Obituary: Carol Brown Janeway, 71

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Edinburgh-born publisher, editor and internationally-acclaimed literary translator Carol Brown Janeway has died at the age of 71.

Carol Brown Janeway was a New York-based publisher, book editor and, most notably, one of the world’s finest translators of literary works from several languages.

While working as a publisher, specialising in acquiring rights to books, she translated scores of literary or historical works “for love and fun” in what was usually her spare time. Hyper-active and as frisky as always until last month, she died in Manhattan only two weeks after being suddenly diagnosed with late-stage cancer. The publishing industry on both sides of the Atlantic was in shock.

At the time of her death, Janeway had been an important and award-winning figure at the New York-based publishers Knopf and later Knopf Doubleday for 45 years, starting in 1970 and rising to the posts of senior editor, vice-president and director of international rights. Over the years, she introduced North American readers to countless foreign authors, including George MacDonald Fraser, author of the Flashman series of novels. As a Scot, Janeway took a personal interest in Fraser’s work and whether he would have won such widespread readership in the US and Canada without her is an open question.

Born in Edinburgh on June 4, 1944, her father, Robert George Archibald Brown was one of the city’s top chartered accounts, with offices at 22 Charlotte Square and known professionally as RGA Brown.

He was also one of the Capital’s most-appointed liquidators in the 60s and 70s, handling the liquidation of Darling’s Regent Hotel at Waterloo Place, in those days a historic temperance hotel and now a Travelodge.

While Robert Brown dealt with figures, his wife, Kathleen Neely, Carol’s mother, dealt with words as a director of the Ranfurly Library Service. The service was founded by Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly (of Dungannon, Northern Ireland, although the title was named after Ranfurly, Renfrewshire) in 1954 to provide books for children in developing countries. It has since become the global Book Aid International, with the Duke of Edinburgh as patron.

Young Carol picked up her love of books and languages from her mother and soon stood out at St George’s School for Girls in Edinburgh’s Ravelston district for her prodigious Latin to English translations. She went on to Cambridge University, where she graduated with a first class honours degree in modern and medieval languages from Girton College, at the time an all-female institution.

Her first job was at the John Farquharson literary agency in London before she moved to New York in 1970 to join Knopf. Twice married, she is survived by her sister Ann Hughes.

PHIL DAVISON