Anne Martyn - Obituaries - News - The Independent

Anne Martyn

Chief foreign scout for the Japanese literary translation agency Tuttle-Mori

An elegant, highly intelligent and extraordinarily well-read woman, Anne Martyn was for 35 years the chief foreign scout for Japan's leading literary translation agency, Tuttle-Mori Agency.

Elizabeth Anne Scott, literary scout: born Kampala 31 December 1927; married 1950 James Martyn (died 1996; one daughter); died London 24 July 2004.

An elegant, highly intelligent and extraordinarily well-read woman, Anne Martyn was for 35 years the chief foreign scout for Japan's leading literary translation agency, Tuttle-Mori Agency.

In this capacity she played an important role in developing the Japanese market for foreign authors. Her choices and recommendations, eclectic but always astute, from Alexander Solzhenitzyn to Frederick Forsyth and Jeffrey Archer, can only have helped to open the minds and attitudes of this traditionally rather inward-looking people to the wider world in which they had become major players.

Born Anne Scott in 1927 in Kampala, she was the daughter of Eustace Scott, a career diplomat. The Scotts were a distinguished lowland family in the traditional style, privilege always matched by duty. Her father declined a knighthood and Anne always maintained liberal and even progressive views.

She was educated privately before attending Westonbirt School in Gloucestershire where she described herself, oddly in view of her later, rather svelte, appearance, as "the fattest girl in the school and the worst at games". She none the less, or perhaps because of this, got a place to read English at Girton College, Cambridge, and went up shortly after the Second World War.

There she danced with John Bayley, remaining friends with him and Iris Murdoch. She became engaged briefly to the scion of an enormously grand family, before being whisked off her feet by the possibly less grand but definitely more robust James Martyn. He had been an RAF pilot during the war and had been awarded the DFC, but when he first met Anne at a party in Cambridge he was a law student and dressed as a vicar .

Somewhat in the spirit of the times, Anne did not finish her degree but chose to go to London to be with her new husband, to whom she remained devoted and happily married until James' death in 1996. She worked briefly as personal assistant to the bookseller Christina Foyle, and also ran an antiques business. James Martyn did not pursue a legal career but went into the wine trade and publishing, becoming, amongst other things, the deputy chairman of Edward Arnold.

Following the birth of her first and only child, Nina, Anne suffered for two years the madness of a terrifying bout of post-natal depression but, with great strength of character and the support of James, she recovered fully. She had maintained her literary interests and as a result of her friendship with the author William Sansom and his wife Ruth, she was told that a Japanese literary agency was looking for a scout.

Tuttle-Mori Agency, as it became, was part of the Charles E. Tuttle publishing company which had been set up by an American officer of the same name who had arrived in Tokyo with the US Army in 1945, and been told to look into the Japanese publishing industry. He fell in love with and married a Japanese girl, and then set up a publishing company which went on to become successful both in America and Japan.

Anne Martyn started with Tuttle-Mori in 1969, working with Charles Tuttle's Japanese nephew by marriage, the 24-year-old Tom Mori, who had recently been persuaded to join the company. Mori had been partially brought up in the United States and was determined to continue to open the Japanese market to the wider world of foreign literature.

In Anne Martyn, the young and ambitious Tom Mori found a perfect accomplice as well as a friend and influential mentor. Their personal and business relationship remained extremely close and productive. By the time of Mori's premature death in 1998, Tuttle-Mori had become indisputably the leading agency in Japan.

Working for the Japanese in 1969 was not that easy. There was still considerable hostility towards Japan - Martyn received hate mail from those who still viewed the Japanese as people not to do business with. In addition, communications were not what they are today. It was telex or dodgy phone calls with a punishing time difference. Nina remembers her mother often shouting down the phone at 7.30am on a cracked line to Tokyo in order to secure a deal .

The Martyns and the Moris became firm friends, the two families often visiting each other. Anne herself visited Japan many times, made many Japanese friends and developed a very sympathetic understanding of the Japanese people and their culture. Her success, the quality of her thinking and her credibility encouraged Tuttle-Mori to adopt the radical notion of hiring educated Japanese women to work as agents.

Anne Martyn had a wide circle of friends from different fields. From her days at Girton, there was the garden designer Penelope Hobhouse and the headmistress Baroness Brigstocke. From other worlds came Dr James Dexter, chief psychiatrist at Wormwood Scrubs, and, through her friendship with his daughter Anne Marris, the US politician and diplomat Mike Mansfield.

She was committed to liberal causes, championed family planning, contemporary art, new music and joined the SDP on its formation, although she did, as her husband complained, take a rather right-wing stance on a couple of domestic issues - no dogs or cigars in the bed. She also parted company with the liberal establishment on the issues of fox hunting and the countryside.

She became a kind of liberal conscience for a number of prominent right-wing figures - she engaged, often around her own dinner table (she was a brilliant cook), in spirited debate with Colin Welch, Bill and Shirley Letwin, Sir Peregrine Worsthorne and Sir Philip Goodhart, among others.

Martyn was a familiar figure around the publishing scene in London, in Japan as well as Frankfurt and Bologna. She took a wide interest in the business and was good at recognising new talent, such as the young Ursula Mackenzie, who in 1994 spotted Nicholas Evans's bestseller The Horse Whisperer, and is now Publisher of Time Warner UK .

Following the deaths of James and of Tom Mori within a year or so of each other Anne Martyn neither lost heart nor interest and continued to work, in partnership with her daughter Nina, as effectively and energetically as ever for Tuttle-Mori. She maintained her friendships and her interests, reading voraciously, watching decent cinema, indulging beagles (on the bed, but not in the bed), lunching with friends and visiting her family. Her granddaughter Richenda proudly remembers her granny playing Twister last New Year's Eve.

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