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Being creative in Spain


Having a principled background
Peter Mayer Publisher
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[Q] Were you consciously setting out to learn about life and the world and yourself and so on by doing this?

I think, unconsciously. I mean I think I told you that my father thought at 20, one should begin to take care of oneself.  This was not the way most other middle class – I was a middle class kid – this was not the way most middle class parents dealt with their middle class kids.  I came from a very tough background in that respect.  I tried to say that I was not materially spoiled at all, but I was… I got a lot of moral candy, and personal attention and so on.  But very, very strict, and I remember when I lived in Ibiza, in that year after college and the Merchant Marine, I wrote a letter to my father and said, my four years of university didn't cost you anything, would he give me $5000 to buy some beachfront in Ibiza, Talamanca I think it was, which I thought would be a great investment.  And my father wrote back saying not one penny for fascist Franco's Spain. Come back to America, and if you want $5000 for some good purpose, you will have it, but I don't even like you being in Spain. 

So I come from a very principled background, and I think those principles, they are not the same ones, but they were part of me when the Rushdie case came up.  It would have been very much easier to forget principles and just can the book. Many publishers since The Satanic Verses have cancelled books because of threats made on them by Muslim groups or Muslim individuals or whatever it is.  I come from a very strict background in the family about being tough for what you believe in.

Peter Mayer (1936-2018) was an American independent publisher who was president of The Overlook Press/Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc, a New York-based publishing company he founded with his father in 1971. At the time of Overlook's founding, Mayer was head of Avon Books, a large New York-based paperback publisher. There, he successfully launched the trade paperback as a viable alternative to mass market and hardcover formats. From 1978 to 1996 he was CEO of Penguin Books, where he introduced a flexible style in editorial, marketing, and production. More recently, Mayer had financially revived both Ardis, a publisher of Russian literature in English, and Duckworth, an independent publishing house in the UK.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: The Satanic Verses, Ibiza

Duration: 2 minutes, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014-January 2015

Date story went live: 12 November 2015