Influential publisher John Calder, who was in favor of avant-garde authors and fought against censorship, has died, a colleague said Wednesday. He was 91.
Alessandro Gallenzi of Alma Books said that Mr. Calder died on August 13 at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh after several weeks of declining health.
Born in Montreal in 1927 to a Canadian mother and a Scottish father, Mr. Calder, worked in the family wood business before he founded London-based Calder publications in 1949. It has published European writers, including Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy and Emile Zola, as well as modern authors – especially Samuel Beckett, whom Mr Calder regarded as "the greatest writer of the twentieth century."
Mr. Calder published a lot of Mr. Beckett's non-theatrical work – novels, poems and essays – and wrote several books about the Nobel Prize-winning Irish writer. The couple remained good friends until the death of Mr. Beckett in 1989.
Mr. Calder helped British readers become acquainted with continental writers, including Eugene Ionesco, Marguerite Duras and Alain Robbe-Grillet, and also defended edgy Americans, who published Henry Millers Tropic of Cancer and William S. Burroughs ] The Naked Lunch .
In 1966 he was convicted of obscenity for publishing the grainy novel by Hubert Selby Last Exit to Brooklyn . The conviction was revoked on appeal in a milestone of freedom of expression. Calder also walked to Parliament without success, campaigned against nuclear weapons, organized a music and opera festival in his Scottish mansion and ran Calder Books, an idiosyncratic London bookstore.
Calder Publications was sold to Alma Books after his retirement. Calder published 1500 books, including works by 18 Nobel Prize winners.
Mr. Gallenzi said that Mr. Calder "a towering figure was in the fight against censorship and the spread of international literature and culture in the UK"
"His influence – as a publisher , as an author, as an intellectual and as a beacon for an entire generation of readers and writers – can not be underestimated, "said Mr Gallenzi.
Mr. Calder is survived by his third wife, Sheila Colvin, and by two daughters from previous marriages.