Sunday, December 06, 2015

OPEN LETTER TO ROGER STRAUS III re FSG contractual obligations

Dear Rog,
I have made a variety of attempts to persuade your father’s successors to make good on the contract I drew with him in 1966 that called for 1 % participation of mine on income exceeding a sale of 5,000 copies, as well as from mass paperback sales. However, to no avail. Jonathan Galassi does not even respond to letters asking why, e.g. this minimal royalty is being arbitrarily halved, as it has been on occasion, or why I don’t receive royalties on titles that I ought to; nor does Victor Wernicki, the McMillan fellow in charge of royalty payments for the now Holzbrink U.S. conglomerate.
for all this]

 As I have pointed out repeatedly, trying to be as ethical as I possibly could, I agreed to forego my income from the second ten book Hesse contract when your father called me at Lantz, Donadio in 1970 - he claimed I was “double-dipping”, that is, deriving income from the same source though at different locations. Candida agreed with him. It ultimately turned out that I never even single-dipped, since the second Hesse ten book contract was ultimately transacted through my successor as Suhrkamp agent, Kurt Bernheim.

I pointed out as much to your father in correspondence during the 90s, while he was still alive, he never even deigned to reply – and if he had replied what, after all, could he have said? Now that we have Boris Kachka’s Hothouse, the biography of the firm, it becomes evident why Roger - Galassi describes him a chintzy tipper  was so keen on each and every percentage point. Funnee thing about me at the moment of that 1970 call and whatever thought I gave to assenting to his ethically coded request, I not only knew from Cecil Hemley [who had sold Noonday to your father] that he had been screwed (though I might have asked for the details, Cecil’s son, Robin, a writer, a kid when his father passed away, does not know the details).                          Not only that, there had been the moment that Roger called me, while I was still working for him, and stated that he did not pay on poetry translations – he was referring to the Nelly Sachs volume OH THE CHIMNEYS, a Nobel Prize winner book that I had the option on at the time of the awards & managed to assemble and also translated 65 poems of (an act of mourning that wiped me out emotionally for a year which is why I did not want to translate any part of the second volume of Nelly Sachs poems that we put out), within the year of her receiving the prize.                 I imagine that was the first time that this wus might have objected to such high-handed fiat, which entirely disregarded the contractual arrangements; or I might have handed these affairs over to my agent Max Becker. (Roger’s once statement that the “time had come to hustle’s Nelly’s ass” the part of me that enjoyed his Runonyesque personality was able to abide and put off to that quality of his, though the idea was certainly so crude and preposterous that it evidently left a sharp imprint in the memory pad).
   At the same time that Roger persuaded me to forego a future double-dip where not a single scoo transpired, he made a suggestion that seemed to make eminently good sense: to list the books on which I was then, in 1970, receiving royalties, and they were immediately very handsome on the five Hesse titles then in print as you will recall, and this proposition seemed indeed to allay whatever anxieties about Roger’s financial probity might have lain too far in back of my mind. However, it appears that the interpretation of that document seems to be that all the then contracted books through me, that had not yet been published, then did not pay the royalties to me! For example, I discovered only within the last two years that I had never received an accounting for the second five Hesse titles of the first ten book Hesse contract, which all sold in the tens of thousands and were sold to Bantam for sums of about 250,000, as were those of the second ten book contract. Nor did I ever receive accounting or my share for the Christa Wolf Thinking about Christa Wolf, or H.E. Nossack’s The Impossible Proof, once these titles exceeded their threshold. Nor for the much later -1979- published 2dn volume of Handke dramas Ride Across Lake Constance & Other Plays.
   To have had the income I was deprived of would have made a huge difference in my life in publishing during the 70s to mid-80s. I expect Urizen would not have gone the way it did – and I will gladly elaborate on that above and beyond what you can glean at

It turns out your father was not just a crude brute, but a tricky one! Who would have known! Not this person who during our first trip to Frankfurt together became very much aware of certain hard core tastes of his
     Since you did not wish to continue in publishing but preferred your career in photography – if I have that story right? - Roger then sold F.S.G. for I hear $ 30 Million to Holzbrink. My contribution to that sum is certainly one 30th, (I am not including the subsequent Handke volumes that came within the wake of my bringing Handke to F.S.G.) for the value that the Hesse titles added, which, for all I know, proved essential for the tenuous firm’s survival during the 20 years of their hey-day. Thus the Straus estate owes me, doesn’t it? And you are in a position I imagine, perhaps mistakenly, to somewhat redeem the stain that your father, always so keen for not a smudge to appear on his $ 1,200 multi-ply suits, to act as a stain remover.  And I wouldn’t ask or demand if my other sources had not all turned sour. Most of this lost income falls under the statute of limitation, so the legal beagles inform me, and since the 20 Hesse titles meanwhile earn less than $ 1,000 @ 1 % per annum it becomes a matter for small claims in New York & not worth the trip. Meanwhile I will be 80 in a few more weeks, but lack the funds to repair my ancient canines!
   Hoping that this finds you well & looking forward to a reply, I remain very truly yours, Michael Roloff

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MICHAEL ROLOFF exMember Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website


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