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Shawqi Bin Hasan
Very early into 2018, the French publishing community was left shocked by the news of the sudden demise of French publisher, Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens, who became victim to a traffic accident in the Guadalupe Islands in the Caribbean Sea, while enjoying his year-end holiday.
Born in 1944, Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens is well known within the French cultural circles as P.O.L – title of the publishing house he founded in 1983, which survived despite inadequate resources. It succeeded thanks to the flexibility and resilience of Otchakovsky-Laurens, who established it in collaboration with Flammarion Foundation, where he worked for years. He also received financial support from Gallimard Publishing when in need.
The concept of the ‘P.O.L’ project is to provide a platform to new and unknown writers who work on a variety of literature like novels, short stories, plays, op-ed books and others.
P.O.L entrusted its faith in authors like Leslie Kaplan and Richard Millet, who went on to become bestselling writers, and later commissioned by global publishers.
To guide unknown writers, Otchakovsky-Laurens recruited acclaimed assistants like the French novelist, Marguerite Duras, who oversaw text selection for some of P.O.L’s key works. It achieved remarkable success by winning several awards and publishing acclaimed authors, Georges Perec, Marie Darrieussecq, Atiq Rahimi and Valère Novarina.
The Gallimard Group’s CEO, Antoine Gallimard, said: “The French literary sphere needs more people from P.O.L,” a comment that offers testimony to their repute in French culture.
One of Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens’ unique features is that they produced feature-length documentaries to showcase the publishing profession. The first is an autobiographical documentary titled ‘Sablé-sur-Sarthe, Sarthe’ (2009), and a more recent one titled ‘Éditeur’ (Publisher), which deals with the new realities of the publishing industry with a focus on new reading technologies.