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
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."