You may never have heard of Barney Rosset but his mark on 20th century literature is an indelible one in large part because of his courageous stand against the censorship of books and his unwavering championing of the works of some of literature’s most important writers. Rosset is best known for his owning and operating of Grove Press, an important publisher during the 1950’s and 60’s of some of literature’s greatest avant garde pioneers, including the work of Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot), Jean Genet, Eugene Ionesco, Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, and Kenzaburo Oe. In 1957 Rosset launched the influential magazine Evergreen Review which brought to the attention of readers those involved with the Beat Movement (Jack Kerouac, Hubert Selby Jr., Allen Ginsberg e.g.) and the emerging counterculture of the 1960’s. Aware of the importance of literature as a galvanizing force to bring about new ideas and creative experimentation by way of the First Amendment, Rosset famously fought several cases of censorship (notably the work of Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence) during his time as publisher. Rosset was recently recognized for his work as a leader in publishing by the National Book Foundation and appeared as the subject of a recent NPR piece discussing his long career.
Last Exit to Brooklyn