Parabola has been publishing books since 1984, and our best bestseller is And There Was Light: Autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, Blind Hero of the French Resistance.
We are a small not-for-profit publishing company. Since 1976, we have produced Parabola Magazine, a journal of the world’s wisdom traditions. With books, a usual run for us is 2,000 to 3,000 copies. To date, we have sold 14,000 copies of And There Was Light. We first published it in 1987, then re-released it in 1998 with additional material that had been omitted from the earlier edition. This later release is still selling like a frontlist title.
Jacques Lusseyran has an appeal that transcends race, age, culture, and religion. He inspires everyone who discovers him. The book has been chosen for discussion groups. It is required reading for the ninth grade class in some Waldorf Schools. It was named one of the best spiritual books of the century by a Harper San Francisco committee in 1999, “one of the 10 best spiritual books you’ve never read” by U.S. Catholic magazine that same year, and it was an “Editor’s Pick” for the Quality Paperback Club in 1992.
I think the most interesting thing about this book is that it has garnered an almost cult following mainly through word of mouth. We did all the normal things: sent the book to reviewers, got many magnificent reviews, did direct mailings to organizations for the blind, WW II buffs, schools, etc. Essentially, we marketed to any parties we thought might have a specific interest in this biography. Many are responding to this remarkable story of a blind leader of the French Resistance who survived the Buchenwald concentration camp and went on to become a stereotype-shattering professor at a time when blind people were not even considered for such positions.
The book has become Parabola’s bestseller and continues to sell with no current promotion whatsoever. The reason?–because people LOVE it. Readers are moved in the deepest parts of their souls, and they want to tell their friends about it, to give it to their friends, or to talk about it in book clubs and discussion groups. That is the story of these sales.
People are audibly surprised and grateful that the book is still available when they call to inquire about buying it. And There Was Light seems to have a life of its own!
In addition to the book version, Parabola sells an audio recording by actor Andre Gregory. His reading features an abridged version. Also, we’ve published a book of amazing essays by Lusseyran titled Against the Pollution of the I. We are hoping the essays will follow in the steps of the autobiography.
Betsy Robinson is a Publishing Associate at Parabola (http://www.parabola.org). Her novel “Plan Z by Leslie Kove”–a coming-of-age tale–has just been published as winner of the First Series Award for the Novel by Mid-List Press (http://www.midlist.org).
An Excerpt from And There Was Light
The book the L.A. Times called “thoroughly luminous”
(Editor’s note: This excerpt is taken from a section discussing Lusseyran’s experience in the invalid block at Buchenwald prison camp during WW II. Robinson describes it as just one example of this author’s remarkable ability to “find the light” in even the darkest experiences.)
“I watched the stages of my own illness quite clearly. I saw the organs of my body blocked up or losing control one after the other, first my lungs, then my intestines, then my ears, all my muscles, and last of all my heart, which was functioning badly and filled me with a vast, unusual sound. I knew exactly what it was, this thing I was watching: my body in the act of leaving the world, not wanting to leave it right away, not even wanting to leave at all. I could tell by the pain my body was causing me, twisting and turning in every direction like snakes that have been cut in pieces.
“Have I said that death was already there? If I have I was wrong. Sickness and pain, yes, but not death. Quite the opposite, life, and that was the unbelievable thing that had taken possession of me. I had never lived so fully before.
“Life had become a substance within me. It broke into my cage, pushed by a force thousand times stronger than I. It was certainly not made of flesh and blood, not even of ideas. It came toward me like a shimmering wave, like the caress of light. I could see it beyond my eyes and my forehead and above my head. It touched me and filled me to overflowing. I let myself float upon it.”
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