Remembering Sonny Mehta

Remembering Sonny Mehta

Publishing great and LBF Lifetime Achievement winner from 2011, Sonny Mehta, died on 30 December 2019.

Author Kazuo Ishiguro said, when Mehta won the Award, “I know I am only one of many, many authors around the world applauding this recognition of Sonny’s magnificent and trail-blazing contribution over the decades. He made it possible for so many of us, who might otherwise have remained on the margins, to occupy a place in the literary mainstream and flourish there. He’s been an unfailing friend to the writers he’s believed in, and he has permanently changed and shaped the culture we now work in for the better. Bravo, Sonny, and thank you.”


Tuesday 8 March, 2011

The London Book Fair is pleased to announce that the eighth annual Lifetime Achievement Award in International Publishing, sponsored by SBS Worldwide and in association with the Publishers Association, will be awarded to Sonny Mehta, Editor-in-Chief of Alfred A. Knopf Publishers, one of the world’s most distinguished publishers.

Sonny Mehta’s contribution to English language publishing is immense. He began his illustrious publishing career in London, where he co-founded Paladin Books and was Editorial Director of Pan Books, before moving to New York to head Alfred A. Knopf in 1987. Long the publisher of such renowned writers as Thomas Mann, Willa Cather, John Hersey, Andre Gide, Albert Camus, John Updike, and Julia Child, Knopf is also the publisher for Toni Morrison, V.S. Naipaul, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael Ondatjee, Orhan Pamuk, Cormac McCarthy, Haruki Murakami, Peter Carey and Bill Clinton. Together, authors published by Knopf have won 24 Nobel Prizes, and they have also been leading recipients of Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, and other important honours.

Sonny is well known for moving in with Douglas Adams to make sure he finished his book So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. He is also famous for buying Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho after Simon & Schuster refused to publish it at the eleventh hour.

Sonny Mehta said: “I am honoured to accept this award from the organisers of The London Book Fair and flattered to be following in the footsteps of such distinguished past recipients. As I see it, my job has always been to champion the work of the authors I publish. And so, on this occasion, I would like to sincerely thank all the writers who have become such an important part of my life, both personally and professionally. Some of them are highly acclaimed and widely read; some, alas, have not yet found the readerships they deserve. But regardless of their appearance on any best-seller list or their selection for any award, these writers are a true inspiration. I consider myself fortunate indeed to be their publisher.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognises an individual who has made a truly significant mark in the sphere of global publishing. It is open to publishers, agents, editors, scouts and anyone else involved in international publishing from any country in the world, and has previously been awarded to Lord Weidenfield, Weidenfield and Nicolson, Christopher MacLehose, now of MacLehose Press, John Lyon of Little, Brown (posthumously), Lynette Owen of Pearson Education, Peter Mayer of The Overlook Press/ Duckworth Publishers, Drenka Willen, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and last year to Antoine Gallimard, Éditions Gallimard.

Gail Hochman, President, Association of Authors’ Representatives and LBF Advisory Board Member, The London Book Fair Advisory Board, said: “Knopf has long been a leader in publishing books of lasting quality, and at its helm Sonny Mehta has been steadily an international tastemaker, innovative publisher, and believer in the power of the written word.  Sonny has managed to hold to the highest standards of literary excellence and continues successfully to sell these books into an increasingly challenging market.  He remains a world leader in identifying and promoting literary talent and we are proud to be awarding to him The London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award for 2011.”

The London Book Fair’s Advisory Board, comprising senior figures in the international publishing industry, decided on Sonny Mehta after debating the merits of a shortlist of international publishing figures.

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