Born Anna Szigethy in World War II Budapest, Anna Porter and her mother left Hungary in 1956 to escape the increasing Soviet presence, joining relatives in New Zealand. Porter received her BA and MA in English Literature from the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch, before a trip to Europe led to proofreading job with Cassell’s in England. This first foray into the world of publishing was followed by a sales position with Collier Macmillan, and an eventual transfer to Canada to assume an editorial role in Toronto.
Porter joined McClelland & Stewart in 1969 as editorial coordinator. A series of rapid promotions followed, culminating with her becoming the president and publisher of Seal Books, a mass-market paperback publishing house co-founded by M&S and Bantam Books. Working closely with Jack McClelland gave Porter the chance to observe the style of a publisher known for working with authors as opposed to books.
Porter left Seal in 1979 to found Key Porter Books—a joint venture with Key Publishers, the then-publisher of Toronto Life and Quill & Quire. With Porter as its publisher and chief executive officer, Key Porter became known internationally for its high-quality non-fiction and illustrated books and, at home, for its mainstream books of national interest. Today, Key Porter Books publishes about 100 titles per year and has over 500 titles in print.
In recognition of her varied achievements in the world of publishing, and specifically for being “instrumental in bringing Canadian titles to the attention of the international market place,” Porter was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1992. In 2003, she was awarded the Order of Ontario. She has also been awarded Honorary Doctoral degrees from Ryerson University, St, Mary's University, the University of Toronto, and the Law Society of Upper Canada.
In addition to her work as a publisher, Porter has written three crime novels—Hidden Agenda, Mortal Sins and The Bookfair Murders—and a biography of her grandfather titled The Storyteller. When it was first published, The Storyteller won the 2001 Canadian Authors Association/Birks Family Foundation Award for Biography, which recognizes “excellence in the writing of Canadian biography.” It was re-issued in a paperback edition in October 2006 by Douglas & McIntyre to honour the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, which Porter witnessed firsthand as a young girl. Her new non-fiction work, Kasztner’s Train, was published by Douglas & McIntyre in 2007 – it has won the Nereus Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize, the Jewish Book Award for History and was shortlisted for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.
Anna Porter left Key Porter Books in 2005. She is currently a member of several professional associations and boards, including the Board of Directors of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Advisory Board of Schulich School of Business, the Empire Company Ltd., the Shaw Festival, the Soulpepper Theatre Company Advisory Council, the Interval House Capital Campaign Committee, World Wildlife Fund Canada, PEN Canada, and the York University Board of Governors.
Anna Porter lives in Toronto.
KASZTNER’S TRAIN: The True Story of Rezsö Kasztner, Unknown Hero of the Holocaust
is published by Douglas & McIntyre.
- Hardcover • 978-1-55365-222-9 • 504 pages • $37.95 •
- Paperback • 978-1-55365-403-2 • 520 pages • $24.95 •
Photo by Yanka Van der Kolk