Robertson to retire from Jonathan Cape after 27 years

Robertson to retire from Jonathan Cape after 27 years

Jonathan Cape's associate publisher Robin Robertson is retiring from his role after 27 years at the imprint.

During his time at Cape, Robertson has overseen a list featuring prize-winning authors such as Anne Enright, Irvine Welsh, Michael Ondaatje, Ottessa Moshfegh, Ocean Vuong, John Burnside and Alice Oswald.

He will leave his role at the end of 2020 but will continue to run its poetry list as editor-at-large. Cape will be recruiting for an editorial director to join the imprint.

Robertson said: “I have been lucky enough to be allowed to follow my instincts, largely unimpeded, through a career in publishing – thanks, largely, to the crucial support and guidance of Dan Franklin. During the best years, with remarkable colleagues and writers, we had a lot of fun – and published some wonderful books.”

He began his publishing career as a copy-editor for Penguin in 1978, rising to assistant fiction editor, before joining Secker & Warburg as senior editor in 1985. There he began commissioning, particularly from the the “marginal areas”, as they were then known, of Scotland and Ireland, publishing Scottish writers such as James Kelman, Janice Galloway, John Burnside and A L Kennedy. He took over as John Banville’s editor, and soon added other Irish writers to the list including Anne Enright, Eugene McCabe and Aidan Higgins. In 1989, he had two novels on the Booker shortlist: James Kelman’s A Disaffection and John Banville’s The Book of Evidence.

Alongside Secker & Warburg publisher Dan Franklin, he pioneered an innovative and influential paperback originals list in the early 1990s, which included two first novels, Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and Jeff Torrington’s Whitbread Book of the Year-winning Swing Hammer Swing! Adam Thorpe’s Ulverton followed in 1992, and the last book he commissioned for Secker was James Kelman’s How Late It Was, How Late, which won the Booker Prize the following year.

He later moved to Cape with Dan Franklin, serving as publishing director from 1993 to 2015, and latterly associate publisher. There he created the Cape poetry list, building a home for John Burnside, Mark Doty, Michael Longley, Andrew McMillan, Fiona Benson, Anne Carson, Sharon Olds, Alice Oswald and Ocean Vuong.

His friendship with the Irish novelist John McGahern led him to Stoner by John Williams, which he passed to Vintage where it was published, with a foreword by McGahern, in 2003. He continued to add to the fiction list, with debut successes such as John King’s The Football Factory and Alan Warner’s Morvern Callar, both turned into films, and novels by Seamus Deane, Adam Foulds, Bernard MacLaverty and Ottessa Moshfegh shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and Anne Enright winning it in 2007 with The Gathering.

Robertson, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, has also published seven books of his own poetry, which have received a number of awards, including the Petrarca-Preis, the E M Forster Award, and all three Forward Prizes. The Long Take (2018) won the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the Goldsmiths Prize for innovative fiction and was the first poem to be shortlisted for the Booker.

Michal Shavit, publishing director at Jonathan Cape, said: “Robin is the best of editors and a much loved and admired colleague. He has shaped Jonathan Cape over the last 27 years and edited and published some of the greatest writers in the world. He is an inspiring and brilliant editor, with an outstanding eye for writing talent, with exacting taste, a love of the written word, and a savvy commercial instinct. Robin has never played by the rules, his style is unique and the results are extraordinary. He has published a rich and fabulous range of authors at Cape and some of the most successful publishing we have ever seen. We will miss him immensely and we are deeply grateful to him for everything he has done over the last nearly three decades. We look forward to his continuing as editor-at-large on the legendary poetry list he has built here at Cape.”

Vintage m.d. Richard Cable added: "Over three decades, Robin has acquired and published many of our most iconic authors and books. The breadth of the fiction, non-fiction and poetry that he has brought to Jonathan Cape has been extraordinary. Time and again the books that he has published have attracted huge critical acclaim and great commercial success. Indeed, there have surely been few more accomplished editors in recent times. We will miss him greatly, though delighted that he will continue to oversee the Cape poetry list.”