|There was a changeover in the head of
the trade department at that point; and there are these guys who have to throw their
weight around. The first thing is: Perestroika: who knows what that means?
Weve got to change the title. I said, That is the title. Well,
weve got to change it. You cant change it: thats the
title. Well, who knows what it means? I said, Two months ago you
didnt know what glasnost meant. Its now part of the American language.
Finally, I lost my patience. I said, Fellows: have you noticed: hes a head of
state! (Laughs.) Silence in the room.
since the press couldnt reach the author, the calls from all over the world came to
us. This started during the time while Michael was in London, and I and my assistant were
the full might of Bessie Books. We got very good, very quickly, at handling the hard
questions. On the one hand, we wanted it to have as much exposure as possible; on the
other hand, we didnt want to give away the book. What we were doing was presenting
it as an event, which indeed it was.
This is, again, comic relief: When we were sitting in that
plane as it took off from Leningrad, I said to Michael, You know, we wont get
lucky twice. We had one bit of luck when we had Sadats book3 in proof when
he went to Jerusalem--
KATHERINE MCNAMARA: Oh!
MICHAEL BESSIE: Which is to say: we
had not known he was going; we had the book.
CORNELIA BESSIE: We had it, and so
we could publish at that time. I said, Gorbachev wont come to America. We
wont get lucky twice. Well, that was exactly the time when he came and when
there was Gorby-mania; do you remember when he was getting out of the
limousine in the middle of Washington and shaking hands?
MICHAEL BESSIE: Footnote: we tried
to figure out -- obviously, a lot of other things happened in this story -- we tried to
figure out why we were selected; indeed, we asked the Russian ambassador in Washington. He
said, Partly because it was your idea, you were first.
But in the back of my mind was that we had published a lot
of Russian stuff up until then: Solzhenitsyn, Mandlestam, all dissident literature. I
thought this was going to queer us for the Gorbachev book; but quite the contrary. Nobody
could say we were captive publishers.
3 Anwar el-Sadat, IN SEARCH OF IDENTITY (Harper & Row, 1978)