Tom Maschler, British publisher instrumental in founding the Booker Prize, passes away

Tom Maschler passes away

Tom Maschler, a British publisher who was instrumental in propelling the careers of such renowned writers like Gabriel García Márquez, Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller and was a principal creator of the Booker Prize, one of the worlds’ most prestigious literary honors, died Oct. 16 at a hospital in Apt, France. He was 87. The death was confirmed by his son, Ben Maschler, who said he did not know the exact cause.

Mr. Maschler was a German-born emigre whose father had been a successful publisher in Europe. After coming to England as a child, Mr. Maschler reluctantly entered the family trade after being a tour guide and failing to become a film director. In 1960, when he was 26, Mr. Tom Maschler became the literary director of the British publishing house of Jonathan Cape, after the death of its eponymous founder. Within a year, he began to restore the fortunes of the fading firm.

In Britain, Mr. Maschler was almost as well known as his writers. Regarded as one of the most discerning literary talent scouts on either side of the Atlantic, he discovered or helped advance the careers of such acclaimed authors as Vonnegut, García Márquez, John Fowles, Thomas Pynchon, Ian McEwan, Edna O’Brien, Clive James, Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Salman Rushdie, and Bruce Chatwin.

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While visiting France in his late teens, Mr. Maschler noticed how the entire country was excited by the Prix Goncourt, an annual literary award. He thought Britain should have something similar and was instrumental in developing the Booker Prize, presented each year for the best work of fiction by a writer from the British Commonwealth. Since the first Booker Prize was awarded in 1969, it has become an annual event along the lines of the Oscars.

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