All the recent publicity surrounding Anna Pasternak’s latest book, Lara, which tells of the love affair that was the real inspiration for her great uncle’s epic novel Doctor Zhivago, reminds me of the time when she worked as publicity manager at Quartet Books. Coincidentally, I had the privilege then to recruit another Anna, who was reputed to cause ripples in the world of the Arts.
At the end of December 1989, I purchased Algy Cluff’s half-interest in Apollo magazine. This was to give me as sole owner, the opportunity to make every conceivable effort to bring it to a wider audience and promote it in every way I could. One feature, however, that was not going to change was the magazine’s most glamorous and charismatic editor, Anna Somers Cocks, whose editorial never failed to cause some trepidation among the buffs of the art world. She had established a reputation for forthright thinking and seemed to have become more formidable as the months went by. She told the New York Times a few weeks later, in January 1990, that the art world ‘is a microcosm of the world. It has economics, commercialism, politics, religion, gossip, scandal, all aspects.’ During her three years as editor, she transformed the once starchy publication, declared the newspaper, into a thoughtful but lively look at all art’s facets. Since she took over, the circulation had risen to nine thousand copies, a respectable figure for a glossy art magazine of that calibre. The choice of Anna as editor had been a most shrewd and enlightened appointment.
Anna Pasternak did a tremendous job publicizing our list. One of her best events was the launch of Elena: A life in Soho, written by Elena Salvoni, with the help of Sandy Fawkes. Elena only passed on this March, aged 95, but her memoirs started almost a century before when she was born in Clerkenwell to Italian parents, arriving as a waitress at the Café Bleu in wartime London and moving on to Bianchi’s where she stayed for over 30 years, before becoming the presiding génie at L’Escargot. She had memories of Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan drinking together; of Maria Callas refusing to be parted from her mink coat before being seated; of Donald Maclean dining ‘in all innocence’ two days before he defected to Russia. Her account was both personal and a slice of Soho’s history.