RE: At the Existentialist Café to New York Times

To the Editor:

Edward Mendelson’s review of “At the Existentialist Café” (April 17) allows me to express my great pleasure at the reception for Sarah Bakewell’s wonderful book.

My father, Dagobert D. Runes, who founded Philosophical Library in 1941, was instrumental in, if not the essential force behind, bringing the key texts of French existentialism to the English-speaking world. In September 1946, he and Gaston Gallimard agreed that Philosophical Library would have exclusive English translation rights to “Being and Nothingness.” The exigencies of the postwar years delayed their signing the final contract until November 1947, and because of the book’s complexity, as well as, apparently, Sartre’s involvement, the English-language edition did not appear for a number of years.

Philosophical Library also released Simone de Beauvoir’s eloquent defense of existentialism against charges of nihilism and amorality, “The Ethics of Ambiguity,” in addition to several other books by Sartre. Runes also issued two volumes by Sartre’s contemporary Martin Heidegger: “Essays in Metaphysics” comprised two late lectures; “German Existentialism” collected statements with which Heidegger irrefutably indicted himself as a willing supporter of National Socialism.

Clearly, the vision of émigré publishers like my father, Jacques and André Schiffrin, Kurt Enoch and George Weidenfeld is an essential legacy.



The writer is publisher of the Philosophical Library.

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