The Garden of Eros
By John Calder
The Garden of Eros brings to life some of last century’s leading cultural figures, who shaped our modern thinking and defined the tastes of an entire generation, changing for ever the way we look at literature and the world around us. Drawing from the accounts of two fellow publishers – Maurice Girodias and Barney Rosset, who were also active in the heady days of 1950s and 1960s Paris, London and New York – and from his own personal recollections, John Calder talks about the challenges of being a publisher in that era of censorship and political persecution and the problems faced by such writers as Beckett, Burroughs, Trocchi and Miller to have their work accepted and recognized.
Told in John Calder’s trademark raconteur style and peppered with salacious, revealing and entertaining anecdotes, The Garden of Eros will appeal both to the general reader and anyone who is interested in the social and cultural history of the twentieth century.
A wonderfully evocative memoir filled with anecdotes and a rich cast of expats of the postwar Paris literary scene
It is Calder’s endearingly inexhaustible appetite for experimental writing, and its concomitant internationalism, which have so distinguished his contribution to world literature. Had it not been for his inroads, in league with the overall body of the cosmopolitan avant-garde, so enlarging the UK’s narrow literary scope and low aims, the xenophobic likes (and many dislikes) of Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis and their ilk might have left the UK in intellectually repressed isolation from most of the English-speaking planet.
It is always a pleasure to read the reminiscences of my old amigo, John Calder, publisher, opera buff and man about town.
It is humbling to read about a period when publishers actually did have convictions and moral bravery, and were willing to risk both jail and bankruptcy to counter a reactionary and conservative establishment. The freedoms we currently have were won for us by individuals such as Calder, who more than any other publisher of the period attempted to effect a rapprochement between a moderately stuffy British literature and continental and American avant-gardes.
John Calder is Britain’s most distinguished living publisher, and at the age of 86 he’s still at it. He first set up in business in 1949 and went on to publish 18 Nobel Prize winners, as well as classics and works on music. Why doesn’t he received a knighthood? Perhaps because his distinction lies chiefly in his role as champion of the avant garde … It was an audacious era, superbly recaptured in Calder’s book.
Since 1949, John Calder has published eighteen Nobel Prize winners and around fifteen hundred books. He has put into print many of the major French and European writers, almost single-handedly introducing modern literature into the English language. His commitment to literary excellence has influenced two generations of authors, readers, booksellers and publishers. He is the author of several plays, a memoir and various non-fiction titles.