Gifted editor and publisher to receive University of Canterbury honorary doctorate
The English editor and publisher who discovered some of the greatest writers of our times, including Salman Rushdie, Julian Barnes and Anita Brookner, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) by the University of Canterbury (UC) at the University’s Arts and Science graduation ceremony on 18 April.
Elisabeth Calder CBE emigrated with her family from England to New Zealand in 1949 and returned after graduating with a BA in English literature from UC in 1958.
Her gift for identifying outstanding writers saw her rise through the publishing world, and become a founding director of literary giant Bloomsbury Publishing.
University of Canterbury Chancellor Sue McCormack says the UC Council was delighted to recognise Calder’s immense contribution.
“Liz has been so influential in the publishing world that it is almost impossible not to have read an author she discovered and nurtured during her career. Books like The Handmaid’s Tale, The English Patient and Midnight’s Children have inspired, delighted and challenged generations of readers.”
Calder began her publishing career auspiciously in 1971 at Victor Gollancz, publishing Salman Rushdie’s first novel Grimus, John Irving’s The World According to Garp and Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve.
Moving to Jonathan Cape in 1979, she published Julian Barnes’ first four novels, including Flaubert’s Parrot, and her first two Booker Prize winners, Salman Rushdie's Midnight’s Children and Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner.
Co-founding Bloomsbury Publishing in 1986, more Booker prize-winning authors followed with Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje as well as Nobel literature laureate Nadine Gordimer listed among the company’s writers.
Although she has a nose for bestsellers, publishing such runaway successes as David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars (1994), she also fostered less commercial writers, such as poet, novelist Jeanette Winterson and art critic, novelist, poet John Berger.
Accolades followed; Calder was named Editor of the Year at the British Book Awards in 1997, received an Order of Merit for Services to culture in Brazil in 2004 and was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2018. During her busy career, she also co-founded Women in Publishing (1979), and served as Chair of the Royal Court Theatre in London. She was a founder of the Groucho Club and the Orange Prize for Fiction and in 2010 was a judge on the Orange Prize. This year she is a judge for the 2019 Booker Prize for fiction.
A love of Brazil bloomed in the 1960s and never abated, finding expression in 2003 in the Parati International Literary Festival (Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty, FLIP) in Brazil, of which she is still President.
Calder will attend UC’s graduation ceremony for the Colleges of Arts and Science on 18 April to receive her honour in person and address the graduands.
-University of Canterbury