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Eric Hazan: Friend, Comrade, Publisher

Eric Hazan passed away on 6 June 2024. Tariq Ali reflects here on his lifetime of political commitment and intellectual creativity.

Tariq Ali 7 June 2024

Eric Hazan: Friend, Comrade, Publisher

Sad news yesterday morning on what once used to be a happy day (my late father’s birthday). A friend in Paris rang to inform me that Eric Hazan had died. It’s always a shock, although I was only too aware that he had been ill for the last few years. On one of these occasions, he had lost the will to live. Stella Magliani-Belkacem, his co-successor at La Fabrique Editions (the publishing house that Eric had founded in 1998) with Jean Morisot, asked me to write a letter that she could read out to him, urging him not to give up. I did so. The pleas of many others buttressed our collective insistence that he not die just yet. It made him realise how needed he was and that, despite his rudeness and irascibility (mainly to enemies), he had books to write, promises to keep and it was selfish to stop living. He recovered to a certain degree.

Strangely enough, I just finished reading his final book Balzac’s Paris: The City as Human Comedy only the other night and was planning to send him a note yesterday. But he’s gone, leaving behind a wonderful short text, continuing his never-ending love affair with the old city and his alienation from what it has become. It was that history that never left him. I will never forget how, one day many years ago, he was walking me to a bookshop event on the Left Bank where I was introducing my book on Iraq that La Fabrique had translated into French. We were running late. En route, he gave me a wonderful account of the streets and buildings still there: ‘Ah. That was the Jacobin Club’. How could we not pause for a little lecture. ‘Yes, and there was once the Cordeliers. Camille Desmoulins.’ The meeting started late but my knowledge of the locations and architecture of French revolutionary clubs increased tenfold. Even he realised it was too far now to visit the Place de la Concorde, where the main guillotine was once situated, a reference to which, more recently, the Gilets Jaunes drew the attention of the French bourgeoisie once again. Did anyone make a film with him on the streets of old Paris and their history? I hope so, so intense was his knowledge of the city.

Eric Hazan was a surgeon by training. His father was a very distinguished art book publisher and, the first time I met Eric (I think in 2002), some of the old books were in the living room. Anything but coffee-table volumes - beautifully produced, intelligent authors.

‘Weren’t you tempted to carry on?’

‘No. I was not knowledgeable enough. I sold it to someone who was and with the money I set up La Fabrique’. The factory. But Fordism was not the chosen mode. More like a craft workshop. It consistently produces ten to a dozen books a year. Éric’s instinct made the choice in those early decades and established the publisher as a radical, spirited presence in Paris.

I noticed that the headline in Le Monde’s obituary yesterday referred to him as an editor of the ‘extreme-left’. He wouldn’t have minded. He was certainly on the extreme-left of the French Revolution. But it is the almost complete capture of mainstream French culture by the extreme centre that makes some of La Fabrique’s titles appear ultra-left. In reality, what Hazan really did was to provide space for voices now muffled by the conformity that suffocates the country. At the time of François Maspero’s eponymous publishing house, many mainstream houses fought tooth and nail to get some of those books. But no longer. Much of what goes for ‘radical’ publishing today is pretty safe, irritating a few, but offending nobody. ‘Why bother?’, as Eric often asked. He often spoke with me of the collapse of the French Left and the shift of what was once a distinctive marxisant culture to a stale and mind-numbing Gallic version of Atlanticism.

He loathed the manufactured media-‘intellectuals’ and their antics. And some of this hatred found its way in his last book. In particular, descriptions of Balzac’s extreme distaste for both the ‘reign of lawyers, bankers and journalists’ under the last Bourbons and the post-1830 regime that followed the collapse of Louis-Philippe. The novelist wrote of the successors: “Society on its grand scale has been demolished to make a million of little ones in the image of the defunct. These parasitic organisations reveal decomposition; are they not the swarming of maggots in the dead body?” I can imagine Hazan smiling as he inserted the quote in his book and thinking of some of his contemporaries.

I know his colleagues told him that one of their number, Ernest Moret, arriving to attend the London Book Fair in 2023, had been arrested by the British anti-terrorist police at St. Pancras station and held while they confiscated his computer and phone, all the while boasting that they were able to do what was illegal in France. Moret’s name had been provided by their French counterparts who warned them that he was an ‘extremist’ who had attended recent anti-Macron demonstrations. A British lawyer, Richard Parry, from a firm specialising in human rights breaches, got him out the next day. Press reports were largely hostile to this action and La Fabrique gained some notoriety in Britain. The police, worried by the responses, stepped back, settled out of court and a letter of apology to Ernest Moret from the police chief followed - a letter that arrived a day before Eric’s death and that would have delighted him:


Commander Dominic Murphy
SO15 Counter Terrorism Command Counter Terrorism Operations Centre
Lillie Road
SW6 1TR 


5th June 2024 

Dear Mr. Moret, 

Re. Schedule 7 TACT 2000 Stop of Ernest Moret 

I write to you as the Commander of SO15, the Metropolitan Police Service's Counter Terrorism Command in connection to an incident which took place at London St Pancras station on 17 April 2023. This incident resulted in Border Officers from my Command using police powers under Schedules 7 and 8 of the Terrorism Act 2000 which resulted in your subsequent arrest. 

I am aware that your claim in connection with these events has been settled without the need for further legal recourse. I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere apologies to you for your arrest and detention and for any distress that you have suffered as a consequence. 

The public rightly expects that use of police powers is always carefully considered and used in a way that is consistent with individual rights and the wider public interest. We remain fully committed to ensuring that these powers are used proportionately and responsibly. Whilst the MPS constantly strives to maintain the highest professional standards, the level of service we provide occasionally falls below that standard. On this occasion the level of service did not meet the high standards we expect and I am committed to ensuring that lesson are learnt from this incident. 

Yours sincerely, 

Dominic Murphy QPM 

Commander  Counter Terrorism Command 



Towards the end of Balzac’s Paris, the author writes:

“The only place in eastern Paris that comes up several times in The Human Comedy is the Père-Lachaise cemetery. On these heights we witness Rastignac’s famous challenge at the end of Old Man Goriot … and the funeral of Ferragus’s daughter, whose coffin is followed by twelve strangers, each in a carriage draped in black, to the top of the cemetery.”

Of one thing, I’m sure. There will be no strangers and many more friends than ‘twelve people’ when Eric is laid to rest and joins the Communards and many other comrades in the cemetery. That is the most appropriate place to bid our last farewell to the historian of the city, a proud intellectual and publisher whose works will survive for a long time. They have no equal.

Tariq Ali

6 June 2024

[book-strip index="1"]

Paris in Turmoil
Since the disastrous Pompidou years, working-class Paris has been steadily nibbled away, either by destruction or more insidiously by a kind of internal colonization. Take for example a small outl...
Balzac's Paris
In Balzac’s vast Human Comedy, a body of ninety-one completed novels and stories, he endeavoured to create a complete picture of contemporary French society and manners. Within this work is a lovin...
A History of the Barricade
In the history of European revolutions, the barricade stands as a glorious emblem. Its symbolic importance arises principally from the barricades of Eric Hazan's native Paris, where they were instr...