September 26, 2014
Hail & farewell: Karl Miller
by Zeljka Marosevic
Karl Miller, one of the founders of the London Review of Books, and its first editor, has died.
Miller was literary editor of The Spectator and the New Statesman, and also wrote for the TLS before founding the London Review of Books in 1979, which he edited until 1992. Andrew O’Hagan, the LRB’s current Editor-at-Large, looked back on Miller’s contribution to literary culture, telling The Guardian:
He was the leading literary figure of his generation and the funniest man I’ve ever known. He changed the picture for nearly five decades of writers and readers, editing and founding the best magazines, promoting voices that people were unlikely to have heard before. He championed VS Naipaul and Seamus Heaney, Frank Kermode and Angela Carter. Not only did he give writers places in which to write, but he gave them subjects, he sharpened their style, and he pushed them to be braver than they were before. If Karl liked you, you felt you had passed the ultimate exam.
As well as presiding over the LRB, Miller was the author of numerous books including Cockburn’s Millennium, which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and two collections of memoirs. He was also a professor of modern English literature at University College London and ran the English department there until 1992. But it was his early involvement in the establishing of the LRB that will be particularly remembered. In The Guardian, O’Hagan described Miller as “perhaps the last of the great Bloomsbury men”:
Of course, there are brilliant writers and editors now, but they live in a world where the squeeze on literary values and on books programmes, on high culture and carefulness, is fearsome and degrading. Karl Miller worked in spite of the market, and he enriched the intellectual life of the country in a thousand ways.
The LRB states on its blog that “Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester, Andrew O’Hagan and Mary-Kay Wilmers will be writing about him in the paper.”
Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.