Peter Owen: Not a Nice Jewish Boy - Memoirs of a Maverick Publisher

Author(s): Peter Owen and James Nye

ISBN: 9781781558485
£17.50 £25.00

The remarkable life of a Jewish book publisher who escaped from Nazi tyranny to become a literary pioneer in London during the 1960s.
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  • The first ever complete and authorised biography of Britain’s youngest publisher in London during the Swinging Sixties and turbulent Seventies

  • Handsomely illustrated with rare and archival photographs from Peter Owen’s private files

  • A fascinating insight into the world of publishing and social networking with the industry’s biggest names such as John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Salvador Dalí, Yukio Mishima and Tennessee Williams

In this wry, candid and sometimes poignant memoir, Peter Owen recalls his lonely Jewish boyhood in Nazi Germany and migration to England where he survived the London Blitz, a teenage dalliance with aspiring actress Fenella Fielding, and working with a motley variety of book publishers.

He founded his eponymous publishing firm in 1951, becoming one of the youngest publishers in Britain. A pioneer of books on social themes, gay and lesbian writing and literature in translation, Owen’s authors included ten Nobel laureates and brought Hermann Hesse, Ezra Pound and Anaïs Nin to a wider audience.

Enjoying their success, he and his wife Wendy were memorably stylish and eccentric figures at the literary parties of the 1960s and 1970s. Owen describes his often-hilarious encounters with many of those he published, including John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Salvador Dalí, his adventures in Japan with Yukio Mishima and Shūsaku Endō, and in Morocco with Tennessee Williams and Paul and Jane Bowles.

As one of the last of the great émigré publishers, his death in 2016 aged 89 signalled the end of a literary era.

BOOK ISBN 9781781558485
FORMAT 234 x 156 mm
BINDING Hardback
PAGES 272 pages
PUBLICATION DATE 21 October 2021
ILLUSTRATIONS 47 photographs


Peter Owen was born in Bavaria in 1927 and, having migrated from Nazi Germany, established his publishing venture in London in 1951. Awarded an OBE for his decades of service to literature as publisher of international writers, many of them Nobel laureates, he died in 2016.

James Nye, an award-winning composer based on the Isle of Wight, was born in Suffolk in 1966. He has written for The Wire, Fortean Times and Gneurosis and assisted Peter Owen in writing his memoir for which he has produced a thoughtful and perceptive afterword.