REMEMBERING STANLEY HOCHMAN
The publishing world has lost a highly regarded figure. I’ve lost an incomparable friend. Stanley Hochman — esteemed translator, editor, author — died August 10th of what’s called “natural causes.” As if it’s natural for all that talent and intellect to vanish.
Through the more than 40 years that I knew him and his wife Eleanor (known to us as Lee), Stan was an encyclopedic store of literary references and witty anecdotes. When I began writing, he encouraged me and often said (half teasingly) he admired the stubborn way I plowed on through countless rejections. He claimed he didn’t have that persistence, never once flaunting the dozens of books he had produced.
Those works spanned several areas. For one, there are his myriad translations, both fiction and nonfiction. Fluent in French and Italian, he tackled the first English translation of a work by Brancati, “Bell Antonio.” His translation – with Lee – of Zola’s “Germinal” is considered the standard. On a more contemporary basis, he was asked to translate a novel written by famed French film star, Simone Signoret (“Adieu, Volodya”). This resulted in an anecdote he relished telling us about. He’d had a phone call from a woman with a husky voice and French accent. “This is Simone,” she began. Stan was so certain it was a hoax that he almost hung up. Fortunately, he didn’t, for it was, indeed, Signoret calling from overseas to tell him personally how much she appreciated his skillful translation.
An avid movie fan, he compiled the first volume of a “Library of Film Criticism” under the title “American Film Directors.” It’s fascinating to read how differently various critics view the same film.
Then there are his dictionaries. Stan researched and edited “Yesterday and Today: A Dictionary of Recent American History. “ It was published in 1979 , but events continued to unfold so quickly that, along with Lee, he updated it to “A Dictionary of Contemporary American History: 1945 to the Present.” Time and tide don’t wait for authors, so four years later he had to update this dictionary, too. (He complained that he’d be updating for the rest of his life!) I’m fortunate to have copies, for the dictionaries were an invaluable resource when I was writing novels that take place in the 1960’s and ‘70’s.
Stan claimed that serious books don’t tend to bring in as high royalties as, say, chick lit. To prove it, he concocted a mischievous plot. Together, he, Lee and a friend named Molly wrote a romance novel under a pseudonym. Being Stan, he couldn’t resist the chance to add a sly dedication: “To Molly, Lee and Stan, without whom this book could not have been written.”
As he ruefully told us, sales from that book brought in far more money than from his translations. (So much for Zola!) He and Lee went on to write several more romance novels.
In Stan’s later years he said he was through working, but again his literary sense of humor won out. With obvious relish, he edited “Foul and Familiar: A Dictionary of Very Improper French.” “Improper,” indeed, for it’s pornographic! (For the curious ,it’s available through Amazon, as are the dictionaries.)
Statistics rarely convey the person behind the facts. Stan was a loving husband for over 60 years, a doting father (of David) and grandfather (Daniel and Joel), a gourmet cook (oh, those soufflés!) and a born student devoting many years to learning still another language, Japanese.
In the week since he died, I’ve heard many stories about his generosity and thoughtfulness, so I’ll share one of mine. When my first book was about to appear, Stan was too eager to wait. So he secretly asked the publisher to send him the page proofs. The first I knew of this was when Stan sent me a note to say he’d read the entire book in one night because he couldn’t put it down. For an anxious author about to see her first “baby” into the world, this was the validation I needed.
Unlike books, lives can’t be revised or updated. Stan will live on in the words he wrote and in the indelible memories of those of us who loved him.
Books: “Widow’s Walk”- available through iUniverse.com; “Turning Toward Tomorrow” -Xlibris.com; “Ten Women of Valor” -CreateSpace & Amazon.com. Also Amazon Kindle.