John Calder, "a publisher like few others in Britain today" who, over the course of 50 years, "made and lost fortunes, supported some firebrand authors and championed such greats as Beckett, Miller and Burroughs with total commitment and enthusiasm," died August 13, the Bookseller reported. He was 91.
In 1949, he founded Calder Publications (now part of Alma Books), which published Chekhov, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky as well poetry, novels, criticism and plays of Beckett. Alma Books' founder Alessandro Gallenzi told the Bookseller that Calder was "a passionate publisher and a fiercely independent man.... He was at the forefront of postwar publishing and a towering figure in the fight against censorship and the dissemination of international literature and culture in the U.K. His influence--as a publisher, as an author, as an intellectual and as a beacon for an entire generation of readers and writers--cannot be underestimated."
Former Publishers Association CEO Clive Bradley, who knew Calder for almost 40 years, described him as "pretty controversial, but loved by most of his authors.... He was a complicated man who is pretty difficulty to encapsulate--a typical 'small' publisher at the high end of publishing, facing all the problems that 'small publishers' face, especially at that end of the business."
Calder also ran a bookshop at his office in London called the Calder Bookshop & Theatre, "which hosted Thursday evening sessions there in an informal theatre including readings, political debates and performances with actors and politicians," the Bookseller reported. His autobiography, The Uncensored Memoirs of John Calder, was released in 2001.
Bill Swainson, a freelance editor and literary consultant who knew Calder, described him as a "brave, pugnacious, committed publisher, who made it his life's mission to find new voices and publish them in post-war Britain. Among the many great writers he championed were Samuel Beckett, Heinrich Böll, Wolfgang Borchert, William Burroughs, Marguerite Duras, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Sadegh Hedayat, Aidan Higgins, Henry Miller, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Nathalie Sarraute, Hubert Selby, Jr, and Claude Simon.... In short, John Calder was the right publisher at the right time who introduced international post-war literature, music and theatre to a country not always sure it wanted to make those discoveries, but when you look at his list 50 to 60 years later you realize just how far ahead of his time he was."