Why Sonny Mehta (1942-2019) was often called the ‘best publisher in the world’

Chiki Sarkar in Scroll.in:

The last time I saw Sonny Mehta was October 2018. I was pregnant with my second child and was in New York for a short trip. Come and get me for a drink, he said. And so I went to the Knopf offices on Broadway to pick him up.

We walked across the street to a brasserie for a drink. Sonny didn’t usually talk much, but that day he talked and talked and talked. He had just won a lifetime achievement award and was in an introspective mood.

He talked about his early days in publishing, how hard it was for an Indian to break through the very white private school ranks of British publishing as a young graduate just out of Cambridge in the ’60s. He talked, too, a little about his childhood. The years in boarding school, with a diplomat father who was posted abroad, the itinerant childhood.

Sonny talked of SI (Samuel Irving) Newshouse of Condé Nast flying him to New York to offer him the job at Knopf after he had made a name for himself creating Pan, one of the earliest paperback imprints in UK; how hard it was for him in those early years at Knopf, with New York’s cultural elite trying to pull him down with pleased whispers of his impending sacking; how he now saw that moment as an act of terrified racism. Then he spoke of the difficult days, when Bertelsmann bought Random House from Condé Nast , leaving him wondering if he was out of a job.

More here.