Obituary: John Wolfers

The partial list of authors who were also his friends gives some idea of the rich furnishings of John Wolfers's mind, writes Peter Carson. They included J.G. Ballard, Julian Rathbone and Alistair Reed; Richard Gregory, Anthony Huxley, Hilary and Steven Rose and Nigel Calder; Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Claud Cockburn, Patrick Seale and Eleanor Philby; Raphael Samuel and Gareth Stedman-Jones; Michael and Elizabeth Ayrton; Gerald Brenan, Norman Lewis, Ronald Fraser and Ian Gibson. There is the Left and Spain and history and science and always good and unusual writing.

He was able to make an informed judgement of serious non-fiction in a way few publishers were able to. Easily bridging the "two cultures", he was one of the first to promote "popular" science and one of the first to find international publishers for commissioned books, selling directly to heads of houses in Germany, France, Italy and Spain. For a publisher, to receive a book proposal from John Wolfers was always a tantalising experience, although it was sometimes easy to suspect that the elegance of presentation was as much his as his author's. His was a formidable presence, a charming, at times uncomfortable, but ultimately enriching figure in the London world of books and writing.

John Wolfers, literary agent: born Tientsin, China 24 September 1923; twice married (one son, one daughter); died Seillans, France 25 March 1998.

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