Dear Jean-Claude Zylberstein,
Your father chose this country because it is the country of Hugo, Zola and Anatole France. You have suffered the weight of history. Condemned to live hidden during the Second World War, you became a man of law and letters, and you made your life a struggle for the defense of authors and works against forgetfulness or single thought, against all attacks on freedom of expression and intellectual property.
From your early reading, you have retained the taste for ideas – this is the name of one of your collections at the Belles Lettres - and the intimate conviction that reading is a real tool for emancipation and social success for all. Because the Letter to a partisan Jean Paulhan, whom you knew well, changed your life by strengthening your independence of mind, you made reading the foundation of your commitment. A commitment that has never left you, and has profoundly marked your career. Throughout your life, as a lawyer and publisher, you have worked to redress injustices and to do justice to the authors and works indispensable to the diversity of thought and the formation of critical thinking.
As a young law student, it is your passion for jazz and books that opens the doors to journalism and publishing. You inaugurate at the Nouvel Observateur a chronicle of detective novels that contributes to the rehabilitation of a genre too often ignored by critics. This is the beginning of a lifelong passion: for you, the taste for crime fiction is a disease that you contract young and never cure. I’m going to confess to you, under cover of medical confidentiality, I suffer from this pathology myself. You have thus made it possible to inscribe the detective novel in our literary landscape and to open the catalogues of French publishing houses.
Perhaps because you yourself are an enlightened collector who accumulates jazz records and limited prints, you have developed a collection spirit that has contributed to the success of the famous 10/18 editions. Guided by your curiosity and passion for transmitting, you have created and managed a large number of collections for the most prestigious houses, and have become a key figure in French publishing. Detective novel, but also contemporary foreign literature or history: few genres have escaped your sagacity!
For the collection «Domaine étranger», with Christian Bourgois, you put forward authors little read in France and look for works forgotten, exhausted or become untraceable. Thanks to you, readers have discovered or rediscovered E.M. Forster, Salinger, Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, Edith Wharton or Dorothy Parker - popular authors inscribed in the great literary tradition of the narrative, the story told, to which you dedicate two collections to The Discovery, «Cult Fiction», dedicated to their lesser known works, and «Pulp Fiction», dedicated to the classic authors of detective novels and science fiction.
It is also to you that we owe the famous collection «Great Detectives» around all those heroes who have permanently marked the imagination: Judge Ti, Father Brown, Rabbi David Small, former doctor Duca Lamberti or Commissioner Beck.
Arrived, like François Mauriac, at an age where the heroes of the novel no longer make you dream, you turn to the heroes in flesh and blood. You launched «Texto», at Tallandier, to give the reader a taste of history through rare works, such as My young years Winston Churchill, whose humour you like to emphasize.
These collections that have made your success are the fruit of the same ambition: to propose works often neglected by publishers, to put forward authors who invite to the love of reading, to defend a middle literature, to use a cinematographic term, quality and that affects the greatest number. I am particularly sensitive to that.
Between reading and publishing these hundreds of books, you have found time to become a leading lawyer. You have defended the freedom of expression and the rights of many journalists, writers and artists: Salman Rushdie, Françoise Sagan but still Brel or Daft Punk. Guarantor of intellectual property, the most fragile of properties, you have never hesitated to take the pen to defend copyright or the virtues of the public domain.
It is therefore a major figure in the French edition and renowned lawyer, smuggler and guardian of authors and their works, that the French Republic pays tribute today. A lover of books who has devoted his life to rendering them justice and carries high the values of a Republic that has inscribed the freedom to write at the heart of its founding text.
Dear Jean-Claude Zylberstein, on behalf of the President of the Republic, and by virtue of the powers vested in us, we make you Commander of the Order of the Legion of Honour.