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Max Reinhardt, 86; Publisher for Solzhenitsyn, Greene

November 23, 2002|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Book publisher Max Reinhardt, whose first signing was George Bernard Shaw and who went on to publish works by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Graham Greene, is dead at the age of 86, his secretary said Thursday. Reinhardt died Tuesday in a London nursing home, Belinda McGill said.

Born in Istanbul -- then known as Constantinople -- on Nov. 30, 1915, to Austrian parents, Reinhardt was educated at the city's English High School.

He developed a love of British culture and, in 1938, persuaded his parents to set up a branch of their import-export business in London and put him in charge.

After World War II service with the Royal Air Force in Northern Ireland, Reinhardt took a course in international relations at the London School of Economics. There, under tutors such as mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell, he turned to literature.

Later during a bridge game at London's Savile Club, Reinhardt met the publisher A.S. Frere, who inspired Reinhardt to convert his import and export business into a publishing house. He did so by acquiring HFL Publishers, a small firm that specialized in accounting textbooks.

Reinhardt soon branched into the theatrical world, which he got to know through his short-lived marriage in 1947 to the actress Margaret Leighton.

Shaw allowed Reinhardt to reissue the playwright's correspondence with the actress Ellen Terry.

However, when Reinhardt asked Shaw to write a new introduction to the volume, Shaw retorted, "My dear boy, I don't remember a thing about her."

In 1957, Reinhardt and a merchant banker partner bought the Bodley Head publishing house, where Reinhardt built a strong editing team, naming Greene as director. Greene persuaded Charlie Chaplin to write an autobiography and also brought his own work to Bodley Head. Bodley Head became known as a publishing house that provided its authors with tender, loving care, the loss of which was generally lamented in the increasingly bottom-line publishing world.

During the 1960s, Bodley Head signed the Soviet dissident writer Solzhenitsyn -- who gave the company world publishing rights to "Cancer Ward" -- Alistair Cooke, Maurice Sendak, William Trevor and Eric Ambler. It also published Robert M. Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and Alvin Toffler's seminal work "Future Shock."

The group was later taken over by America's Random House, and Reinhardt and Greene resigned.

Reinhardt retained HFL, renaming it Reinhardt Books, and continued to publish under that and the Nonesuch Press imprints. The company later came under the control of Viking.

Reinhardt is survived by his wife, Joan, and their two daughters.

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