Filler by Proxy LI: Embers

Tuesday 12 June 2007

Last week I went exploring around Waterloo for the first time and stumbled across John Calder’s bookshop in The Cut. I had no idea that this transplanted piece of literary history still existed at all, let alone as a vital and interesting store (unlike the pickled ruin of Shakespeare & Co. in Paris).
Since the 1950s Calder has been the publisher of Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs, Wyndham Lewis, Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and so on and so forth. Sadly, he will no longer be publishing Beckett: the writer’s estate has decided that Faber and Faber, who have until now published only the plays, will now handle all of Beckett’s work.
Calder has written a valedictory tribute to Beckett, the writer and man:

He was 47, unknown except to a few close friends and singularly unsuccessful, when he had his first success with Godot in 1953 Рanother of the lucky flukes that characterised his life and career. He had survived the war and the clutches of the Gestapo hiding in the Vaucluse mountains, along with many other misadventures. He had also endured misunderstanding of his work that very few academics, mainly Joyceans Рand even fewer reviewers Рwere able to overcome…. He was a simple, totally honest, highly perceptive and overly generous human being who saw and described the reality of human existence as the tragedy it is.

He also explains how the initial division of publishing labour between his company and Faber came about (hint: it involves a fear of the police).

The comments attached to the article are worth a look too, as they include a link to an interview with Marion Boyars, Calder’s sometime publishing partner, and this observation from reader fmk:

I guess we’ve got a few years ahead of us in which Faber’ll be telling us of all the errors in previous editions and how their new editions are totally definitive, tpyo-free* and as the author intended them to be.

* [sic]