A week of literary celebration: LitBash 7

Meet some of the world’s most fascinating writers and their works. A weekly celebration of literary anniversaries, an opportunity to read a book! Read and perhaps you'll discover a fascinating world, as Italo Calvino said: "Reading is going toward something that is about to be, and no one yet knows what it will be."

Born this week:

Norman Mailer, USA
"With the pride of an artist, you must blow against the walls of every power that exists, the small trumpet of your defiance."

Oe Kenzaburo, Japan
"The fundamental style of my writing has been to start from my personal matters and then to link it up with society, the state and the world."

James Joyce, Ireland
"The demand that I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole Life to reading my works."

Ayn Rand, Russia / USA
"There is a stage of worship which makes the worshipper himself an object of reverence."

Gertrude Stein, USA
"We are always the same age inside."

James Michener, USA
"The really great writers are people like Emily Brontë who sit in a room and write out of their limited experience and unlimited imagination."

Simone Weil, France
"Rights are always asserted in a tone of contention; and when this tone is adopted, it must rely upon force in the background, or else it will be laughed at."

Ugo Betti, Italy
"Memories are like stones, time and distance erode them like acid."

William Burroughs, USA
"Cut word lines — Cut music lines — Smash the control images — Smash the control machine — Burn the books — Kill the priests — Kill! Kill! Kill!"

Lothar-Gunther Buchheim, Germany
Author of Das Boot.

Died this week:

John Galsworthy, Great Britain
"The world's a fine place for those who go out to take it; there's lots of unknown stuff' in it yet."

Jean Giraudoux, France
"To win a woman in the first place one must please her, then undress her, and then somehow get her clothes back on her. Finally, so she will allow you to leave her, you've got to annoy her."

A.A. Milne, Great Britain
"It is hard to be brave," said Piglet, sniffing slightly, "when you're only a Very Small Animal."

Mary Shelley, Great Britain
"Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos"

Alistair Maclean, Scotland
Author of popular thrillers.

Bohumil Hrabal, Czech
"No book worth its salt is meant to put you to sleep, its meant to make you jump out of your bed in your underwear and run and beat the author's brains out."

Carlo Goldoni, Italy
"Each day a day goes by."


Universal Silence of the Leaders of Thought


I met my neighbor in a dog park. We got to talking about the wars, the universal silence that surrounds them, about the Nobel Peace prize recipient - turned bloodiest war criminal, and we wondered about the anti-war movement, about voices that are supposed to speak against the crimes committed in the name of the people. What ever happened to them? My neighbor pointed out to writers and actors who go on joyful tours of military camps, doing stand up comedy, spreading comic books… This brought us to recall certain similarities and differences from the times past. We recalled the likes of Rudyard Kipling, and ardent war supporter, who turned against it after the death of his son, to Jack London who did not see the future of the war for the shear escalation of its costs, and to Romain Rolland who, a lonely voice, so tirelessly crusaded against both world wars. It was Rolland whom we discussed for over an hour while our pooches frolicked in the snow, in oblivion. Rolland did not mince words, and his words remain fresh to this day. He named those complicit in waging wars and who were responsible for war crimes: the ruling elites, the media, the intellectuals, the Church leaders…

"What brings it home to us most nearly is that not one of those who constitute the moral and intellectual elite — not one really suspects the crimes of his Government; I know that many of them would weep with grief and shame; the worst and the vilest is to have concealed its crimes from its people. For by depriving them of the means of protesting against those crimes, it has involved them for ever in the responsibility; it has abused their magnificent devotion. The intellectuals, however, are also guilty. For if one admits that the brave men, who in every country tamely feed upon the news which their papers and their leaders give them for nourishment, allow themselves to be duped, one cannot pardon those whose duty it is to seek truth in the midst of error, and to know the value of interested witnesses and passionate hallucinations. Before bursting into the midst of this furious debate upon which was staked the destruction of nations and of the treasures of the spirit, their first duty (a duty of loyalty as much as of common sense) should have been to consider the problems from both sides. By blind loyalty and culpable trustfulness they have rushed head foremost into the net which their Imperialism had spread. They believed that their first duty was, with their eyes closed, to defend the honor of their State against all accusation. They did not see that the noblest means of defending it was to disavow its faults and to cleanse their country of them. […]

Is our civilization so solid that you do not fear to shake the pillars on which it rests? Can you not see that all falls in upon you if one column be shattered? Could you not have learned if not to love one another, at least to tolerate the great virtues and the great vices of each other? Was it not your duty to attempt—you have never attempted it in sincerity—to settle amicably the questions which divided you, the problem of peoples annexed against their will, the equitable division of productive labor and the riches of the world? Must the stronger forever darken the others with the shadow of his pride, and the others forever unite to dissipate it? Is there no end to this bloody and puerile sport, in which the partners change about from century to century—no end, until the whole of humanity is exhausted thereby?

The rulers who are the criminal authors of these wars dare not accept the responsibility for them. Each one by underhand means seeks to lay the blame at the door of his adversary. The peoples who obey them submissively resign themselves with the thought that a power higher than mankind has ordered it thus. Again the venerable refrain is heard: "The fatality of war is stronger than our wills." The old refrain of the herd that makes a god of its feebleness and bows down before him. Man has invented fate, that he may make it responsible for the disorders of the universe, those disorders which it was his duty to regulate. There is no fatality! The only fatality is what we desire; and more often, too, what we do not desire enough. Let each now repeat his mea culpa. The leaders of thought, the Church, the Labor Parties did not desire war ...  That may be.... What then did they do to prevent it? What are they doing to put an end to it? They are stirring up the bonfire, each one bringing his faggot.

The most striking feature in this monstrous epic, the fact without precedent, is the unanimity for war in each of the nations engaged. An epidemic of homicidal fury, has spread like a wave and overflowed the whole world. None has resisted it; no high thought has succeeded in keeping out of the reach of this scourge. A sort of demoniacal irony broods over this conflict of the nations… it is not racial passion alone which is hurling millions of men blindly one against another, so that not even neutral countries remain free of the dangerous thrill, but all the forces of the spirit, of reason, of faith, of poetry, and of science, all have placed themselves at the disposal of the armies in every state. There is not one amongst the leaders of thought in each country who does not proclaim with conviction that the cause of his people is the cause of God, the cause of liberty and of human progress…"

Read the complete text of Above the Battle, by Romain Rolland.


Death of a Publisher

Had a chat with my cousin who only just found out that my publisher went bankrupt and closed its doors last year. The cousin is concerned about the future of my unpublished novels. She need not be. Death of a publisher is not nearly as lethal as that of a bookseller (though these days even the lack of a bookseller does not mean the end of a book and reading).

We are living in different times from those when my first novel was published. Writers and readers have access to channels and technologies that did not exist only few years ago. An e-book reading device, and an espresso book machine take the place of a traditional publisher. Death of a publisher does not spell the end of a book and reading. The two core pillars are still there: authors and readers. As long as there are writers who write books, and readers who want to read them, books will be with us. Publishers, on the other hand, will be buried, just as George Bernard Shaw wished:
"I object to publishers: the one service they have done me is to teach me to do without them. They combine commercial rascality with artistic touchiness and pettishness, without being either good business men or fine judges of literature. All that is necessary in the production of a book is an author and a bookseller, without the intermediate parasite." George Bernard Shaw


A week of literary celebration: LitBash 6

Meet some of the world’s most fascinating writers and their works. A weekly celebration of literary anniversaries, an opportunity to read a book! Read and perhaps you will discover, as did William Shakespeare, that "Knowing I lov'd my books, he furnish'd me / From mine own library with volumes that / I prize above my dukedom."

Born this week:

Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, France
A watchmaker, inventor, musician, diplomat, fugitive, spy, publisher, arms dealer, revolutionary, and author. "If censorship reigns, there cannot be sincere flattery, and only small men are afraid of small writings."

Edith Wharton, USA
"No insect hangs its nest on threads as frail as those which will sustain the weight of human vanity."

Emil Ludwig, Germany
Best known as a biography writer, and for saving Goethe and Schiller's graves.

Virginia Woolf, Great Britain
"But can we go to posterity with a sheaf of loose pages, or ask the readers of those days, with the whole of literature before them, to sift our enormous rubbish heaps for our tiny pearls? Such are the questions which the critics might lawfully put to their companions at table, the novelists and poets."

Ilya Ehrenburg, Russia
"Knowledge has outstripped character development, and the young today are given an education rather than an upbringing."

Philip Jose Farmer, USA
"Everybody should fear only one person, and that person should be himself."

Lewis Carroll, Great Britain
"I suppose every child has a world of his own — and every man, too, for the matter of that. I wonder if that's the cause for all the misunderstanding there is in Life?"

Leopold Sacher Masoch, Austria
Gained renown for his romantic stories of Galician life. The term masochism is derived from his name.

Jose Marti, Cuba
"A knowledge of different literatures is the best way to free one's self from the tyranny of any of them."

Sidonie Colette, France
"The writer who loses his self-doubt, who gives way as he grows old to a sudden euphoria, to prolixity, should stop writing immediately: the time has come for him to lay aside his pen."

Valentin Katayev, Russia
"Returning home one day, a long time ago, I found an envelope with foreign stamps on it in my letter-box. Inside there was an invitation from the Pen Club, an international literary association, to attend its next conference, in Vienna. I was a young writer then, and I was greatly flattered. I told everyone I met about the remarkable honour that had been accorded me. When I ran into Vladimir Mayakovsky in one of the editorial offices I showed him the letter from abroad. He calmly produced an elegant envelope exactly like mine from the pocket of his jacket. "Look," he said. "They invited me too, but I'm not boasting about it. Because they did not invite me, of course, as Mayakovsky, but as a representative of Soviet literature. The same applies to you. Understand? Reflect, Kataich (as he called me when he was in a good mood), on what it means to be a writer in the Land of Soviets." Mayakovsky's words made a lasting impression on me. I realized that I owed my success as a creative writer to the Soviet people, who had reared me. I realized that being a Soviet writer means marching in step with the people, that it means being always on the crest of the revolutionary wave."

Thomas Paine, Great Britain
"Society is produced by our wants, and government by wickedness"

Anton Chekhov, Russia
"If only one tooth aches, rejoice that not all of them ache.... If your wife betrays you, be glad that she betrayed only you and not the nation."

Romain Rolland, France
"No one ever reads a book. He reads himself through books, either to discover or to control himself."

Vicente Blasco Ibanez, Spain
Author of the excellent The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Died this week:

Gerard de Nerval, France
"Our dreams are a second life. I have never been able to penetrate without a shudder those ivory or horned gates which separate us from the invisible world. "

Charles Nodier, France
Author of gothic literature, vampire tales, explored the importance of dreams as part of literary creation/

Giovanni Verga, Italy
Author of Cavalleria Rusticana, later turned into an opera.

Isaak Babel, Russia
"If the world could write by itself, it would write like Tolstoy."

John Updike, USA
"Suspect each moment, for it is a thief, tiptoeing away with more than it brings."

Vicente Blasco Ibanez, Spain
See above.

Dino Buzzati Traverso, Italy
"It seems to me, fantasy should be as close as possible to journalism. The right word is not "banalizing", although in fact a little of this is involved. Rather, I mean that the effectiveness of a fantastic story will depend on its being told in the most simple and practical terms."

Astrid Lindgren, Sweden
"There is very little you can beat into a child, but no limit to what you can hug out of it"

J. D. Salinger, USA
"There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. ... It's peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I live to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure. ... I don't necessarily intend to publish posthumously, but I do like to write for myself. ... I pay for this kind of attitude. I'm known as a strange, aloof kind of man. But all I'm doing is trying to protect myself and my work."

Edouard Rod, Switzerland
Anton Czekhov: "You once praised Rod, a French writer, and told me Tolstoy liked him. The other day I happened to read a novel of his and flung up my hands in amazement. He is equivalent to our Matchtet, only a little more intelligent. There is a terrible deal of affectation, dreariness, straining after originality, and as little of anything artistic as there was salt in that porridge we cooked in the evening at Bogimovo. In the preface this Rod regrets that he was in the past a “naturalist,” and rejoices that the spiritualism of the latest recruits of literature has replaced materialism. Boyish boastfulness which is at the same time coarse and clumsy.... “If we are not as talented as you, Monsieur Zola, to make up for it we believe in God.”"

Pierre Boulle, France
Author of The Planet of the Apes, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. "Ape's brain ... has developed, is complex and organized, whereas man's has hardly undergone any transformation."


LitNews you may have missed (2)

Some news from the literary world that you may have missed in the past weeks:

A book club is making the difference for patients and doctors alike: "Neelon, now medical director for the Rice Diet Program, felt the literature discussions had been beneficial to his medical work. ... "A patient comes to see you, and they are going to tell you a story," he explained. ... "The doctor must understand it as a narrative. Reading literature, discussing poetry, hones your skills, makes you see the narrative thread. It deepens your understanding."

Now that you've turned your CD collection in to MP3 files, you can go ahead and easily turn you "traditional" books into ebooks: "Called the Book Saver, it's a large frame into which you place an open book. Tap the Scan button and the spread is digitised and dropped onto an SD card, ready to be transferred to your computer. Each page is saved separately, thanks to the unit's two flash-equipped cameras."

"Why are some women writers reluctant to acknowledge that they are women writers?" "In the 70s and 80s, many women found the female in literature inspiring but then Nathalie Sarraute snarled in an interview: "When I write I am neither man nor woman nor dog nor cat." To her, the notion of female or male writing – écriture féminine ou masculine – was totally void of meaning. Moi finds that since then the discussion has gone nowhere. "To make women second rate citizens of the world of literature is to say that the female experience of the world carries less value than the male."

"But the lack of interest in the written word, Diaz added, was only one aspect that posed a problem to a writer in the USA. Changing belief systems about the pursuit of humanities, he added, was the other bigger challenge that writers like him faced. "There's an entire belief in the USA about the utter uselessness of art in the material world. That's what keeps me going. My attempt is to convert at least a few persons in that space,'' he added. "

That's why I pick books printed using German Gothic: "A study by Princeton University found that a significant number of those tested could recall more information when it was presented in unusual typefaces rarely used in textbooks.
The research suggests that introducing 'disfluency' - by making information superficially harder to understand - deepens the process of learning and encourages better retention.
The psychologists said information which has to be actively generated rather than 'passively acquired' from simple text is remembered longer and more accurately.
'When we see a font that is easy to read we're able to process that in a mindless way, but when we see an unfamiliar font, one full of weird squiggles, we have to work a little bit harder.
'That extra effort is a signal to the brain that this might be something worth remembering.'"


A week of literary celebration: LitBash 5

best books of all time
Meet some of the world’s most fascinating writers and their works. A weekly celebration of literary anniversaries, an opportunity to read a book! Read and, perhaps you will discover, as did William Somerset Maugham that "When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for me, and it becomes part of me."

Born this week:

Jack King, Writer
Author of suspense drawing on social and political issues.

Pedro Calderon de la Barca, Writer
"What surprises you, if a dream taught me this wisdom, and if I still fear I may wake up and find myself once more confined in prison? And even if this should not happen, merely to dream it is enough. For this I have come to know, that all human happiness finally ceases, like a dream."

Anne Bronte, Writer
"All true histories contain instruction; though, in some, the treasure may be hard to find, and when found, so trivial in quantity, that the dry, shrivelled kernel scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut. Whether this be the case with my history or not, I am hardly competent to judge. I sometimes think it might prove useful to some, and entertaining to others; but the world may judge for itself. Shielded by my own obscurity, and by the lapse of years, and a few fictitious names, I do not fear to venture; and will candidly lay before the public what I would not disclose to the most intimate friend."

Charles Montesquieu, Writer, Thinker
"Republics end through luxury; monarchies through poverty."

A. A. Milne, Writer
"Pooh always liked a little something at eleven o'clock in the morning, and he was very glad to see Rabbit getting out the plates and mugs; and when Rabbit said, "Honey or condensed milk with your bread?" he was so excited that he said, "Both," and then, so as not to seem greedy, he added, "But don't bother about the bread, please."

Arthur Ransome, Writer
"Grab a chance and you won't be sorry for a might-have-been."

Auguste Comte, Writer
Coined the words "sociology", and "altruism". "The dead govern the living"

Johannes Jensen, Writer
"He developed his theories of evolution in a cycle of six novels, Den lange rejse (1908–22), translated into English as The Long Journey (1923-24), which was published in a two-volume edition in 1938. This is often considered his main work in prose, a daring and often impressive attempt to create a Darwinian alternative to the Biblical Genesis myth. In this work we see the development of mankind from the Ice Age to the times of Columbus, focusing on pioneering individuals."

Oleg Volkov, Writer (Real name" O. W. Osugin)
Author of gulag memoirs, compared to Solzhenitsyn.

Stendhal, Writer
"Politics in a work of literature is like a gunshot at a symphony, it adds an element of thugness i simplicity, and yet we cannot ignore it. Although for many reasons we would prefer to remain silent about some of the subjects discussed herein, unfortunately we must talk about these nasty things."

Camilla Collett, Writer
"When she raises her eyelids, it's as if she were taking off all of her clothes."

Died this week:

Camilo Jose Cela
"Cela's typical style—a sarcastic, often grotesque, form of realism—is exemplified in La Colmena, featuring more than 300 characters and a style showing the influence of both Spanish realism (best exemplified by Miguel de Cervantes and Benito Pérez Galdós) and contemporary English- and French-language authors, such as Joyce and Sartre."

Bettina von Arnim, Writer
"A work of art should express only that which elevates the soul and pleases it in a noble manner. The feeling of the artist should not overstep these limits; it is wrong to venture beyond."

John Ruskin, Writer
"No small misery is caused by overworked and unhappy people, in the dark views which they necessarily take up themselves, and force upon others, of work itself."

Alexander Herzen, Writer
"There is nothing in the world more stubborn than a corpse: you can hit it, you can knock it to pieces, but you cannot convince it."

George Orwell, Writer
"When one reads any strongly individual piece of writing, one has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page. It is not necessarily the actual face of the writer."

Abe Kobo, Writer
"The minute you begin to have doubts, the floor under your feet starts to shake."


Industrial Espionage

According to WikiLeaks, France is the worst offender when it comes to industrial espionage. Not China, or Russia, but France, an example of a "democratic", capitalist society. Capital, or greed, is the key. That's why during communist times the People's countries ran informational campaigns warning of the imperialist thieves...

This poster from communist Poland reads:

"Guard state secrets"

And this one reads:

"Guard professional secrecy, perhaps the enemy wants to get it out of you"


A week of literary celebration: LitBash 4

Meet some of the world’s most fascinating writers and their works. A weekly celebration of literary anniversaries, an opportunity to read a book! Read, because, as John Milton said "A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life."

Born this week:

Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy, Writer
Author of great historical novels.

Hans Kirk, Writer

Danish author, who penned the best-selling novel of all-time in his native Denmark, The Fishermen (1928)

Alan Paton, Writer, Anti-apartheid Activist
"There is only one way in which one can endure man's inhumanity to man and that is to try, in one's own life, to exemplify man's humanity to man."

Charles Perrault, Writer
Author of fairy tales, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood...
She said to her, "Grandmother, what great arms you have!"
"That's to embrace you the better, my child."
"Grandmother, what great legs you have!"
"That's to run the better, my child."
"Grandmother, what great ears you have!"
"That's to hear the better, my child."
"Grandmother, what great teeth you have!"
"That's for to eat you."
And upon saying these words, this naughty Wolf threw himself upon Little Red Riding Hood, and ate her.

Johann Pestalozzi, Writer, Educator

"It is life itself that educates."

Jack London, Writer
"The mobilization of a whole working population may lead to unpleasant results, conscription to revolution. There are strong tendencies threatening the present social order which cannot be lightly passed over. Also, a strong anti-military propaganda has grown up. The small protesting voices of the past have merged into the roar of the peoples. The world has lifted itself to a higher morality. The aim of the human is to alleviate the ills of the human. Among all classes the opposition to war is keen and growing."

Ferenc Molnar, Writer
"Molnár is remembered principally for The Paul Street Boys, the story of two rival gangs of youths in Budapest. The novel is a classic of youth literature, beloved in Hungary and abroad for its treatment of the themes of solidarity and self-sacrifice."

Haruki Murakami, Writer
"Mediocrity is like a spot on your shirt, it never comes off."

Michael Bond, Writer
"There aren't many of us left where I come from."
"And where is that?" asked Mrs. Brown.
The bear looked round carefully before replying.
"Darkest Peru."

Hugh Lofting, Writer
Author of Doctor Dolitle. "If one place is as good as any other, it's high time we decided. Otherwise when we get there, we won't know we've arrived."

Anatoly Rybakov, Writer
"Death solves all problems — no man, no problem."

Yukio Mishima, Writer, Political Activist
Attempted a coup against the government, committed seppuku. "What transforms this world is — knowledge. Do you see what I mean? Nothing else can change anything in this world. Knowledge alone is capable of transforming the world, while at the same time leaving it exactly as it is. When you look at the world with knowledge, you realize that things are unchangeable and at the same time are constantly being transformed."

Moliere, Writer
"We die only once, and for such a long time!"

Alexandr Griboyedov, Writer
One hit wonder: He is recognized as homo unius libri, a writer of one book, whose fame rests on the brilliant verse comedy Woe from Wit (or: The Woes of Wit), still one of the most often staged plays in Russia.

Susan Sontag, Writer
"We live in a culture in which intelligence is denied relevance altogether, in a search for radical innocence, or is defended as an instrument of authority and repression. In my view, the only intelligence worth defending is critical, dialectical, skeptical, desimplifying."

Died this week:

Sinclair Lewis, Writer
"Every compulsion is put upon writers to become safe, polite, obedient, and sterile. In protest, I declined election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters some years ago, and now I must decline the Pulitzer Prize."

Thomas Hardy, Writer
"To discover evil in a new friend is to most people only an additional experience."

Friedrich Schlegel, Writer, Humorist
"People who are so eccentric that they are completely serious in being and becoming virtuous understand one another in everything, find one another easily, and form a silent opposition against the prevailing immorality that pretends to be morality."

Agatha Christie, Writer
"There are things going on, things that shouldn’t be. […] It’s blossoming everywhere and in every country. […] Youth is what you might call the spearhead of it all. But that’s not really what’s so worrying. They – whoever they are – work through youth. Youth in every country. Youth urged on. Youth chanting slogans, slogans that sound exciting, though they don’t always know what they mean. So easy to start a revolution. That’s natural to youth. All youth has always rebelled. You rebel, you want the world to be different from what it is. But you’re blind too. There are bandages over the eyes of youth. They can’t see where things are taking them. What’s in front of them? And who it is behind them, urging them on? […] They’re not only fancies. That’s what people said about Hitler. Hitler and the Hitler Youth. But it was a long careful preparation. It was a fifth column being planted in different countries all ready for the supermen. The supermen where to be the flower of the German nation. Somebody else is perhaps believing something like that now. There’s something somewhere, and it’s running on the same lines."

James Joyce, Writer
"The pity is the public will demand and find a moral in my book — or worse they may take it in some more serious way, and on the honor of a gentleman, there is not one single serious line in it."

Lewis Carroll, Writer
"I do not know if 'Alice in Wonderland' was an original story — I was, at least, no conscious imitator in writing it — but I do know that, since it came out, something like a dozen story-books have appeared, on identically the same pattern."

Anais Nin, Writer
"The morning I got up to begin this book I coughed. Something was coming out of my throat: it was strangling me. I broke the thread which held it and yanked it out. I went back to bed and said: I have just spat out my heart."

Mikhail Prishvin, Writer
Author of the excellent The Chain of Kashchey. the book that took some 30 years to write.

Jack London's vision of future warfare

100 years ago Jack London was convinced that future wars will not be possible, for the simple fact that they will be too costly for any population to sustain...

"This leads to the economic aspect of future warfare. The maintenance of modern armies means enormous expenditure of money. The expenditure of life would correspond should they be unwise enough to even venture partial attacks in isolated portions of the field. Therefore, the question arises: How long will the working populations which are represented by these armies be able and willing to feed them, to furnish them with the munitions of war, and to replete the ranks of the soldiers from the ranks of the producers? It is inevitable, supposing the home political situation to remain unchanged, that the nation with the greater and more available resources, coupled with the tougher and more tenacious population, will be the victor. Famine, not force, will decide the issue. [...]

The civil population will decide the future war by its capacity for enduring all the privations consequent upon a state of semi-famine when the whole industrial system is thrown out of joint, and by its power and willingness to fill the mouths of the million non-producing soldiers and to furnish them with the sinews of war. At the front will be the chess-game; at home the workers feeding the players. All will depend upon the stamina of the civil population.

In the event of such a war, securities, which are now held largely by the middle classes, would go tumbling and crashing, rending it difficult for the government to float loans on a disrupted and frightened market. The disastrous effect to-day of of a war rumor on any seat of exchange, is common knowledge. If paper money were issued under such conditions, its depreciation would be instant and great. The rise of the necessaries of life will tend to do this and to set into motion the remorseless pendulum of action and reaction. The countries in which more live by trade than by agriculture—the wheat-importing countries—will feel the pinch of famine quickly and bitterly. [...] The very fear of this, on the sensitive capitalistic system, even with danger afar off, is bound to make the market panicky and to send prices skyward. And under such circumstances speculation is sure to exact its exorbitant penalty. The ravages of the commercial crisis in time of peace are too well known to make necessary further comment on what they would be in time of war.

The interruption of the operation of the productive forces, and the difficulty in satisfying the vital needs of the population, lead up to the political aspect of future warfare. Are the peoples, especially of the European countries, homogeneous enough in their political beliefs to stand in the strain? Labor troubles, bread riots, and rebellion are factors, subversive all, which must be taken into account. The mobilization of a whole working population may lead to unpleasant results, conscription to revolution. There are strong tendencies threatening the present social order which cannot be lightly passed over. Also, a strong anti-military propaganda has grown up. The small protesting voices of the past have merged into the roar of the peoples. The world has lifted itself to a higher morality. The aim of the human is to alleviate the ills of the human. Among all classes the opposition to war is keen and growing."

Is it?

Jack London, The Impossibility of War.


A Weekly Literary Celebration: LitBash 3

Meet some of the world's most fascinating writers and their works. A weekly celebration of literary anniversaries.


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."


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.


LitNews you may have missed (1)

A new, weekly summary of some interesting stories from the world of literature and publishing.

Criticism to literature is what pornography is to love: "Beauty is surely the defining property of literature — but what can criticism do with it? Doesn’t it invariably leave beauty to one side like a pile of indigestible fibers?"

"You are 5 times more likely to write a New York Times bestseller than date a supermodel," BRI.

No need to stress: books will always be around. Writers write. Readers read. Both love the word: "Whatever happens there will always be two key entities – the authors who create and the readers who consume. The gap between them is now narrowing."

What you read is what you are: "Eating anything you come across does not contribute to good health; the content of what we eat is of vital importance. The same is true of reading."

Every demagogue knows the importance of spinning his web around a young audience, hence children books penned by Obama and the Pope. We however welcome the children book festival that aims to foster life-long reading habits: "With so much else that demands the attention of the young — homework, tuition, TV, playstation and cricket — reading often takes a back seat. However, Bookaroo, a festival of children's literature which started three years ago in the capital, has tried to rectify the problem."

"Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks . . . The English language . . . becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts," George Orwell.

New translation of Dr. Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak: "This novel is one of the 20th century's great indictments of armed revolution, utopian visionaries, and war. Russia's turbulent history, beset with cruel repression from the czar, followed by World War I, the Bolshevik revolution, the civil war, and the great purges by Joseph Stalin, left in its wake tens of millions of victims and serves as the tragic backdrop to the novel."