Speaking Freely: My Life in Publishing and Human Rights

Speaking Freely: My Life in Publishing and Human Rights


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What do Dr. Seuss, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Andrei Sakharov, and James Michener have in common? They were all published by Bob Bernstein during his twenty-five-year run as president of Random House, before he brought the dissidents Liu Binyan, Jacobo Timerman, Natan Sharansky, and Václav Havel to worldwide attention in his role as the father of modern human rights.

Starting as an office boy at Simon & Schuster in 1946, Bernstein moved to Random House in 1956 and succeeded Bennett Cerf as president ten years later. The rest is publishing and human rights history.

In a charming and self-effacing work, Bernstein reflects for the first time on his fairy tale publishing career, hobnobbing with Truman Capote and E.L. Doctorow; conspiring with Kay Thompson on the Eloise series; attending a rally for Random House author George McGovern with film star Claudette Colbert; and working with publishing luminaries including Dick Simon, Alfred Knopf, Robert Gottlieb, André Schiffrin, Peter Osnos, Susan Peterson, and Jason Epstein as Bernstein grew Random House from a $40 million to an $800 million-plus “money making juggernaut,” as Thomas Maier called it in his biography of Random House owner Si Newhouse. In a book sure to be savored by anyone who has worked in the publishing industry, fought for human rights, or wondered how Theodor Geisel became Dr. Seuss, Speaking Freely beautifully captures a bygone era in the book industry and the first crucial years of a worldwide movement to protect free speech and challenge tyranny around the globe.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620971710
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication date: 05/10/2016
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Robert L. Bernstein served as the president of Random House for twenty-five years. After being sent to Moscow as part of a delegation of American publishers in 1973, he established the organization that became Human Rights Watch. He was the author of Speaking Freely: My Life in Publishing and Human Rights (The New Press).

Table of Contents

Foreword Toni Morrison ix

Preface xiii

1 Youth 1

2 Office Boy in Waiting 19

3 At Random 47

4 On Top, Suddenly 72

5 Politics and Publishing 95

6 The Russians 118

7 The Birth of Helsinki Watch 140

8 From RCA to Newhouse 159

9 Finding Our Footing: Human Rights, 1980-85 174

10 The Soviet Union Implodes: Human Rights, 1985-90 201

11 Random House in the 1980s: The Newhouse Years 226

12 China 250

13 A New Organization, a New Approach 276

14 Some Thoughts on the Future of Human Rights in the Middle East 292

Epilogue 321

Acknowledgments 327

Index 333

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