OBITUARY:Rainer Heumann

Rainer Heumann was the most powerful literary agent in Europe and possibly in the world. His sudden death at the age of 72 will create an upset in the world of publishing at a time when the book trade is trying to cope with major changes brought about by takeovers, mergers and the ending of the Net Book Agreement.

An urbane, elegant and distinguished-looking man, Heumann had a reputation for probity, competence and good taste in a world where such practices and principles were often considered a liability and the authors and (mainly English-language) publishers he represented trusted him, often letting him handle their personal and financial problems as well as their literary ones. He was an enthusiast who loved to entertain; his hospitality was legendary and on a scale that only the largest European publishers could equal.

Born in Chemnitz (renamed Karl-Marxstadt after the Second World War) in eastern Germany, where his father was killed by an Allied bomb in 1945, he escaped to the West and worked at various jobs in Munich until he joined his uncle's advertising agency in Frankfurt. At this time he met his second wife, who refused to marry him unless he left a profession for which she had contempt and as a result he moved to Zurich, where he joined Dr Lothar Mohrenwitz, a former associate of the legendary publisher Kurt Wolff, the discoverer of Kafka and of most of the German Expressionists, in his Mohrbooks agency in that city.

Mohrenwitz had worked with Curtis Brown in London and the agency, established in 1951, specialised in finding European publishers for British and American authors. It was brilliantly successful, representing a long string of best-selling authors that included Agatha Christie, David Cornwell (John Le Carre) and Saul Bellow, and many American publishers including Random House, Simon and Schuster, Viking and Little, Brown, as well as many of the leading British literary agents. But they also acted as agent to many German authors, such as the former Chancellor Willy Brandt.

Heumann, like many Germans of his generation, modelled himself on an English gentleman in dress, demeanour and speech. His English was excellent and almost accentless. His house at Kusnacht outside Zurich, which also housed his office, was so full of books that he had to design special sliding bookshelves to contain them. Like his banker father he was also an art lover and was fortunate to be able to recover part of the important collection of paintings that his father had put together before the war.

The number of authors whose European royalties went through Heumann's office was countless, from the older generation such as H.G. Wells through to Graham Greene, George Orwell, Mary McCarthy and Truman Capote; for others like Vicky Baum and Erich Maria Remarque Mohrbooks controlled world rights.

His assistant Sabine Ibach, who had earlier assisted Tanja Howarth in London, one of the many literary agents in the two-way network of rights enabling authors to benefit from book sales and their spin-offs in film, television, radio and other subsidiary income world-wide, now has the formidable task of co-ordinating this literary empire at a time when, with imprints almost daily disappearing and changing, authors are no longer sure who their publishers are and have to rely ever more on agents for guidance and business management.

John Calder

Rainer Heumann, literary agent: born Chemnitz, Germany 26 September 1923; twice married (one son); died Zurich 5 March 1996.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week