BrainGain: 50 Who Chose Canada

Immigrants and Canadians who left and returned have made a major contribution to the nation’s growth

Maclean’s, July 1, 2001

Anna Porter
(1944? – )

Anna Porter

The beautiful and brainy Anna Szigethy Porter is also a woman of some mystery. Her memoir, The Storyteller: Memory, Secrets, Magic and Lies, with its title warning readers not to believe everything in it, recounts her early life in communist Hungary, but obscures her birth date. Porter’s upbringing, however, was clearly filled with drama: she learned to fire a rifle during the 1956 Hungarian revolution, had a young Russian soldier die in her lap on the street and later fled to Austria. She and her mother then moved to New Zealand where she eventually earned an MA in American literature. Restless, she followed publishing leads, exploring options in Peru, New York City and London. But it was Toronto that caught her eye. “I fell in love with the people,” she says. Porter eventually landed a job with publisher McClelland & Stewart, quickly becoming Jack McClelland’s top associate and adding a dash of youthful glamour to the hitherto stodgy business. In 1982 she started her own publishing house, Key Porter Books, now a leader in a fragile industry. A steadfast promoter of Canadian titles on the international literary scene, Porter is devoted to her adopted land’s culture. And why not? “with a whole world to choose from,” she says, “I ended up in Canada.”