Jan Michalski

Jan Michalski was born in 1953 in Poland. His interest in literature was nurtured by an education in the classics and European culture. He read sociology and philosophy at the Catholic University of Lublin, and did additional studies in political science, focusing mainly on the question of Poland’s integration in the European Union, first at the College of Europe in Bruges and finally at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. It was in Geneva that he met Vera Hoffmann. They married in 1983 and together founded Éditions Noir sur Blanc four years later in Montricher, with the intention of publishing novels, stories, and personal accounts from Eastern Europe. Driven by the conviction that the process of understanding between East and West in Europe takes place through culture, Jan and Vera Michalski built up a substantial catalog of classic and contemporary Slavic authors in French translation. The two publishers also developed their activities in Poland, translating Western writers with significant bodies of work, including Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, Paul Auster, Blaise Cendrars, Nicolas Bouvier, Manuel Vazquez Montalban, Lawrence Durrell, Donna Leon, and Umberto Eco. In Paris they reopened Librairie polonaise, the venerable Polish bookshop in the French capital, and took over two other publishers, Phébus and Buchet-Chastel. Together these separate ventures formed the original Libella Group, with activities in Switzerland, France, and Poland. Today Libella comprises a dozen publishing houses in a range of fields, bridges between French-speaking countries, the countries of Eastern Europe, and the world at large. Jan Michalski passed away prematurely in 2002 but his work lives on.