Editions La Pensée Sauvage to Champ Libre
9 February 1979

In Stalin’s secret service[1] by Walter G. Krivitsky

Dear Sir:

I confirm for you by this letter that Editions La Pensée Sauvage is indeed the holder of the French rights to the work mentioned above.

For the last two years, we have planned to publish this book, but we had some difficulty finding the name of the American publisher who owns the rights.

It was only last April that Harper informed us by mail that it still holds the rights to this work. Thus we purchased those rights and possess a contract dated 7 July 1978 that makes us the owners.

This work will appear in our collection “L’envers de l’Histoire” and will be published in October 1979.

We are sorry (and surprised) to learn that you are getting ready to publish this work, but especially so since you will present it in the translation provided by Editions Coopération, without historical contextualization or the indispensible notes that allow for a better comprehension of that historical moment and, joined with Krivitsky’s testimony, give to his work its importance as an instrument of reflection and work (this is what we seek in our “L’envers de l’Histoire” collection).

But as we told you in our telephone call, each publisher publishes what he understands, as he understands it.

We regret that we must remain firm on this point. We intend to do the work of a publisher and we think that Krivitsky’s text, published today, demands such work.

Sincerely yours,
Allan Geoffroy

[1] English in original.

Champ Libre to Editions La Pensée Sauvage
27 February 1979

We understand from your curious letter of 9 February that Editions de la Pensée Sauvage is not what some people would call a “wild” publishing house.[1] The question is in fact knowing how far you will take your respectable legalism as “owners” when faced with a publishing house that, without considering anything other than what it could do, might appear as the publisher of pirate editions.[2]

Thanks to his testimony, Krivitsky seems to us important and understandable enough to merit being published as soon as possible, either with an honest historical introduction or without any “historical” introduction that incapable or perhaps [even] suspect people want to add to it. The fact is that, after 39 years, we are the first ones to already have this book in preparation.[3] The best possible intentions of the historical thinkers from Grenoble[4] obviously do not discourage us.

In case you furnish us proof that you have already paid for (without the ability to make use of) the publication rights from a foreign publisher who actually possesses the ability to grant them, we will compensate you exactly.

If you are not happy with these arrangements, you have only to run to the courts and the police, and then one will be able to measure the exact value of the wildness [la sauvagerie] of your thinking.

Gérard Lebovici

[1] Pensée sauvage means “wild thought” or “wild thinking.”

[2] For its part, Champ Libre never filed a lawsuit against a publisher that “pirated” one of its titles.

[3] Champ Libre published J’étais un agent de Staline on 21 March 1979.

[4] Location of the offices of Editions La Pensée Sauvage.

Mr. Jean-Jacques Gandini to Gérard Lebovici
Montpellier, 5 March 1979

In Stalin’s secret service[1]


I am the legal advisor for La Pensée Sauvage and I am writing to you with respect to the work referred to above.

Indeed, the American publishing house Harper and Row is the holder of the rights concerning In Stalin’s secret service[2] and notably the rights concerning the translation and publication of the aforementioned work in French, the rights for which it granted to La Pensée Sauvage in a contract dated 7 July 1978.

Therefore, this publisher was recently astonished to learn – after it had announced the upcoming publication of this work in its catalogue – that you were on the point of publishing the aforementioned work!

As a courtesy, La Pensée Sauvage took the effort to write to you on 9 February to express its surprise at your action, since it is La Pensée Sauvage that holds the rights. You certainly responded on 27 February, but by indicating that it matters little to you if La Pensée Sauvage was or was not the holder of the rights in question, and that, in any case, you were going to publish this book “which is in preparation.” Finally, you proposed a possible compensation . . . which La Pensée Sauvage cannot accept because, if it holds the rights, it counts on making use of them!

Whatever the case may be, I indicate to you that, if you persist, you will run afoul of the law, notably Articles 425 and 426 of the Penal Code, because what you are making is an infringement [une contrefacon] and infringement is an offense. Moreover, at the start you had the duty to find out if you “can legitimately reproduce such a source,” which you manifestly did not do. In this particular case, if one refers to your letter of the 27th, bad faith is discernible in it and, in any case, even if you somehow manage to prove your good faith, a civil action remains open [to us].

The object of the present letter is to invite you to take on the commitment to “not print, publish and put on sale the work In Stalin’s secret service,”[3] and this under penalty of the aforementioned legal proceedings.


Either you send me, within eight days of receipt of this letter, on the letterhead of Champ Libre, dated and signed in two copies, a letter that says: “Between Champ Libre, on the one hand, and La Pensée Sauvage on the other, it has been agreed that: Champ Libre recognizes that La Pensée Sauvage is the owner of the rights concerning the translation and publication in French of the work In Stalin’s Secret Service.[4] On the basis of which it will cease all operations concerning the printing, publishing and placing on sale of the aforementioned work, and will remit to La Pensée Sauvage, as an indemnity, all the ‘plates, molds and templates’ that served in the [production of the] infringement, [with] La Pensée Sauvage declining to pursue legal action.”

Or, if you don’t want to follow up on this amiable offer, eights days after the return of the acknowledgment of receipt, I will engage my Parisian counterpart to begin the procedure immediately.

In the hope that this affair will go no further, I am

Sincerely yours,
Jean-Jacques Gandini

Enclosed: letter from the representative of Harper and Row in France; contract between Harper and Row and La Pensée Sauvage.

[1] English in original.

[2] English in original.

[3] English in original.

[4] English in original.

Translator’s note: we haven’t translated the “Final Request for Infringement Seizure Made by Editions La Pensée Sauvage to the President of the Supreme Court of Meaux,” dated 19 March 1979, in which Editions La Pensée Sauvage asked for the edition published by Champ Libre to be seized from both Champ Libre itself and its distributors (SODIS and CDE).

Translator’s note: we haven’t translated the “Order Issued on Request by the President of the Supreme Court of Paris,” dated 20 March 1979, which authorizes Editions La Pensée Sauvage to seize copies of the book from Champ Libre, SODIS and CDE, and to seize from Champ Libre the film and printer’s plates used to produce its edition. Furthermore, Champ Libre was ordered to cease production of further copies, and Editions La Pensée Sauvage was authorized to seize by blockade all receipts that derived from the “illicit reproduction” of the book.

Translator’s note: we haven’t translated the “Statement of Infringement Seizure Delivered by Mr. Jacques Petit, the Marshal Chosen by Editions La Pensée Sauvage, to Champ Libre,” dated 21 March 1979, in which it is recorded that Mrs. Floriana Lebovici said in response: “We don’t have a single copy [of this book] at Champ Libre and we never have.” And so no copies were seized.

Translator’s note: we haven’t translated the “Extracts from the Minutes of the Administrative Services of the Supreme Court of Paris,” dated 9 October 1980, in which the court states that, due to Editions La Pensée Sauvage’s failure (1) to seize Champ Libre’s copies within the proscribed period of time and (2) to publish its edition of the book, all measures to be taken against Champ Libre were to be immediately rescinded.

Text that appeared on the back cover of the second edition (December 1980) of Champ Libre’s J’étais un agent de Staline

In January 1979, Champ Libre published the anti-Stalinist revelations of General Krivitsky, which date from 1939. This book was shortly thereafter seized by a publishing house called La Pensée Sauvage, which mendaciously claimed to have acquired from an American publisher the rights to this book, with the intention of publishing it in short order. Since this alleged intention was not followed by any action for two years, we find ourselves obligated to conclude that the police actions and legal obstructions that followed, for which the publishing house called La Pensée Sauvage had all the responsibility – without the least right to do so, and without wanting to make anything from their imposture – was only objectively intended to cover over Stalinist political crimes by preventing the French public from becoming aware of this important document. Advice to amateurs: the animal [le gibier] that calls itself wild is very often tame from the start.

Translator’s note: we haven’t translated the “Citation of Defendant Addressed to Editions Champ Libre by Editions La Pensée Sauvage,” dated 13 March 1981, in which Editions La Pensée Sauvage claimed that the notice on the back cover of Champ Libre’s second edition was intended “to bring harm to its honor, to its professional and social reputation,” and that it now sought monetary damages of 100,000 francs, the immediate withdrawal of J’étais un agent de Staline, the circulation of this provisional judgment against Champ Libre to “all points of sale,” and the publication of extracts from the provisional judgment in several French newspapers, with the cost of each extract (5,000 francs) being charged to Champ Libre. There was no response from Champ Libre or, at least no response was printed in the volume being translated here.

(Published in Editions Champ Libre, Correspondance, Vol. 2, Editions Champ Libre, Paris, 1981. Translated from the French and footnoted, except where noted, by NOT BORED! August 2012.)

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