Publisher Mario Muchnik dies at 91 Listen to this article

Argentine publisher Mario Muchnik died this Sunday in Madrid at the age of 91, according to his family. Born in the province of Buenos Aires in 1931, he earned a doctorate in physics and worked as a photographer from an early age, but the occupation of his life was editing, which he practiced in all its forms: family, multinational and, In its final stage, the single individual.

Born into a family of Jews of Russian descent, he was a student at the universities of Colombia (New York) and Rome in his twenties, when his father, Jacobo, founded the legendary Fabril Editora, the seeds of the label, a little later. , will put the family surname in the version’s history. In 1978 he settled in Barcelona and never left Europe again. In the Catalan capital he continued as Muchnik editors, taking a break to work as literary director at Six Baral and Ariel.

There are three main lines in which he was an absolute pioneer: the dialogue between science and the humanities, Latin American literature, and Jewish culture. At a time when the Holocaust was far from being the literary sub-genre it is today, he published in translation Pilar Gómez Bedet, composed of the allegorical trilogy by Primo Levi. If it’s a man, ceasefire And Drowned and saved. He was also the first editor of mouse, when the Art Spiegelman comic that changed the way Showa was told was known only to fans. Furthermore, he bet against all odds on a demanding German-speaking Bulgarian Sephardic writer who would win the Nobel Prize in 1981, when he was already part of his catalogue: Elias Caneti. However, sometimes it took a little longer to prove him right. A few weeks ago translator Sofia Noguera recalled that 24 years ago she proposed to translate “a Tanzanian writer who lives in England and writes in English”. He was referring to Abdulrajak Gurnah, who surprised many by the Swedish Academy last October.

His friend Julio Cortázar, whom he had photographed in Segovia a few months before his death in 1984, published one of his last titles with him: nicaragua so violently sweetthe fruit of the author’s commitment hopscotch With the Sandinista Revolution. The result of his dual training – Science and Letters – was a presentation of an author to the general reader that soon became a reference: neurologist and essayist Oliver Sachs, author of the famous The man who mistook his wife for a hat.

Julio Cortazar painted by Mario Muchnik.
Julio Cortazar painted by Mario Muchnik.MARIO MUCHNIK

A sought-after professional and man of character, Mario Muchnik sold his label to Anaya Group, but continued to lead it. Over time it was baptized as El Alef within Aedesians 62 (today part of the Planeta group). Disillusioned but irrepressible by the experience, he decided in 1988, with his wife—Nicole—del Tolar de Mario Muchnik, ahead of a boom of independents—forces that revolutionized the cultural landscape in Spain and Latin. America.

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Although he never stopped writing and translating, the publication of his memoirs in 1999 brought him back into the limelight. Title –not the worst writer—and honesty—uncommon in a guild that doesn’t usually say the same things in public in private—also made him a benchmark for autobiographical writing. works like Test Bench, Editorial Glossary or story setting They will continue in the wake of a work written without warm clothes: whether it is about revealing the arrogance of the authors – and the efforts of the authors – or some of their widows – such as Raphael Alberti – to manipulate their legacy.

Divided between a few multinationals and hundreds of smaller labels, the Spanish publishing industry resembles the Mario Muchnik picture. The two would be very different without their work.