I was sad to hear of the death of the eminent publisher, socialite and humanist Lord Weidenfeld, on Wednesday, after a brief illness. I was fortunate enough to have spent 6 months as an intern at his Institute for Strategic Dialogue a number of years ago. The concerns of the Institute at the time were indicative of his extraordinary and eclectic range of interests, ranging from European integration and counter-terrorism to defending the humanities in universities, and advocating on behalf of Muslim women.
Others far better informed have written movingly on his long and complicated life, encompassing his flight from Austria in 1938, months before the Anschluss, the foundation of Weidenfeld and Nicholson in 1949, the publication of Lolita, The Double Helix, The Hedgehog and the Fox (and many, many others), all the way up to his recent efforts, initiated at the age of 95, to fund the escape of Syrian refugees.
In my time working for him, he was, while well into his 90’s, regularly in the office, creating new initiatives and new projects, alternately inspiring and schmoozing the people he needed to make them happen.
Without knowing, him I can only say that his multitude of interests gave a clear sense of all emanating from essentially the same place – a deep and abiding enjoyment of people, of their potential, and of their potential to create beautiful things.
It seems there are a few better examples of a successful, restless life, achieved by a pursuit of passion. Certainly that’s the lesson I’ll try to take from having met him.