Remembering Alain Gründ: ‘Always Thinking Internationally’

In News by Olivia Snaije4 Comments

‘He felt very positive about the book industry,’ Monique Souchon-Gründ, Alain Gründ’s widow tells Publishing Perspectives.

Alain Gründ and Monique, 2013. Image: Provided by Monique Souchon-Gründ

By Olivia Snaije | @OliviaSnaije

See also: International Publishing Offers Tributes to the Late Alain Gründ and Looking Back on an Iconic Publishing Career

‘Books Never Break Down’
On France’s national holiday Thursday, July 14th, an esteemed member of the country’s book industry slipped away. Alain Gründ, who had been battling Parkinson’s disease for 15 years, died with COVID-19, his wife Monique Souchon-Gründ told Publishing Perspectives. He was 83.

Despite being restricted by Parkinson’s, Gründ who had been an active member of the industry for 60 years, attended Frankfurter Buchmesse in 2018, resigning from the trade show’s advisory board after a 13-year stretch.

At the time, as he told Publishing Perspectives then, he said he was looking forward to playing the piano (jazz) and reading history books. Before the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, he also commuted into Paris from his home in Louveciennes with Monique to work in the office they kept on rue Mazarine, in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area. That’s the district in which the original Éditions Gründ was founded by his grandfather in 1894. Éditions Gründ was sold to Editis in 2007.

Alain Gründ had grown up visiting printing presses and publishing houses and attended his first Frankfurter Buchmesse in 1958 with his father. He would later say that he hadn’t thought about going into the family business. He attended the Wharton School and when he returned to France was sent to Algeria for military service just at the end of the Algerian war for independence.

In 1963, however, at age 24, he took over the reins of Éditions Gründ which was on the verge of bankruptcy. His father Michel, who was interested in the creative and editorial side, lacked a knack for business. It took Gründ 10 years to turn around the business, and in the 1970s the house was immensely successful with its co-editions of art and children’s books with Paul Hamlyn and Artia, a state-owned Czech publishing house known for its talented illustrators.

Monique Souchon joined Éditions Gründ in 1981, contributing to its success with the publication of French editions of Où est Charlie? (Where’s Waldo?).

Ten years later, following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, Monique and Alain Gründ opened their own children’s publishing company in Prague called Brio to showcase Czech illustrators. They sold Brio to Slovart, and the imprint exists today.

Alain Gründ with Jacques Chirac and Pierre Belfond at the Salon du Livre de Paris, 1982. Provided by Monique Souchon-Gründ

Juergen Boos: ‘An Eminent Publisher’

“Alain was very French and at the same time he was always thinking internationally and thinking about Europe,” Monique said. “When he was fighting for ratification of the fixed book price in France, he used to joke that he was the sales representative for it. He’d travel around and lobby for other countries to adopt the fixed book price.”

Besides running Éditions Gründ, Alain Gründ held leadership positions in national and international organizations including the presidency of the French publishers association, the Syndicat national de l’édition (SNE-France), the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), the International Publishers Association (IPA), and the International Bureau of French Publishing (BIEF).

In recent years, Monique said, there were three people Gründ would talk to her about—Frankfurt’s Juergen Boos; Benoît Müller, of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); and Jean-Guy Boin, a former director of the BIEF.

“Even when he was feeling very tired these last years,” Monique said, “when Jean-Guy would come to visit him and talk to him about books and the book industry, he’d perk up.”

Juergen Boos

And in a statement to Publishing Perspectives, Boos said, “Alain Gründ, besides being an eminent publisher, was instrumental in developing French-German cultural relations. As a member of the Frankfurter Buchmesse advisory board, he helped grow our international relevance.

“But for me, above all, he and his wife Monique became close friends, so I’m going to miss him very much.”

Gründ was a great believer in transmitting knowledge and having people meet and collaborate, Monique said. When he headed the BIEF, he organized small meetings between European and French publishers. In the morning, everyone would get to know one other in meetings, and during the afternoon, rights sales were held, resulting in mutual respect, trust, and sales.

“He felt very positive about the book industry,” Monique said, recalling how in 2010, people talked about the death of print in favor of digital books.

“At the time,” she said,” Alain smiled and said, ‘Let’s not forget one thing. Books never break down.’”

Gründ wasn’t interested in himself but in the profession, Monique said, an industry he surveyed over the long term.

She said she’d never seen anyone work so hard. The couple’s mantra was Confucius’ line, “If you love what you do, it will never be a job.”

At the Guest of Honor France exhibition at Frankfurter Buchmesse, 1989. From left, Jack Lang, Alain Gründ, and Helmut Kohl. Image: Provided by Monique Souchon-Gründ


More from Publishing Perspectives on the International Publishers Association is here, more on the Federation of European Publishers is here, more on the Syndicat national de l’édition (SNE-France) is here, more on the work of Hugo Setzer is here, and more obituaries can be found here. 

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s global media partner.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Olivia Snaije

Olivia Snaije is a journalist and editor based in Paris who writes about translation, literature, graphic novels, the Middle East, and multiculturalism. She is the author of three books and has contributed to newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Global Post, and The New York Times.

Comments

  1. Une époque est passé à l’histoire. R I P

    Lucien Plauzoles
    anc. La Cité French Books, Los Angeles

  2. Je ne pourrais jamais oublier Monique Souchon et les choix qu’elle faisait avec Monsieur Gründ. Les meilleurs moments de ma vie. La première rencontre a été fortuite. Mme Mahine Tajadod, mon amie mais aussi le mère de mom amie Nahal, s’était mise a adapter pour les jeunes des contes et des légendes de l’Iran ancien. Et je m’étais jointe à elle.Mahine voulait que le français soit aussi ancien que possible. J’ai fait de mon mieux. Ce fut notre ami commun Arby Ovanessian qui présenta Monique Souchon à Mahine.Le livre parut.Il y avait mon nom comme traductrice.Je cherchais du travail. Mon nom comme traductrice ne me suffirait pas pour en trouver.Le salon du livre allait ouvrir ses portes. Je mis ce que j’avais de plus sobre et élégant et j’y suis allée. Autour du stand Gründ, il y avait foule. J’ai demandé à la personne qui était au stand. Comment puis-je voir Melle Souchon. A quel sujet? Au sujet de ce livre qui vient de sortir. J’ai montré la page de garde où mon nom apparaissait: traduction et adaptation de Maryam Ghassemi. On m’a montré où aller et Monique Souchon a été prévenue. A l’étage, il y avait un plan d’eau et des tables comme dans un bar. Au sommet du grand escalier, un femme grande, élégante portant un chapeau, me souriait. Melle Souchon? Et vous, vous êtes Maryam Ghassemi, l’introuvable. J’ai souri, expliquant que je vivais chez un ami ,Mr Soheil Ghodsy. Nous avons bu un verre de champagne et elle m’a demandé si je connaissais l’anglais. J’ai fait oui de la tête.Alors nous allons avoir besoin de vous tout de suite. Ce sont des poèmes pour les enfants mais personne n’y arrive. j’ai pris le livre et la gorge serrée , je suis partie .

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