is so great that these days the media have turned to Herralde, who they interview and analyze in depth, something, on the other hand, that he himself has done in a book of autobiographical reflections.

The Culture / s supplement publishes this Saturday a comprehensive report on Herralde and Anagrama

, the weekly supplement of The vanguard, this Saturday devotes extensive coverage to this editor who a few weeks ago sat with us at the bar Giardinettto to drink a whiskey with Coca-Cola and talk about the secrets of his trade.

Anagrama started with a political agenda under his arm. Herralde published Mao and at Che, to the exponents of the counter culture that subverted the bourgeois order. Franco's censorship kidnapped him nine titles, but he persevered because he had a place that the competition gave him. Tusquets, Barral Y Lumen They did not publish political books. Other publishing houses, small and independent, suffered harassment similar to Anagrama.

Herralde remembers with passion the quinquennium 1965-1970, “a few extraordinarily alive years”, full of creative projects of architecture, photography, cinema and literature.

When Franco's death ended the dictatorship came what Herralde called "the great disenchantment." The revolutionary energy accumulated during tardofranquismo crashed against the political normalization that democracy brought. "Democracy," the editor acknowledges, "seemed totally tasteless." The concessions that the democratic forces made to the remains of the dictatorship were a betrayal for Herralde and many other intellectuals who had dreamed of a justice that was not going to come. "The magical effervescence was diluted enough," he says.

“Democracy seemed quite tasteless; the magical effervescence was diluted quite a lot ”

The Spaniards, still, molded and dedicated themselves to having fun. They lost interest in political books and publishing houses that only lived on them had a very bad time. Herralde would have had to close if he had not opted to publish novels, "my passion from the beginning."

The Panorama Collection of Narratives was consolidated with the sales success of Patricia Highsmith, author until then of kiosk, and also with The conjuing of the ceciuos, the novel of John Kennedy Toole that Herralde bought for just a thousand dollars and that it has become a hen of the golden eggs, with more than 400,000 copies sold.

Commercial success did not remove Herralde from his pulse with the system. In the collection Contraeñas published authors of wild literature as Buckowski, Kerouac, Welsh, Sharpe Y Burroughs, and in the collection The sentimental education advanced forty years to the emergence of the LGBT movement. The Anagram Notebooks collected, for their part, much of European thought.

Little by little, with the record of the fondista, Herralde was building his catalog. For this I was looking for good writers that could be sold, a balance between literary quality and commercial output that was not easy to sustain. Having achieved it with writers like Vila-Matas, Mary Y Pombo, Barnes, Ishiguro Y McEwan or Michon, Modiano Y Carrère, is the secret of Anagrama's survival.

Herralde explains that "the publisher publishes for readers." It is a simple principle but not easy to maintain. The pressures to publish friendly authors who have no quality or the temptation to publish a novel without literary ambition but with great commercial potential have always been there.

The authors have been treated when they have been in the publishing house and stopped doing so when they have left. Complicity is maintained when there is a professional relationship through, but it is almost impossible to take it further. "The author – explains Herralde – is a fragile and infamous animal."

In the Giardinetto bar, which he considers redoubt and refuge, the editor remembers Roberto Bolaño, the exceptionality of a writer who triumphed as García Márquez and Vargas Llosa and who died prematurely "in an absurd way, because of his cowardice to operate." Also talks about Luis Goytisolo and her monumental work Antagonía – "one of the essential novels of the twentieth century" – as well as feminism and the proliferation of authors. "There are writers," he says, "that are too recognized."

Herralde has transferred Anagrama's control to the publishing house Feltrinelli, the editorial weight carries it now Silvia Sesé and he dedicates the nights and the early hours to read and reread biographies in his house in Sarrià.

"I've been fighting over my weight for fifty years," he summarizes without nostalgia, wanting to run a little more.

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