Robert Silvers, 1929–2017


In Memoriam

Robert Silvers (left), with Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, The Paris Review’s first publisher (center), and George Plimpton (right).


We’re sad to learn that Robert Silvers has died, after a brief illness, at the age of eighty-seven.

It is hard—both painful and disorienting—to imagine the world without him. The New York Review of Books, which he founded with the late Barbara Epstein during the newspaper strike of 1962, and which he continued to edit until his death, was an experiment whose like we will never see again. And it has remained exactly what it was from the beginning: a journal of criticism and ideas that can speak on equal terms to scientists, poets, philosophers, novelists, and politicians, but in prose the common reader can understand. 

When called upon, The New York Review was like a news magazine and a think tank rolled into one. Its reporting on Vietnam and Iraq, for example, helped turn the tide of opinion against those wars. Yet it was open to essays, poems, and even the odd short story. For half a century, it has remained authoritative, lively, surprising, and utterly personal. Notoriously modest and discreet in manner, Silvers had supreme confidence in his editorial judgment, as did his readers—and his writers. “He’s the person I trust more than anybody,” Joan Didion told us in her Art of Nonfiction interview. Whoever assumes the job of editing The New York Review will have the highest standard to live up to.

We at The Paris Review will mourn Bob, not just as a hero of American letters but as a beloved friend to this magazine, which he first read as a soldier stationed in Paris in 1953. From 1954 to ’56, he served as our managing editor while living on a barge on the Seine with his friend Peter Duchin. From 1999 until his death, he was an active member of our Board of Directors. In 2012, Bob received our Hadada Award for a lifetime contribution to literature. In his acceptance speech, he recalled the morning George Plimpton welcomed him aboard by handing him a stack of overdue printer’s bills. “Ever since that day in 1954,” Bob said, “I’ve been an editor. Perhaps the luckiest ever.”


Lorin Stein is the editor of The Paris Review.