Robert B. Silvers

2013 Gala Honoree, Recipient of the Vergennes Award

 

The French-American Foundation will honor Robert B. Silvers, Editor of The New York Review of Books, as the 2013 recipient of the Vergennes Award. The Vergennes Award is named for the Comte de Vergennes, the French foreign minister who negotiated the Treaty of Alliance between France and America and convinced Louis XVI to fund the revolutionary cause. It has been given to honor a longstanding commitment to the French-American Foundation and its mission as well as to celebrate French-American cultural and literary achievements.    

Mr. Silvers, we are thrilled to honor you with the Vergennes Award at our Annual Gala on June 6. Rewarding cultural and literary achievement that advances the French-American relationship, this award is truly unique. Cultural ties between France and the United States run deep, historically superseding political differences. You have significantly contributed to strengthening these bonds. Your passion for and devotion to France is obvious, given your extensive career and life experience in Paris and your dual honors, Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite (1988) and Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (1998). What inspired your love for France, and what importance does it hold for you today? 

When I was sent, in 1953, by the army to work at NATO military headquarters, at Rocquencourt outside Paris, I felt immensely lucky to be in the country of Montaigne and Diderot, Balzac and Stendhal, Mauriac and Camus. So lucky, that I stayed on for nearly six years, attending the Sorbonne and Sciences-Po, editing the Paris Review and living in one quartier after another, including a houseboat moored near the Pont d'Alma. I still ask myself whether I should have left. 
 

Robert Silvers was born in 1929 in Mineola, New York. Mr. Silvers graduated from the University of Chicago in 1947 and in 1950 worked as press secretary to Governor Chester Bowles of Connecticut. From 1953 to 1959 he lived in Paris, where he served with the US Army at SHAPE headquarters and attended the Sorbonne and the École des Sciences Politiques. 

He joined the editorial board of The Paris Review in 1954 and became its Paris editor in 1956. From 1959 to 1963 he was an associate editor of Harper’s magazine and the editor of the book Writing in America. Mr. Silvers was one of the founders of The New York Review of Books in 1963. He was its co-editor for over forty years with Barbara Epstein and since 2006 has been its editor. 

He is the co-editor of The First Anthology: Thirty Years of The New York Review of Books 1963–1993 and the editor of, among other books, the widely praised essay collection Hidden Histories of Science and Doing It, a collection of essays on the performing arts. He is the co-editor of two volumes of The Company They Kept: Writers on Unforgettable Friendships, and most recently, of The New York Review Abroad: Fifty Years of International Reportage. 

Mr. Silvers has been a Trustee of The New York Public Library since 1997 and is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the board of directors of the American Ditchley Foundation as well as the Paris Review Foundation. 

In 1988 Mr. Silvers was named Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite and in 1998 was named Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996 and in 2007 was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by Harvard University. 

In 2006, together with co-editor Barbara Epstein, Mr. Silvers was recognized by the National Book Foundation with the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. In 2012, he received The Paris Review’s Hadada Prize for his unique contribution to literature, and was also awarded an inaugural New York City Literary Honor by Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his contribution to the literary life of the city.