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First book published by|
Les Éditions de Minuit,
published clandestinely as part of
the French Resistance during WWII
It was founded by illustrator Jean Bruller (1902-1991) and writer Pierre de Lescure (1891-1963) in 1941 in Paris, during the German occupation of northern France (by November 1942, German forces occupied the whole of France). At this time, the media and all forms of publishing were controlled and censored by the German occupiers. Les Éditions de Minuit was set up to circumvent this censorship, and so was a secret or underground publisher until the liberation of Paris (August 25 1944).
The first book published was La Silence de la mer (The Silence of the Sea) by co-founder Jean Bruller (in 1942, under the pseudonym Vercors), which was distributed, like other Resistance texts, by being passed from person to person. This was followed in 1943 by Chroniques interdites (banned newspaper columns, various authors), L'honneur des poètes (the honour of poets) poetry collected by Paul Eluard, Le cahier noir (The Black Notebook) by François Mauriac and Le musée Grévin (The Grévin Museum (waxworks)) by Louis Aragon.
During World War II, Jean Bruller and Pierre de Lescure were joined by a small group of printers. Together they risked imprisonment (and worse) to publish works by some of France's greatest authors (under pseudonyms), including Paul Eluard, Louis Aragon Jacques Maritain, François Mauriac, Jean Paulhan, André Chamson, André Gide and even the first unabridged French translation of John Steinbeck's The Moon Is Down (Nuits noires).
After the war, when Les Éditions de Minuit was first able to operate openly, it continued to publish books but for the first few years was financially unstable. In the 1950s, the company began to be more successful. It was the first to publish several novels by Samuel Beckett (who wrote in French as well as English, and was resident in France at the time). Other authors published include Alain Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon, Marguerite Duras and Robert Pinget.
The style of the front covers of their books is still almost as sparse as the edition of Le Silence de la mer shown above. The only decoration is a blue border and the symbol of Les Éditions de Minuit: a star and the letter m.