Tributes have been paid to “giant of world literature” Roberto Calasso, after the author and Adelphi Edizioni publisher died in Milan, aged 80.
Adelphi Edizioni announced Calasso's death following a long illness on 29th July. He had led the Italian publishing house for 50 years after joining when it was founded in 1962. The company was praised as a beacon in the European publishing landscape, shaping the influence of Italian culture abroad. In 2015, he bought it out to prevent it being sold to the Mondadori group.
He was also a hugely acclaimed author himself and had written a series of “masterworks” mapping the emergence of mind from myth to modernity. It began with 1983's The Ruin of Kasch and included 1988's international bestseller Cadmus and Harmony, both published by Penguin. On 4th November, Allen Lane will publish The Book of All Books, the 10th title in the series.
Josephine Greywoode, publishing director at Penguin Press, said: “I am deeply saddened to hear of Roberto’s passing. He was a remarkable inspiration in the breadth of his reading, the depth of his learning and his singularity of vision—for the works he published as well as his own. It is an honour to publish his unparalleled body of work.”
Writer Tim Parks, a translator of Calasso’s works, commented: “Few artists have the genius and fortune to invent and for many years occupy an entirely new space. This was Roberto Calasso’s achievement both as a writer and publisher. At once absolutely contemporary, yet alien to any fad or fashion, he profoundly influenced and enriched the cultural scene both in Italy and around the world.”
Author and critic Geoff Dyer called him “a giant of world literature”. He added: "With books such as The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony and Ka he did not just extend the boundaries of the possible in terms of form—he did away with them.”
Scientist Carlo Rovelli, who is published by Adelphi, said: “Roberto Calasso changed my life. He was courageous, independent, intelligent and endlessly curious about questions to which there is no answer; he made space for new thoughts to spread and grow. The admiration for what Roberto Calasso has done for culture, in the richest sense of this term, travels far beyond borders.”