Memories of Mark Linz: 1935 – 2013

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I met Mark Linz several times; he was the same person every time, the smiley very kind and gentle person. I conducted two interviews with him, both were for Al Ahram  newspaper. In one, I talked with him about his career a publisher, and I was really surprised by his loving relationship with books once he started to talk about them. I still remember the passion he expressed while talking about making of the book Egypt: A view from Above. He himself joined the photographer in his flying trips all over Egypt.

I’m still also reminded of his eyes when he was telling me about the most successful book he published — among another 50,000 books he had published. The book is Pedagogy of the Oppressed, written by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. He was not sure about it at first, but it made a great success with a million copies in English.

I remember also during the 2006 Naguib Mahfouz prize evening, I made a very strong criticism against the prize, and he was so funny that he looked at AUCP staff and said with a smile on his face: “This guy has a book translated with us, I think we should stop that translation now.” I smiled with other people, but I appreciated his comment a lot because it proved that I made my comments for nothing personal. Whenever I praise books, I remember that great guy.

Ibrahim Farghali, Egyptian novelist and journalist.


Mark’s passion for life, publishing, and everything bubbled constantly from an unstoppable wellspring: his extraordinary energy often left younger folk like me lagging behind and gasping, and he could see a publishing opportunity at 100 paces and sign the deal before the rest of us had put our glasses on.
Neil Hewison, associate director for editorial programs, AUC Press. 


We had a nice discussion in Abu Dhabi where I was teasing him about how long he was working for the AUC Press. I said (this was March 2011) that we ended Mubark’s ruling, which was for 30 years, but you are still ruling the AUC Press for so long …

Sherif Bakr, Al Arabi Publishing & Distribution.


Mark Linz with Saudi author Youssef Mohaimeed and Chip Rossetti.
Mark Linz with Saudi author Youssef Mohaimeed and Chip Rossetti.

I went to see Mark Linz at his New York office on a purely informational interview in the summer of 2005, as I was interested in moving to the Arab world, and was wondering about the likelihood of finding work in book publishing in Cairo or Beirut. Two months later, when he was back in New York, he invited me and my wife (Jessica Papin) to lunch and over a meal, offered us both jobs at the American University in Cairo Press—certainly the most life-changing lunch I’ve ever had. I worked for Mark as the Press’ senior editor for two years, and what I most remember about him was how much fun he had publishing books. He made book publishing seem like an ongoing adventure, particularly in the unique circumstances involved in publishing English-language books in late-Mubarak-era Egypt. Every few months, AUC Press holds a public reception at a lovely venue in Cairo—often a restored medieval palace or a museum—to launch its new publications. Mark would step up to the microphone to welcome the guests, and introduce the new books, invariably ending his speech with the reminder (only partly tongue-in-cheek) that “The publishing process isn’t complete until a book is actually sold. So you, too, can be part of this process by purchasing some books before you leave tonight!”

Some of my fondest memories of Mark come from the soirees he held at his penthouse apartment in the AUC residence in Zamalek. His apartment—itself a virtual museum of contemporary Egyptian painting, trinkets picked up from his many travels, and traditional artwork from the Arab world and beyond—opened onto a large balcony that offered a beautiful view of the Nile and Cairo’s downtown, and was ideal for outdoor parties, particularly on balmy Cairo nights. Mark loved to play host—to his authors, artists, visiting friends, and others, both Egyptians and expats—and was the witty, charming, well-traveled partygoer most of us wish we could be. He was an inveterate champion of Egyptian and Arab authors internationally and a firm believer in the power of books to counteract ignorance and foster cultural dialogue. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to learn so much about book publishing from him.

—Chip Rossetti,
Managing Editor, Library of Arabic Literature


For the two years and a half years that I spent working alongside Mark Linz in Cairo and in the years that followed, as a consultant and thereafter the English language co-agent for the AUC Press, I was always inspired by the degree to which Mark was a brilliant collector—of experiences, of stories, of friends, of artwork, of adventures. He was a terrific raconteur and fond enough of the spotlight, but also a careful listener with a near photographic memory for everything from deal points to Frankfurt meetings from decades past.  Soon after my husband and I arrived in Egypt, he took us to Cairo’s Khan El Khalili marketplace, where, with relatively limited Arabic, he revealed himself—and not for the last time—as a shrewd but gracious bargainer, one adept at smoothing ruffled feathers even as he held firm to his position. He was a gentleman and a publisher of the old school, but with a wholly contemporary vision for the place of literature and the urgency of cross cultural communication. We will miss him terribly.

 Jessica Papin, literary agent.


Mark Linz
Photo shared by Michael Zaug.

Mark hired me in 1998 to come to Egypt to run the AUC bookstores. On his advice, my wife Kelly and I moved up our wedding date and we arrived in Cairo a week after we married to begin what eventually became our seven-year “honeymoon” at the AUC Press.  The years we lived in Egypt were life changing for us. Working with Mark was an incredible learning experience. Not only did I run the bookstores but Mark gave me the opportunity to be involved in sales and marketing at the Press where I learned about every aspect of publishing from editorial to marketing to sales and even production. Kelly initially worked at the bookstores with me, but soon began to work her way up the editorial ranks at the Press with encouragement from Mark and his excellent staff at the press. As many will attest, Mark had an infectious spirit and was a master of publicity and marketing. Personally, the things I learned from Mark are what made me want to branch out into a career in the publishing world. He also cared deeply for his staff at the AUC Press and strove to create a family atmosphere that supported us both professionally and personally when we were so far from home. Kelly and I treasure our time in Egypt working with Mark and would not be where we are in the world without him.

                -Michael Zaug, International Sales Director, Random House


The photo Margaret Obank shared on Banipal.
The photo Margaret Obank shared on Banipal.

Images of him over the years that I have known him immediately spring to mind. He was gracious, open-hearted, encouraging, charming and supportive, almost always smiling and in good spirits – a friend who will be so missed.

He had not long ago retired from the Press that he had seen become – in his own words in Banipal 43‘s celebration of doyen translator Denys Johnson-Davies – “recognized as the world’s leading publisher of modern Arabic literature in translation”.

It is ironic that the headline Mark Linz gave to the work of DJD in that article – A unique and lasting legacy – must now, with his passing, become his own.

I will never forget the countless chats and discussions, the emails, we have had with him since Banipal started in 1998, not to mention the sharing of a booth at MESA, the advertisements in the magazine, the meetings at Frankfurt and London Book Fairs.

From Margaret Obank, founder of Banipal magazine, originally published on Banipal.


I first met Mark at the re-booted Abu Dhabi International Book Fair in 2008. He was riding high on the success of Alaa al-Aswany’s The Yacoubian Building. Seeing I had at least a passing interest in Arabic fiction, he quickly pressed into my hands another of his titles, Being Abbas El Abd, a short, experimental novel by Ahmed Alaidy written not in the vein of Linz’s top-selling author, the Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz, but someone somewhat less restrained — the American gonzo novelist Chuck Palahniuk.

Mahfouz and Alaidy demonstrate the wide range of Linz’s interests and ambitions. One got the feeling from Mark that books translated from the Arabic really mattered and he would prove it to the world if he could somehow get them to pay attention.

Of course, working from Cairo made this something of a challenge, though his enthusiasm never wavered even in the face of what must often have felt like indifference. Fortunately, he’s fostered an entire new generation of editors, translators and publishing professionals — among them, our frequent contributor Chip Rossetti, who served for a time as his senior editor — who will carry on his mission for several generations to come.

May he rest in peace, in whatever afterlife he so chooses.

Ed Nawotka, Publishing Perspectives; originally published on Publishing Perspectives.


Photo with Haeberle.
Photo with Haeberle.

It took me some time to get over my shock hearing about Werner’s death. I know he was sick, because we had kept in touch by phone and e-mail since his diagnosis last year. He knew that, in the last few years, I myself had survived two different cancers (with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy), and I therefore tried to give him hope, citing my own example. However, I guess toward the end he did not want me to know how sick he really was. I am all the more grateful to Barbara who stayed at his side until the end and truly cared for him in every sense of the word.

Werner was my oldest and best friend for nearly 70 years. We knew each other from childhood, when he lived with his uncle, who was our family doctor. During the hunger years after WWII, as malnourished 4th graders, we were sent together to a special children’s home to be fattened up. As teenagers, we joined the same rowing club, rowing in the same team, and, together, took our first trips abroad to Switzerland, Denmark, and Sweden. I visited him in Frankfurt at his first job, he visited me in Freiburg when I was a student there. I met his future wife Helen when they were first engaged, followed him to the USA as a student at Cornell and later as a postdoc fellow at Yale, and watched his daugthers grow up in both the first and the second of his homes in Rye. We saw many great Broadway shows together and several historical performances at the then newly opened Metropolitan Opera. In the following years, I spent many weeks and even months at his beachfront home in Rye with him, Helen and their daughters Julia and Alice. There, I worked on various book projects of his, and was a grateful witness to a free-spitited and very happy family life. In the meantime, he had also become my publisher, and, thanks to his unique combination of generosity, foresight, and business acumen, we were able to launch some common projects that turned out to be very successful for both of us. As a result, I was able to enter a new academic field and to find my true calling.

Over the years, we met again and again at the Frankfurt Book Fair and various American book fairs. He also visited me in San Francisco. When in NYC, I stayed as his guest at his Club in Manhattan. When I moved to Berlin, he again visited often. Unforgettable were his 70th birthday in Cairo with a subsequent boat trip to Assuan, and, thanks to Barbara, his 75th in a German wine region.

In short, our lives were very much intertwined, and together we lived though some very tough times. His spirit remained strong even under the most adverse circumstances, a quality I always admired. In retrospect I can say that we shared many experiences – both good and bad – that were decisive for our lives. Over 30 years ago, he also met my lifetime partner, and from the on, he visited us and invited us always as couple. Only his brother and his sisters knew him longer than I did, but I knew him better than anyone else. And he also knew me longer and better than everyone else. We always shared our innermost thoughts and feelings and knew everything important about each other. What more can I say? He was my best friend from beginning to end, and I will remember and miss him as long as live.

Prof. Erwin J. Haeberle, Humbolt University.

More memories and profiles:

Zahi Hawass

Three Percent

Shelf Awareness

Profile in Al Ahram Weekly: A German at the Gates”

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