Robert B. Silvers
Robert Benjamin Silvers (b. December 31, 1929) is an American editor who has served as editor of The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books is a fortnightly magazine with articles on literature, culture and current affairs. Published in New York City, it takes as its point of departure that the discussion of important books is itself an indispensable literary activity...

since 1963. According to a 2007 Vanity Fair article, "Jason Epstein
Jason Epstein
Jason Epstein is an American editor and publisher.A 1949 graduate of Columbia College of Columbia University, Epstein was hired by Bennett Cerf at Random House, where he was the editorial director for forty years. He was responsible for the Vintage paperbacks, which published such authors as...

's assessment of Silvers as 'The most brilliant editor of a magazine ever to have worked in this country' has been 'shared by virtually all of us who have been published by Robert Silvers'".

Silvers was co-editor of the Review with Barbara Epstein
Barbara Epstein
Barbara Epstein was a literary editor and a founding co-editor of the New York Review of Books.Epstein, née Zimmerman, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, to a Jewish-American family, and graduated from Radcliffe College in 1949.Ms...

 for over 40 years until her death in June 2006 and has been the sole editor of the magazine since then. He also serves on the editorial committee of La Rivista dei Libri, the Italian language
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 edition of the Review. Silvers has also edited or co-edited several essay anthologies.

Life and career

Silvers was born in Mineola, New York
Mineola, New York
Mineola is a village in Nassau County, New York, USA. The population was 18,799 at the 2010 census. The name is derived from a Native American word meaning a "pleasant place"....

 and grew up in Farmingdale
Farmingdale, New York
The Village of Farmingdale is an incorporated village on Long Island within the Town of Oyster Bay in Nassau County, New York in the United States...

 and then Rockville Centre, New York
Rockville Centre, New York
Rockville Centre is a village located in Nassau County, New York, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the village had a total population of 24,023. The town is made up of middle to upper middle class residents, most of the wealthier residents residing on the north side of town near the...

, the son of James J. Silvers (1892-1986), a salesman and entrepreneur, and Rose Roden Silvers (1895-1979), a music critic and one of the first female radio hosts for RCA
RCA Corporation, founded as the Radio Corporation of America, was an American electronics company in existence from 1919 to 1986. The RCA trademark is currently owned by the French conglomerate Technicolor SA through RCA Trademark Management S.A., a company owned by Technicolor...

. He had one brother, Edwin D. Silvers (1927–2000), a civil engineer
Civil engineer
A civil engineer is a person who practices civil engineering; the application of planning, designing, constructing, maintaining, and operating infrastructures while protecting the public and environmental health, as well as improving existing infrastructures that have been neglected.Originally, a...

. He graduated from the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

 in 1947 and briefly attended Yale Law School
Yale Law School
Yale Law School, or YLS, is the law school of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Established in 1824, it offers the J.D., LL.M., J.S.D. and M.S.L. degrees in law. It also hosts visiting scholars, visiting researchers and a number of legal research centers...


Silvers worked as press secretary to then-Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

 Governor Chester Bowles
Chester Bowles
Chester Bliss Bowles was a liberal Democratic American diplomat and politician from Connecticut.-Biography:...

 in 1950. He lived in Paris from 1952 to 1958, where he served with the U.S. Army at SHAPE
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe is the central command of NATO military forces. It is located at Casteau, north of the Belgian city of Mons...

 Headquarters and attended the Sorbonne
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

 and Paris Institute of Political Studies (best known as Sciences Po), receiving its certificate. He joined the editorial board of The Paris Review as managing editor in 1954 and became Paris editor in 1956. From 1959 to 1963, Silvers was associate editor of Harper's Magazine
Harper's Magazine
Harper's Magazine is a monthly magazine of literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts, with a generally left-wing perspective. It is the second-oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the U.S. . The current editor is Ellen Rosenbush, who replaced Roger Hodge in January 2010...

, editor of the book Writing in America and translator of La Gangrene, which describes the brutal torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 of seven Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

n men by the Paris Security Police in 1958, shortly after Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

 came to power.

For over forty years, beginning in 1963, Silvers and Barbara Epstein
Barbara Epstein
Barbara Epstein was a literary editor and a founding co-editor of the New York Review of Books.Epstein, née Zimmerman, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, to a Jewish-American family, and graduated from Radcliffe College in 1949.Ms...

 edited the New York Review of Books together. In 2006, Epstein died of cancer. Since then, Silvers has been the sole editor. Silvers has described his motivation for continuing to edit the Review as follows: "I feel it's a fantastic opportunity – because of the freedom of it, because of the sense that there are marvelous, intensely interesting, important questions that you have a chance to try to deal with in an interesting way. That's an extraordinary opportunity in life. And you'd be crazy not to try and make the most of it." Asked in December 2007 about who might succeed him as editor, the 78-year-old Silvers demurred, "It's not a question that's posing itself".

Silvers has also edited or co-edited several essay anthologies, including Writing in America (1960); The First Anthology: Thirty Years of the New York Review (1993); Hidden Histories of Science (1995); India: A Mosaic (2000); Doing It: Five Performing Arts (2001); The Legacy of Isaiah Berlin (2001); Striking Terror (2002); The Company They Kept (vol. 1, 2006; vol. 2, 2011); and The Consequences to Come: American Power After Bush (2008). In 2009, he wrote the essay "Dilemmas eines Herausgebers" ("Dilemmas of an editor") appearing in the Austrian journal Transit – Europäische Revue. Silvers, linked in the 1960s with Lady Caroline Blackwood, has long lived with Grace, Countess of Dudley (b. 1923; widow of the 3rd Earl of Dudley
William Ward, 3rd Earl of Dudley
William Humble Eric Ward, 3rd Earl of Dudley, MC , known as Viscount Ednam until 1932, was a British Conservative politician.-Biography:...

), with whom he shares a passion for opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...



The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

described Silvers as "the voracious polymath
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

, the obsessive perfectionist, the slightly unknowable bachelor-workaholic with the colossal Rolodexes and faintly British diction." Jonathan Miller
Jonathan Miller
Sir Jonathan Wolfe Miller CBE is a British theatre and opera director, author, physician, television presenter, humorist and sculptor. Trained as a physician in the late 1950s, he first came to prominence in the 1960s with his role in the comedy revue Beyond the Fringe with fellow writers and...

 said of Silvers' work habits: "He isn't just conscientious beyond the call of duty. He defines what duty is. You will often find him working until two in the morning in the office, with his little assistants from Harvard around him. He never stops. He's always meeting people, and talking...." Charles Rosen
Charles Rosen
Charles Rosen is an American pianist and author on music.-Life and career:In his youth he studied piano with Moriz Rosenthal. Rosenthal, born in 1862, had been a student of Franz Liszt...

 explained Silvers' success at finding reviewers:
"Bob [has not] sunk his personality into his profession; rather... he has found a means of transforming his profession into a fundamental way of being human. Extracting reviews from writers is not, in his case, a métier, or even a way of life, but a genuine form of self-expression, and he exercises it with dignity, tact and what sometimes feels like excessive sympathy. He has made writers feel that producing articles for him is not a business transaction or even process of communication, but simply a reciprocal act of friendship."

A 1974 book, The American Intellectual Elite, by Columbia University sociologist Charles Kadushin, contains interviews of "the seventy most prestigious" American intellectuals of the late 1960s, including Silvers. In the Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine review of the book, the reviewer expresses surprise at Silvers' position near the top of the list: "Robert Silvers, the editor of the New York Review of Books, the magazine that [Kadushin] indicates is favored by intellectuals who want to reach other intellectuals ... is an able editor but an infrequent writer; it must be assumed that his ranking at the top ... is due to a power not unlike that of the maitre d' of an exclusive restaurant."

According to a 2004 feature in The Nation
The Nation
The Nation is the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States. The periodical, devoted to politics and culture, is self-described as "the flagship of the left." Founded on July 6, 1865, It is published by The Nation Company, L.P., at 33 Irving Place, New York City.The Nation...

, Harvard professor Stanley Hoffmann
Stanley Hoffmann
Stanley Hoffmann is the Paul and Catherine Buttenweiser University Professor at Harvard University.-Biography:A French citizen since 1947, Hoffmann spent his childhood between Paris and Nice before studying at the Institut d'études politiques...

 observed that, in publishing some of the earliest criticisms of the Vietnam and Iraq wars, Silvers realized what other commentators missed: "In both instances, Bob Silvers was, in effect, whether deliberately or not, compensating for the weaknesses of the more established media. ... It was important that a journal which has the authority of the Review in a sense took up the slack and presented viewpoints which were extremely hard to get into the established media." The Nation added,
One suspects [the editors of the Review] yearn for the day when they can return to their normal publishing routine – that gentlemanly pastiche
A pastiche is a literary or other artistic genre or technique that is a "hodge-podge" or imitation. The word is also a linguistic term used to describe an early stage in the development of a pidgin language.-Hodge-podge:...

 of philosophy, art, classical music, photography, German and Russian history, East European politics, literary fiction – unencumbered by political duties of a confrontational or oppositional nature. That day has not yet arrived. If and when it does, let it be said that the editors met the challenges of the post-9/11 era in a way that most other leading American publications did not, and that The New York Review of Books ... was there when we needed it most.

Silvers has a reputation for hiring and developing assistants who have become prominent in journalism, academia and literature. In 2010, New York
New York (magazine)
New York is a weekly magazine principally concerned with the life, culture, politics, and style of New York City. Founded by Milton Glaser and Clay Felker in 1968 as a competitor to The New Yorker, it was brasher and less polite than that magazine, and established itself as a cradle of New...

magazine featured several of these, including Jean Strouse
Jean Strouse
Jean Strouse is an American biographer, editor and critic. She is best known for her biographies of diarist Alice James and financier J. Pierpont Morgan....

, Deborah Eisenberg, Mark Danner
Mark Danner
Mark David Danner is a prominent American writer, journalist, and educator. He is a former staff writer for The New Yorker and frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books. Danner specializes in U.S. foreign affairs, war and politics, and has written extensively on Haiti, Central America,...

 and A. O. Scott
A. O. Scott
Anthony Oliver Scott, known as A. O. Scott , is an American journalist and critic. He is a chief film critic for The New York Times, along with Manohla Dargis.-Background and education:...

. In the same magazine, in February 2011, Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks
Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE , is a British neurologist and psychologist residing in New York City. He is a professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University, where he also holds the position of Columbia Artist...

 identified Silvers as his "favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional", saying that the Review is "one of the great institutions of intellectual life here or anywhere."

Honors and awards

The annual Robert B. Silvers lectures at the New York Public Library
New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is the largest public library in North America and is one of the United States' most significant research libraries...

 were established by Max Palevsky
Max Palevsky
Max Palevsky was an American art collector, venture capitalist, philanthropist, and computer technology pioneer.-Early life:...

 in 2002 and are given by experts in the fields of "literature, the arts, politics, economics, history, and the sciences." The lectures have been given by Joan Didion
Joan Didion
Joan Didion is an American author best known for her novels and her literary journalism. Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation...

, J. M. Coetzee, Ian Buruma
Ian Buruma
Buruma is a nephew of the English film director John Schlesinger, a series of interviews with whom he published in book form.-Works:*The Japanese Tattoo with Donald Richie ISBN 978-0-8348-0228-5...

, Michael Kimmelman
Michael Kimmelman
Michael Kimmelman is an author, critic, columnist and pianist. He is the chief architecture critic for The New York Times and written on issues of public housing, community development and social responsibility. He was the paper's longtime chief art critic and, in 2007, created the Abroad column,...

, Daniel Mendelsohn
Daniel Mendelsohn
-Life and career:Mendelsohn was born on Long Island. He graduated with a B. A. in Classics from the University of Virginia, which he attended from 1978 to 1982 as an Echols Scholar, and received his M. A. and Ph. D. in Classics from Princeton University, where he was a Mellon Fellow in the...

, Nicholas Kristof, Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith is a British novelist. To date she has written three novels. In 2003, she was included on Granta's list of 20 best young authors...

, Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks
Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE , is a British neurologist and psychologist residing in New York City. He is a professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University, where he also holds the position of Columbia Artist...

 and Derek Walcott
Derek Walcott
Derek Alton Walcott, OBE OCC is a Saint Lucian poet, playwright, writer and visual artist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 and the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2011 for White Egrets. His works include the Homeric epic Omeros...

. The 2011 lecture, on November 30, will be given by Mary Beard
Mary Beard (classicist)
Winifred Mary Beard is Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Newnham College. She is the Classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement, and author of the blog "", which appears in The Times as a regular column...


On November 15, 2006, Silvers, together with Epstein, received the National Book Foundation
National Book Foundation
The National Book Foundation, founded in 1989, is an American nonprofit literary organization established "to raise the cultural appreciation of great writing in America." It achieves this through sponsoring the National Book Award, as well as the medal for Distinguished Contribution to American...

 Literarian Award
National Book Award
The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

 for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. With Epstein, he also received in 2006 the Award for "Distinguished Service to the Arts" from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Among other honors, Silvers has been a member of the executive board of the PEN American Center
PEN American Center
PEN American Center , founded in 1922 and based in New York City, works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. The Center has a membership of 3,300 writers, editors, and translators...

 and the American Academy in Rome
American Academy in Rome
The American Academy in Rome is a research and arts institution located on the Gianicolo in Rome.- History :In 1893, a group of American architects, painters and sculptors met regularly while planning the fine arts section of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition...

, as well as a trustee of the New York Public Library. He is also a Chevalier of the French Légion d’honneur and a member of the French Ordre National du Mérite
Ordre National du Mérite
The Ordre national du Mérite is an Order of State awarded by the President of the French Republic. It was founded on 3 December 1963 by President Charles de Gaulle...

. In June 2007, Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters
Doctor of Letters
Doctor of Letters is a university academic degree, often a higher doctorate which is frequently awarded as an honorary degree in recognition of outstanding scholarship or other merits.-Commonwealth:...


Silvers is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations
Council on Foreign Relations
The Council on Foreign Relations is an American nonprofit nonpartisan membership organization, publisher, and think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs...

 and the Century Association
Century Association
__notoc__The Century Association is a private club in New York City. It evolved out of an earlier organization – the Sketch Club, founded in 1829 by editor and poet William Cullen Bryant and his friends – and was established in 1847 by Bryant and others as a club to promote interest in...


External links

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