Home EntertainmentArts-Books South Africa: Jonathan Ball (1951-2021) – a Disruptor Who Transformed South Africa’s Publishing Industry

South Africa: Jonathan Ball (1951-2021) – a Disruptor Who Transformed South Africa’s Publishing Industry

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A man of irrepressible life force and shrewd business acumen, Jonathan Ball disrupted book publishing in South Africa, changing the country’s cultural landscape.

Jonathan Ball, the larger-than-life personality who ushered in a new era of publishing in South Africa under the imprint that bears his name, has died in Cape Town. He was 69.

Born in Johannesburg to John Arthur and Margaret Florence Ball on 22 May 1951, the sixth of their seven children, he was raised in the Catholic tradition, attended Highlands North High School for Boys, and completed his military service in the South African Air Force at Swartkops.

After leaving the service, Ball began his storied career with a position at Collier-Macmillan, where he worked with the legendary publisher Ad Donker, who exerted a significant influence on his professional trajectory (and whose own eponymous publishing house Ball would one day acquire, in one of history’s neat closing of loops). He then moved under the wing of David Mitchell as Macmillan’s sales director and spent four years earning his spurs in the books business across southern Africa.

In his 2015 retirement speech, Ball, given to winking humour that belied his success, mentioned Mitchell. “The only courses I ever…

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