Shortcut to Paradise: LitBash 15

A great opportunity to celebrate books and their authors: writers who were born or died this coming week. Buy or borrow books, and immerse yourself in reaading - a kind of Paradise. "I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library" Jorge Louis Library

Born this week:

Bohumil Hrabal, Czech Republic
"'It's interesting how young poets think of death while old fogies think of girls."

Mario Vargas Llosa, Peru
"Reading changed dreams into life and life into dreams."

John Fowles, UK
"A novelist has to enter deeper exile still. In most outward ways the experience was depressive, as many young would-be writers and painters who have ever gone to Greece have discovered. We used to have a nickname for the sense of inadequacy and accidie it produced – the ‘Aegean blues’. One has to be a very complete artist to create good work among the purest and most balanced landscapes on the planet…The Greece of the Islands is Circe still; no place for the artist-voyager to linger long, if he cares for his soul."

Antoine Prevost, France
"Do you really think one can be truly loving when one is short of bread?"

Edmond Rostand, France
"To joke in the face of danger is the supreme politeness, a delicate refusal to cast oneself as a tragic hero."

Milan Kundera, Czech Republic
"A novel that does not uncover a hitherto unknown segment of existence is immoral. Knowledge is the novel's only morality."

Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark
"His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. To be born in a duck's nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan's egg."

Emile Zola, France
"There are two men inside the artist, the poet and the craftsman. One is born a poet. One becomes a craftsman."

Died this week:

Virginia Woolf, UK
"A light here required a shadow there."

Stephen Leacock, Canada
"I detest life-insurance agents: they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so."

Eugene Ionesco, France
"The absence of ideology in a work does not mean an absence of ideas; on the contrary it fertilizes them."

Peter Ustinov, UK
"Beliefs are what divide people. Doubt unites them."

Karl May, Germany
Author of popular adventure novels.

Charlotte Bronte, UK
"Novelists should never allow themselves to weary of the study of real life."

Enid Bagnold, UK
"A father is always making his baby into a little woman. And when she is a woman he turns her back again."

Ferenc Molnar, Hungary
Asked how he became a writer: "In the same way that a woman becomes a prostitute. First I did it to please myself, then I did it to please my friends, and finally I did it for money."

Graham Greene, UK
"The moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn't thought about. At that moment he's alive and you leave it to him."


What do Pimps and Literary Agents have in common?

According to this Nobel Prize recipient: "Agents have strong nerves and stamina. To them the term  'sensitive soul of an artist' means the same as DAB beer, and any attempt at serious conversation with them about art and artists would be a waste of time. They well know that even an artist without a conscience has a thousand times more of it than the hardest working agent. Their weapon lies in understanding that an artist cannot do anything but create, whether paint pictures, perform, sing songs, or carve in stone, or granite. An artist resembles a woman who cannot do anything else but love and falls with every kind of male donkey that falls in her ​​sight. Artists and women are particularly well suited to be exploited, and each agent is ninety-nine per cent a pimp."
Heinrich Böll

Like pimps, literary agents are on the way out. The Internet has changed everything:

"the use of the Internet for prostitution as well as other changes in the sex industry have resulted in the disintermediation of prostitution, allowing prostitutes to deal with clients directly. This has rendered pimps largely superfluous, at least in the United States." Source: WikiPedia

The use of the Internet has allowed writers to bypass the pimps literary agents and reach readers directly, via e-books...

LitBash 14, or the only thing Thought Police can't take away from you

A great opportunity to celebrate books and their authors: writers who were born or died this coming week. Buy or borrow books, and read. Do not fear the Patriot Act. Books you've read are one of the only things thought police can't take away from you. As Kurt Vonnegut said:  "While on the subject of burning books, I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and destroyed records rather than have to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles. So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the media. The America I loved still exists at the front desks of our public libraries."

Born this week:

Charles Ogden, UK
"Don't mark up the Library's copy, you fool! Librarians are Unprankable. They'll track you down! They have skills!"

Gabrielle Roy, Canada
"The main engagement of the writer is towards truthfulness; therefore he must keep his mind and his judgement free."

Tenessee Williams, USA
"When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone."

Patrick Süskind, Germany
"Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it."

Heinrich Mann, Germany
"A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up children without surrounding them with books.... Children learn to read being in the presence of books."

Shusaku Endo, Japan
"I became a Catholic against my will."

Died this week:

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany
"When young one is confident to be able to build palaces for mankind, but when the time comes one has one's hands full just to be able to remove their trash."

Stendhal, France
"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."

Jules Verne, France
"Science, my lad, has been built upon many errors; but they are errors which it was good to fall into, for they led to the truth."

John Hersey, USA
"Journalism allows its readers to witness history; fiction gives its readers an opportunity to live it."

Max Eastman, USA
"The worst enemy of human hope is not brute facts, but men of brains who will not face them."

Raymond Chandler, USA
"Don't ever write anything you don't like yourself and if you do like it, don't take anyone's advice about changing it. They just don't know."

Stanisław Lem, Poland
“At midnight all people of our country make a switch, someone who yesterday was a gardener, today becomes an engineer, yesterday’s building contractor becomes a judge, sovereign becomes a teacher, and so on. What remains unchanged is the society as a whole.
In every society of the old type most citizens perform their occupational functions poorly, and still the society does not seize to go on. Someone who is a poor gardener will ruin the garden, and a poor sovereign will ruin the entire country because both have the time to cause damage, time they do not have in our type of society. Furthermore in the old type of society, apart from poor skills, there is additional negative, even destructive effect of individuals’ private wants. Jealousy, egoism, conceit, vanity, want of power, all have a negative effect on the life of the society. This negative influence does not exist in our society. In our world one cannot do things to enrich oneself, or to make longer egoistic plans, hoping to enrich oneself in the long run, because tomorrow one becomes someone else, without knowing today what it will be.”

Enoch Arnold Bennett, UK

"A cause may be inconvenient, but it's magnificent. It's like champagne or high heels, and one must be prepared to suffer for it."


Soviet SuperSpy comes out of the cold, posthumously

Nikolay Kuznetsov, the legendary Soviet spy who infiltrated the Wehrmacht, has been commemorated with a museum exhibit:

"An exhibition, dedicated to the 100th birth anniversary of legendary Soviet intelligence agent Nikolai Kuznetsov, opened in the Russian Urals city of Yekaterinburg on Thursday."

Who was Kuznetsov?

"According to Kuznetsov’s Soviet biographers, 'in March 1938 he began carrying out special assignments in the sphere of state security.' All old publications summarize this man’s biography in just a few lines. ...

Kuznetsov set foot on Ukrainian soil in August 1942. He did so in a very rare capacity, doubling as an intelligence agent and a partisan. Biographers wrote that “he landed behind enemy lines outside Rivne, where he joined a special partisan unit ‘Pobediteli’ (controlled by the NKVD) ...

Kuznetsov (known as Nikolai Grachov to his brothers-in-arms in the “Pobediteli” unit and, to the Nazi occupation government in Rivne — as Ober-Lieutenant Paul Wilhelm Sieber, was disguised as “an extraordinary commissioner of the economic command for the use of material resources of the Eastern territories in the interests of the Wehrmacht”)

For the Soviet command he secured such valuable intelligence as the location of Hitler’s field headquarters outside Vinnytsia (December 1942) and plans by the Nazi command to launch a massive offensive at Kursk (Operation Citadel, late May 1943). “Oberleutenant Siebert” eliminated the following ranking functionaries in the Nazi occupation administration: Imperial Financial Advisor with ministerial status General Gell (September 1943); General von Ilgen, Chief Justice of the Supreme German Court in Ukraine; General Alfred Funk (November 1943); Vice-Governor of Galicia Otton Bauer; and the head of his chancellery Heinrich Schneider (Lviv, February 1944). “Siebert” wounded General Paul Dargel, Deputy Imperial Commissioner of the Reich Commissariat Ukraine, who was also the right-hand man of the Nazi satrap of Ukraine — Erich Koch. On May 31, 1943, Kuznetsov secured a personal audience with Koch himself, intending to assassinate him, but his plans failed, owing to the fact that Koch was extremely well guarded."

Read More


A Weekly Book Carnival: LitBash 13

A great opportunity to celebrate books and their authors: writers who were born or died this coming week. Read, borrow or buy books, and build your own library. Do not fear the Eccelsiastes: "As regards anything besides these, my son, take a warning: To the making of many books there is no end, and much devotion to them is wearisome to the flesh." Not true! Books will make you stronger.

Born this week:

Maxim Gorky, Russia
"Everybody, my friend, everybody lives for something better to come. That's why we want to be considerate of every man— Who knows what's in him, why he was born and what he can do?"

Paul Heyse, Germany
A Nobel literary judge said about Heyse: "Germany has not had a greater literary genius since Goethe."

Gilberto Freire, Brasil

Remembered mostly for his sociological trilogy The Masters and the Slaves

Louis Boon, Belgium
One of the best known Flemish writers of the XXth century.

Boris Polevoy, Russia
Wrote about the WWII, including the atrocities of Auschwitz.

Christa Wolf, Germany
One of the best known writers from East Germany.

John Updike, USA
"The refusal to rest content, the willingness to risk excess on behalf of one's obsessions, is what distinguishes artists from entertainers, and what makes some artists adventurers on behalf of us all."

Minna Canth, Finland
"Christianity has been buried inside the walls of churches and secured with the shackles of dogmatism. Let it be liberated to come into the midst of us and teach us freedom, equality and love."

Philip Roth, USA
"I write fiction and I’m told it’s autobiography, I write autobiography and I’m told it’s fiction, so since I’m so dim and they’re so smart, let them decide what it is or it isn’t."

Henrik Ibsen, Norway

"Now this very contentedness in the possession of a dead liberty is a characteristic of the so-called state; and it is worthless."

Died this week:

Tarjei Vesaas, Norway

"Almost nothing need be said when you have eyes."

Selma Lagerlof, Sweden
"religion must be a science which can be proven. It is no longer a question of belief, but of knowing. Further, we acquire knowledge of the spiritual world through steady, conscious, systematic thinking."

Marcus Aurelius, Rome
"Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill."

Laurence Sterne, UK
"Only the brave know how to forgive...A coward never forgave; it is not in his nature."

Edgar Rice Burroughs, USA

"I have often been asked how I came to write. The best answer is that I needed the money. When I started I was 35 and had failed in every enterprise I had ever attempted."

Arthur C. Clarke, UK
"I can never look now at the Milky Way without wondering from which of those banked clouds of stars the emissaries are coming."

Brendan Behan, Ireland

"An author's first duty is to let down his country."


A Week of Literary Celebration: LitBash 12

Meet some of the world’s most fascinating writers and their works. A weekly celebration of literary anniversaries, an opportunity to read and to bring books to your home, because "A house without books is like a room without windows." Good opportunity to start with books from writers who were born or died in the following week...

Born this week:

Mircea Eliade, Romania
"The History of Religions is destined to play an important role in contemporary cultural life."

Kobo Abe, Japan
"Often compared to Franz Kafka and Alberto Moravia for his surreal, often nightmarish explorations of individuals in contemporary society and his modernist sensibilities"

Frank Arnau, Germany

Best known for crime fiction.

Boris Vian, France
Published under the pseudonym Vernon Sullivan, known for bizarre parodies of criminal fiction.

Jack Kerouac, USA

"Maybe that's what life is... a wink of the eye and winking stars."

Harry Harrison, USA
"Cold-blooded killing is just not my thing. I've killed in self-defence, I'll not deny that, but I still maintain an exaggerated respect for life in all forms."

Hugh Walpole, UK

"The whole secret of life is to be interested in one thing profoundly and a thousand other things well."

Died this week:

Percy Wyndham Lewis, USA
"Satire has a great big glaring target. If successful, it blasts a great big hole in the center. Directness there must be and singleness of aim: it is all aim, all trajectory."

Sherwood Anderson, USA
"In the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were truths and they were all beautiful."

Adolfo Bioy Casares, Argentina
"There comes a moment in your life when, no matter what you do, you bore everybody else. There is only one way to get back the lost prestige. Dying."

Leopold Sacher Masoch, Austria

Masochism is coined after him.

Charles Bukowski, USA
"I was given the job of milking the cows, finally, and it got me up earlier than anybody. But it was kind of nice, pulling at those cows' tits."

Bernardo Guimaraes, Brasil

Author of Isaura the Slave.

Mikhail Bulgakov, Russia
"Yes, man is mortal, but that would be only half the trouble. The worst of it is that he's sometimes unexpectedly mortal - there's the trick!"

Erle Stanley Gardner, USA
Best known for the Perry Mason series of detective stories.

Manuel Rojas, Chile

His works have as a central theme the representation of the instability, misery and marginality of the members of the working class.

Edmondo de Amicis, Italy

Author of Heart.

Heinrich Mann, Germany

"A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up children without surrounding them with books.... Children learn to read being in the presence of books."

Robert Ludlum, USA
Author of very popular thrillers.

SpyNews 1: some news from the world of espionage

"Knowing who to spy on is just as important as teaching your case officers how to spy": "While spying on one's enemies is easy, it's the other issues that often trip up intelligence services. These include things like spying on allies, spying on neutral countries, spying in order to steal military technology (especially if it's a friendly nation that possesses it). These are extremely difficult decisions to make since, ideally, the object of spying is to collect information that further the country's national security or foreign interests. The problem is that this "definitions" of an intelligence agency's purpose is too broad. A case in point is Israeli espionage against France. Needing a powerful air force to protect itself against attack, Israel had requested that Dassault Aviation produce the Mirage 5 in order to beef up its air combat capabilities. The 50 aircraft paid for by the Israelis were built, but in 1967, the French government imposed an arms embargo on Israel, preventing the aircraft from being delivered. Instead of crying about it, the Israelis simply produced an unlicensed version of the Mirage by using industrial espionage against the French to steal the technical specifications concerning the engine and the airframe. Technically, while the French government was behaving antagonistically, France was neither at war with Israel nor was the nation considered inherently hostile the way Syria and Egypt were at the time. Nonetheless, the Israelis saw something they needed, and had no qualms about stealing it."

Tell a spy by the book: "But instances of naturalists using their work as a cover for espionage are scarce.  Maybe that’s because the people involved tend to be secretive.  Or maybe it’s because the naturalist connection has mainly served to advance a career, as in Le Carré’s case, or to put a social and intellectual gloss on otherwise dirty work.  The simple delights of birding were no doubt a relief from the double-dealing world of espionage for S. Dillon Ripley, who ran secret agents for the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.), the C.I.A.’s predecessor during World War II, and later served as secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.  It could also be a form of redemption (or not quite):  James Schlesinger, for instance, served a brief, tumultuous tenure as head of the C.I.A., and a shill for Richard Nixon, in the aftermath of Watergate.   When I chatted recently with Nicholas Dujmovic, a historian at the C.I.A., he remarked, “The only nice thing I’ve ever heard about Schlesinger is that he was a birdwatcher.”

The Gehlen organization resurfaces again: "They called Johannes Clemens the "Tiger of Como." When an SS captain bore a nickname like that, it rarely meant anything good. Clemens belonged to a squad that shot 335 civilians in the Ardeatine Caves near Rome in 1944, one of the worst massacres on Italian soil during World War II. Former chief inspector Georg Wilimzig also had blood on his hands. His 300-member squad, known as IV/2, murdered thousands of men, women and children following the German invasion of Poland in 1939. After 1945, Clemens and Wilimzig both found themselves working for the same employer -- the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency."

Related to the above: Operation Paperclip -- US Intelligence and Nazi criminals.

Big Brother watches you: "If it seems a little creepy to you that the same company making ballistic missiles is also processing your taxes, accessing your fingerprints, scanning your packages, ensuring that it's easier than ever to collect your DNA, and counting you for the census, rest assured: Lockheed Martin's interest in getting inside your private life via intelligence collection and surveillance has remained remarkably undiminished in the 21st century."

How well do you know Social Networking "Friends"? "the U.S. Strategic Command (overseeing the nuclear strike) will concentrate on military computer hacking and cyberdefenses. The Joint Staffs will take responsibility for deception operations, while Special Operations Command will take the lead in military information gathering aimed at supporting secret operations. [...] the Central Command (covering the greater Middle East) has recently purchased a $2.7 million software, especially designed by San-Diego based Ntrepid. The material will permit the manipulation of social media through the use of fake online "personas" managed by the military, followed by all kinds of infiltration and intelligence operations, while being able to keep the trickery under the radar."


Why Writers Write

"I don't care for politics in general. A writer's place in a society and all that talk. The truth is that I write to express myself. I write for myself. Society, whatever it may be, is not my boss, I'm not a priest of a prof. The audience as a partner? I know more worthy partners. I do not publish because I feel the need to teach or preach, but because a writer, if he wants to discern his own self, needs some imaginary audience. I write only for myself."
Max Frisch, Montauk.