September 20, 2018

John Calder, British Publisher Who Fought Censorship, Dies at 91

“It is very disappointing,” Mr. Calder said after the verdict. “It certainly will be greeted with dismay in all publishing circles and by its writers.”

To argue the appeal, Mr. Calder hired John Mortimer, the barrister and writer who created Horace Rumpole, a popular lawyer character in novels and TV shows. Mr. Mortimer, he believed, would know how to argue the literary merit of Mr. Selby’s book.

Mr. Mortimer prevailed, and the court lifted the obscenity ruling.

John Mackenzie Calder was born on Jan. 25, 1927, in Montreal. His father, James, was part of a Scottish family with timber, brewing and liquor businesses, and his mother, Lucienne (Wilson) Calder, was raised by a French Canadian family with banking and distillery wealth.

Living largely in England until being evacuated to Canada during World War II, the shy young Mr. Calder read voraciously.

“I don’t know where he got it — certainly not from our parents,” his sister, Elizabeth Calder Laptev, told The Guardian in a profile of her older brother in 2002. “It must have been some kind of genetic aberration. He was always inventive and he would write little plays and he would get us to act in them. And everybody had to go with his direction.”

After graduating from the University of Zurich, where he studied economics, he worked at a family timber yard but eventually moved into publishing full time in the early 1950s. At first, he put out opera annuals and a British film magazine. He gradually found his métier with publishing books critical of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, the anti-Communist Republican from Wisconsin, and “The Question” (1958), the journalist Henri Alleg’s indictment of torture employed by French troops during the Algerian War.

He followed that quickly with “The Gangrene,” a slim book containing several accounts of torture by the French in Algeria that Mr. Calder augmented in his edition with reports of torture by British officials in Kenya. He said the British government threatened to try him for treason if he published the book.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/19/obituaries/john-calder-british-publisher-who-fought-censorship-dies-at-91.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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