Alumni Book Nook: Dr. Robert Calder (BA’63, MA’65)

Somerset Maugham and the Cinema is the latest book written by Calder, a recipient of the USask Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Robert Calder (BA’63, MA’65) is the author of Somerset Maugham and the Cinema, published by the University of Wisconsin Press and released in February 2024.

Here, Calder—a Saskatchewan-based author, longtime University of Saskatchewan (USask) English professor, and a 2022 recipient of the USask Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award—answers questions about his new work of non-fiction.

What is the focus of your new book?

It describes and analyzes the film adaptations of the works of the English author W. Somerset Maugham. Maugham was one of the most-adapted 20th-century authors, and the book describes the production histories, censorship, and the problems of translating literature into film.

What inspired you to write this book?

I have spent my academic career—45 1/2 years at (USask)—studying and writing about Maugham and have become recognized as the world authority on Maugham. I have always been fascinated by the many movie versions of his novels, short stories, and plays, and it seemed appropriate to do a book about them.

Did your education at USask play a role in researching and/or writing this book? If so, how?

It was at (USask) that I learned how to do independent research and to push the envelope of what can be out in print, and this has stayed with me through my career.

What are five adjectives that you would use to describe your book?

Thorough, well-researched, thought-provoking, informative, provocative.

Why would you recommend your book to USask alumni?

Everybody likes to see movie versions of their favourite books and plays, and this book explores the problems of adapting the works of one of the most popular authors to the screen.

What other books have you written?

  • W. Somerset Maugham and the Quest For Freedom (1972)
  • Rider Pride: The Story of Canada's Best-Loved Football Team (with Garry Andrews) (1984)
  • Willie: The Life of W. Somerset Maugham (1989)
  • A Richer Dust: Family, Memory and the Second World War (2004)
  • Beware the British Serpent: The Role of Writers in British Propaganda in the United States, 1939-1945 (2004)
  • A Hero For the Americas: Gonzalo Guerrero Among the Maya (2017)

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I am particularly pleased that my books have given me an international reputation while spending my life living and working in Saskatoon. I have been publishing books for 52 years, something no other Saskatchewan writer—and few in Canada—has done.