Ten years have passed since Sonny (Ajai Singh) Mehta showed his kada (bangle) to a reporter who had asked him how he continued to flourish in the dog-eat-dog publishing industry. 'I come from a warrior class,' he told the reporter, referring to his Sikh origins.
In March this year, three Pulitzer Prizes went to writers published by Alfred A Knopf, where Mehta is Editor in Chief. 'Every time it happens you are absolutely delighted,' Mehta, who publishes writers ranging from John Updike to Bill Clinton, told The New York Times. 'It's a bit like childbirth. It always feels great after it's done.'
Knopf was always among the most distinguished publishing houses in America, Under Mehta, it continues to prosper and publish a wide variety of books that are newsworthy and avidly run. To be published by Knopf appears to be every writer's dream.
In the early 1990s, Esquire magazine observed that at a late night party he ate very little, drank all night without getting drunk, and 'seemed to revel in his companions' loss of control.' The next day, as was typical with him, he was ready early in the morning for a long day's work.
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Mehta, who was imported from England over 25 years ago to take over the running of the company much to the chagrin of American publishers who wondered what had happened to American publishers, has also been an early champion of Salman Rushdie and Suketu Mehta. In the industry, he is often envied because he not only gets prize winning writers like Nobel Laureates V S Naipaul and Gabriel Garcia Marquez into his fold, but also writers such as Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient) who not only win awards but also jump into the bestsellers lists.
Mehta -- whose passion for publishing hasn't dimmed a bit even after a triple bypass surgery five years ago -- is married to novelist Gita Mehta; they met at Cambridge.
Knopf senior VP Paul Bogaards recently told The Book Standard that Mehta, who is in his early 60s, is not at all thinking about retiring. 'Sonny recently asked me to start planning our hundredth anniversary party,' Bogaards said, referring to an event that is a decade away. 'Make it a good party,' Mehta reportedly said. 'Somewhere I can smoke.'