Donald Herdeck, the man who founded Three Continents Press and brought the works of Naguib Mahfouz and Derek Walcott to America, has died.
Despite scant critical attention and little commercial demand, Herdeck had published Mahfouz's works in small editions since the 1970s. But the Nobel proved to be a mixed blessing for Three Continents, which had just one employee besides Herdeck.
The entire stock of Mahfouz's novels, translated into English from Arabic, sold out in one day, and it would take weeks to reprint them. Herdeck received a call from an angry bookseller, who scolded him for being "a terrible businessman."
He recounted the conversation to The Washington Post's David Streitfeld: " 'Here you have this wonderful Nobel Prize winner, this wonderful author, and you don't have copies of his books! What's wrong with you?'
"Herdeck responded with something like this: 'And where have you been for the last 12 years, when we had thousands of these books sitting in our warehouse and they sold only in trickles? What was wrong with you?' "