Investigation“Successions Season II” (4/6). The eviction, in 1984, of one of the Gallimard sons, Christian, in favor of his brother Antoine, current boss of the group, was a major heartbreak that marked the history of the great publishing house. And signed an unbreakable break between the two men.
At each general meeting of Éditions Gallimard, the group’s management receives a thick registered letter from Switzerland. Its content hardly varies, year after year: the sender sifts through the figures, criticizes the choices, questions the audits and the strategy, distributes the good and above all the bad points.
The five shares held by this small shareholder do not entitle him to much, except to have access to the balance sheet of the company and to say what he thinks of it. Needless to say, he never received any response to his emails. This man, who meets every year an accountant and an auditor to dissect for days the documents he receives from Paris, is called Christian Gallimard. He is the older brother of Antoine, the boss of the prestigious house, the leading independent publisher in France, with an exceptional collection of 40,000 titles and 9,000 authors.
In this true novel that is the story of the Gallimards, Christian, 77, plays the role of the former prodigal son turned cursed. It was he who was first chosen by their father, Claude, to succeed him, before being violently removed from power in 1984, in favor of his younger brother, Antoine. Since then, the two brothers have never spoken to each other again. At their father’s funeral in 1991, they stood on either side of the coffin, without exchanging the slightest glance. The heartbreaks of this sibling do not only tell of a conflict of inheritance. They also draw a clan ready to assume the worst violence to keep its name alive.
Christian, Antoine… As many common points as there are irreconcilable differences. We met the two men. The first, dressed in a brown hunting jacket, came specially to Paris, where his last stay was three years ago. Since his repudiation, he has lived in Geneva, where he had an immense library built in his home housing 12,000 works, those of his father and his grandfather, his heritage, a treasure which gives him the illusion of still being part of of the family. In Switzerland, he has rebuilt a publishing house, where the successful children’s series is published Max and Lily. He called it “Calligram”, an (almost) anagram of Gallimard. You don’t get rid of your past so easily…
A childhood populated by celebrities
The second, Anthony, 75 years old, welcomed us at the end of the day out of sight, in his office on rue Gaston-Gallimard with walls covered with volumes of “La Pléiade”, in a Parisian building haunted by prestigious ghosts, from Proust to Aragon, from Gide to Céline, from Sartre to Camus, Faulkner or Nabokov. A temple devoted to literature and the social sciences, a jewel of French culture over which reigns unchallenged and with success “Antoine”as it is called here.
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