First U.S. editor of Diary of Anne Frank dies

Barbara Epstein, founder of The New York Review of Books and the first American editor of "The Diary of Anne Frank," has passed away from lung cancer at 76.

Barbara Epstein, the founder of The New York Review of Books and the editor of the U.S. version of The Diary of Anne Frank, has died at age76.

Epstein passed away from lung cancer in her Manhattan home on Friday, announced Robert Silvers, co-editor of the review.

"She had the very highest critical standard. She never felt that the merely competent, the merely adequate, would do," said Silvers of his friend, who guided the magazine for more than 40 years.

Silvers said Epstein shaped the pieces of literary giants such as Gore Vidal and Joyce Carol Oates.

Epstein founded the highly respected magazine with a group that included Silvers, Robert Lowell and her then husband, Jason Epstein, in 1963 during a publishing strike that closed down The New York Times Review.

The first issue included pieces by W.H. Auden, Mary McCarthy and Norman Mailer. Silvers said they wanted their magazine to "show what a good book review could be."

'A good editor'

Epstein was born in Boston and went on to become a junior editor at Doubleday & Co. after graduating in 1949 from Radcliffe College.

It was at Doubleday that Epstein exhibited her eye for talent, pushing her bosses to print the first American edition of The Diary of a Young Girl — the famous account of a Jewish girl living through the Nazi occupation of Holland. It eventually became The Diary of Anne Frank.

"She was a good editor and she could see what it was," said Jason Epstein.

Epstein would edit the book and developed a friendship with Anne's father, Otto Frank. The book was published in 1952.

Epstein went on to work at The Partisan Review before launching The New York Review of Books. She and Silvers would edit all the pieces.

"It's an extraordinarily rare talent, the ability to see the potential in the piece," said Luc Sante, an author who began his career as Epstein's assistant. "What Barbara was able to do was find what was missing."

Epstein's longtime partner, Murray Kempton, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, died in 1997. She is survived by a son, a daughter and three grandchildren.