Meet some of the world’s most fascinating writers and their works. A weekly celebration of literary anniversaries.
BORN THIS WEEK:
J.R.R. Tolkien, Writer.
“That story was the only thing I have ever done which cost me absolutely no pains at all. Usually I compose only with great difficulty and endless rewriting. I woke up one day (more than 2 years ago) with that odd thing virtually complete in my head. It took only a few hours to get down, and then copy out.”
Max Forrester Eastman, Writer.
“An editor of The Masses, a magazine forced to close due to charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 for its frequent explicit denunciations of U.S. participation in World War Ist.”
Gao Xingjian, Writer.
“The creature known as man is of course highly intelligent, he‘s capable of manufacturing almost anything from rumours to test-tube babies and yet he destroys two to three species every day .this is the absurdity of man.”
Umberto Eco, Writer.
“To read fiction means to play a game by which we give sense to the immensity of things that happened, are happening, or will happen in the actual world. By reading narrative, we escape the anxiety that attacks us when we try to say something true about the world. This is the consoling function of narrative — the reason people tell stories, and have told stories from the beginning of time.”
Roland Topor, Writer.
Author of stories of alienation and seeking identity, his best known work is The Tenant.
Wilkie Collins, Writer.
“Men ruin themselves headlong for unworthy women.”
Manuel Rojas, Writer.
His works center around the representation of the instability, misery and marginality of the members of the working class.
Leonardo Sciascia, Writer.
Author of political suspense novels involving the Mafia.
Karel Capek, Writer, coinded the word Robot.
“Much melancholy has devolved upon mankind, and it is detestable to me that might will triumph in the end … Art must not serve might.”
Simone de Beauvoir, Writer, Philosopher.
“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.”
DIED THIS WEEK:
Jaroslav Hasek, Writer.
Author of the fascinating adventures of the good soldier Svejk: “And so they’ve killed our Ferdinand,’ said the charwoman to Mr Švejk, who had left military service years before, after having been finally certified by an army medical board as an imbecile, and now lived by selling dogs — ugly, mongrel monstrosities whose pedigrees he forged.”
Benito Perez Galdos, Writer.
Often equated with Cervantes. “Pérez Galdós’s masterpiece is Fortunata y Jacinta (1886–1887). Almost as long as War and Peace, it concerns the fortunes of four characters: a young man-about-town, his wife, his lower-class mistress, and her husband.”
Albert Camus, Writer, Philosopher.
“When a war breaks out, people say: “It’s too stupid; it can’t last long.” But though the war may well be “too stupid,” that doesn’t prevent its lasting. Stupidity has a knack of getting its way; as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves.”
T.S. Eliot, Poet.
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”
Carlo Levi, Writer, Activist.
“Best known for his book Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (Christ Stopped at Eboli), published in 1945, a memoir of his time spent in exile in Lucania, Italy, after being arrested in connection with his political activism.”
Fanny Burney, Writer.
“I cannot be much pleased without an appearance of truth; at least of possibility — I wish the history to be natural though the sentiments are refined; and the characters to be probable, though their behaviour is excelling.”
A.J. Cronin, Writer.
Noted for his compelling narrative skill and his powers of acute observation and graphic description. Although noted for its deep social conscience, his work is filled with colourful characters and witty dialogue. Some of his stories draw on his medical career, dramatically mixing realism, romance, and social criticism. Cronin’s works examine moral conflicts between the individual and society as his idealistic heroes pursue justice for the common man.
Juan Rulfo, Writer.
Named the most important Spanish-language writer, along with Jorge Louis Borges. Gabriel García Márquez has said that he felt blocked as a novelist after writing his first four books, and that it was only his life-changing discovery of Juan Rulfo’s ‘Pedro Páramo’ in 1961 that opened his way to the composition of his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Katherine Mansfield, Writer.
“Would you not like to try all sorts of lives — one is so very small — but that is the satisfaction of writing — one can impersonate so many people.”
Hans Aanrud, Writer.
Author of excellent short stories. One of the most successful tales by Aanrud is his depiction of Sidsel Sidsærk (1903), a young Norwegian shepherdess who receives her epithet long skirt because of her much too long skirt, a Christmas present of her brother. The tale of the young shepherd Sölve Solfeng (1910), who lives in a valley in Norway, was also widespread. The content of both stories concerns the difficult conditions of the work of the country children who had to eke out a poor existence far away from their parents. In spite of this account of their hard lot an optimistic kind of portrayal is predominant.