For three years now, journalist Richard Gaitet, the “Maigret of the literary interview” to use Nicolas Mathieu’s beautiful expression, has been cooking up writers. Three years that he questions them at length. Three years that, every month or so – because this zebra still officiates at Nova when he is not going to dance on stage or in demonstrations – delights our ears with his “Bookmakers” imagined for Arte Radio.

Three years and it was time, he said, to interview a publisher and therefore a real bookmaker (“bookmaker”). It was on March 16 that the three episodes devoted to Frédéric Martin, founder of the publishing house Le Tripode, were put online and listened to dry.

Episode 1. Birth in Marseille (northern districts). Childhood and adolescence in Tahiti (seafarer father). First literary shock: Twenty thousand leagues under the sea (Jules Verne). Began Crime and Punishment, by Dostoyevsky with Volume II (random finds at booksellers). Lu Francis Pongé. Is convinced that literature forms consciences and not convictions. Part of a generation that is not shocked that comics entered the Collège de France at the end of 2022. Became a publisher “to give back to books what they gave [him]”. Evokes his debut at Viviane Hamy editions and the influence of the publisher Jean-Jacques Pauvert. Speak of good pleasure and renunciation. Says that you can be light-hearted but not reckless with an author. Generally speaking as well as particular speaks so well of the relationship between a publisher and an author.

Un ovni

Authors, there will be more than question in episode 2, and in particular of Goliarda Sapienza. He tells how he fought for the 600 pages of this unknown Italian to be read. And how, in two years, 100,000 copies of The Art of Joy are sold. A success that makes him “hyper happy and hyper-worried: you don’t make a masterpiece. On the other hand, a masterpiece can take a long time to be spotted, and that’s a terrible responsibility”, says today the man who, since he founded his publishing house in 2012, will launch the translation of the complete work of Goliarda Sapienza.

But precisely, why this name: The Tripod? Because this is how the writer Alfred Jarry baptized the cabin on stilts he had built on the banks of the Seine. Because it is a refuge and it is always stable. Because it’s a UFO, too, and for him, “a good book has to be a UFO.” Some of the ubiquitous and poetic explanations that Frédéric Martin delivers here.

In the last episode, we learn that he reads in bed while smoking a pipe in the house of his Breton lover. It is about the publication of the 781 gouaches and all the texts of the monumental Life? or Theatre? by the German painter Charlotte Salomon. The originality of its catalog, and the graphic beauty of its works. Prizes too, and money redistributed. His concern can also be heard when he realizes that it is mainly white, urban readers and readers of privileged social classes who read what he publishes. Because a book is expensive, again, “especially compared to a film that you can download for a few euros”. However, he is convinced that a book is and remains a revolutionary object.