Read a book, feel the pain: LitBash 24

Books don't move you? Perhaps you haven't found just the right books yet. It's not too late to feel the pain, or as Kafka said: "What are you reading for but to be wounded?" Start with writers who were...

Born this week:

Konstantin Paustowski, Russia

Leonid Leonov, Russia
"I am a girl of my time... maybe just an ordinary girl, but I am the world's tomorrow... and you should stand up, yes, stand up when you talk to me, if you have a trace of self-respect left!"

Edgar Wallace, UK
"What is a highbrow? He is a man who has found something more interesting than women."

Marquis de Sade, France
"The law which attempts a man's life [capital punishment] is impractical, unjust, inadmissible. It has never repressed crime—for a second crime is every day committed at the foot of the scaffold."

Thomas Hardy, UK
"A lover without indiscretion is no lover at all."

Karl Gjellerup, Denmark
"There are certain books in the world which every searcher for truth must know: the Bible, the Critique of Pure Reason, the Origin of Species, and Karl Marx's Capital."

Max Aub, Spain

Federico Garcia Lorca, Spain
"You have always been smart. You have always looked for the worst in people, and have been quick to notice when people are up to no good... But in the case of your children, you are blind."

Died this week:

Voltaire, France
"Man is free at the instant he wants to be."

Herman Broch, Austria
"What's important is promising something to the people, not actually keeping those promises. The people have always lived on hope alone."

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

Martin Andersen Nexo, Denmark
"Every mother hopes that her daughter will marry a better man than she did, and is convinced that her son will never find a wife as good as his father did."

Anna Seghers, Germany

Franz Kafka, Austria
"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?"

Frans Eemil Sillanpää, Finland

Stephen Crane, USA
"Every sin is the result of collaboration."

William Porter (O. Henry), USA
"There are a few editor men with whom I am privileged to come in contact. It has not been long since it was their habit to come in contact with me. There is a difference."

Georges Feydeau, France


How to find peace and solitude in daily clamor

What to do when you need a moment of peaceful time just for yourself?

"Becoming engrossed in a good book or a crossword really can block the ability to hear, a study has found.

Scientists demonstrated that when someone focuses their full attention on something, they can become deaf to normally audible sounds.

It happens because visual and hearing senses are trying to share limited brain capacity, they said.

For example, when engrossed in a good book or even a captivating newspaper article, we may fail to hear the train driver's announcement and miss our stop.

The phenomenon is known as 'inattentional deafness'". read more


Of Emperors and Paupers

Are you tired of wars waged by wealthy plutocracy, in which only the poor are dying? So did the Russians during the First World War. They found a solution:

"The war encompasses a billion people, with fifty million men fighting on the fronts. At the moment there are two hostile collectives. They are organized and armed. Yet nothing stands in the way of them putting an end to the shooting. This will happen when a man tells this collective: You idiots, you are shooting the wrong targets. The war will end by a rebellion, a revolution, a global fire. For this to happen your bayonets must aim inside your country. Replace the emperor and plant a pauper in his place."

Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy, The Road to Calvary (my rough translation).


Feeling lost? Find your instructions in: LitBash 23

Do you ever feel lost? "All true histories contain instruction", said Anne Bronte. Find your instructions in fiction, it too contains truth. Let others' lives inspire you. Start with writers who were...

Born this week:

Mikhail Sholokhov, Russia
And Quiet Flows the Don; Destiny of a Man;

Ralph Waldo Emerson, USA
"The imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity."

Rosario Castellanos, Mexico
"Laughter is the first evidence of freedom."

Edmond de Goncourt, France
"Today I begin to understand what love must be, if it exists. . . . When we are parted, we each feel the lack of the other half of ourselves. We are incomplete like a book in two volumes of which the first has been lost. That is what I imagine love to be: incompleteness in absence."

Dashiell Hammett, USA
"The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter."

Herman Wouk, USA
"I regard the writing of humor as a supreme artistic challenge."

Ian Fleming, UK
"Surround yourself with Human Beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles." He laughed. "But don't let me down and become human yourself. We would lose a wonderful machine."

Patrick White, Australia
"Loonies speak their own language, like educated people."

Gilbert Chesterton, UK
"Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance."

Died this week:

Henrik Ibsen, Norway

"One of the qualities of liberty is that, as long as it is being striven after, it goes on expanding."

Niels Albert Dam, Denmark

Pedro Calderon de la Barca, Spain
"What is life? A madness. What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a story. And the greatest good is little enough: for all life is a dream, and dreams themselves are only dreams."

Francis Carco, France

Anne Bronte, UK
"All true histories contain instruction."

Georges Eekhoud, Belgium

Johannes Jorgensen, Denmark


Literature will set you free: LitBash 22

Literature will set you free: "A knowledge of different literatures is the best way to free one's self from the tyranny of any of them." Here's a collection of writers from around the world who were...

Born this week:

Juan Rulfo, Mexico
"No one knows better than I do how far heaven is, but I also know all the shortcuts. The secret is to die, when you want to, and not when He proposes. Or else to force Him to take you before your time."

Henri Barbusse, France
"Two armies that fight each other is like one large army that commits suicide."

Gunnar Gunnarsson, Iceland

Honore de Balzac, France

"I prefer thought to action, an idea to a transaction, contemplation to activity."

Hector Malot, France

Sigrid Undset, Norway
"I hated school so intensely. It interfered with my freedom. I avoided the discipline by an elaborate technique of being absent-minded during classes."

Wolfgang Borchert, Germany

Gerard de Nerval, France
"He knew that the whole mystery of beauty can never be comprehended by the crowd, and that while clearness is a virtue of style, perfect explicitness is not a necessary virtue."

Arthur Conan Doyle, UK
"The highest morality may prove also to be the highest wisdom when the half-told story comes to be finished."

Died this week:

Irwin Shaw, USA

Pierre Augustin de Beaumarchais, France

"Drinking when not thirsty and making love all the time, madam, is all that distinguishes us from other animals."

Nathaniel Hawthorne, USA
"In youth men are apt to write more wisely than they really know or feel; and the remainder of life may be not idly spent in realizing and convincing themselves of the wisdom which they uttered long ago."

George Meredith, UK
"Who rises from prayer a better man, his prayer is answered."

William Saroyan, USA
"I began to write in the first place because I expected everything to change, and I wanted to have things in writing the way they had been."

James Boswell, UK
"He who has provoked the lash of wit, cannot complain that he smarts from it."

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

Ogden Nash, USA
"A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of."

Klaus Mann, Gremany

Victor Hugo, France
"You have enemies? Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea."

Jules Renard, France
"No matter how much care an author takes to write as few books as possible, there will be people who haven’t heard of some of them."


Parasitic literary genius

"...let us bear in mind, rather, the numberless writers who, dissatisfied with the page which they have just written, if they read some eulogy of the genius of Chateaubriand, or evoke the spirit of some great artist whose equal they aspire to be, by humming to themselves, for instance, a phrase of Beethoven, the melancholy of which they compare with what they have been trying to express in prose, are so filled with that idea of genius that they add it to their own productions, when they think of them once again, see them no longer in the light in which at first they appeared, and, hazarding an act of faith in the value of their work, say to themselves: "After all!" without taking into account that, into the total which determines their ultimate satisfaction, they have introduced the memory of marvellous pages of Chateaubriand which they assimilate to their own, but of which, in cold fact, they are not the authors; ... and let us then declare whether, in the communal life that is led by our ideas in the enclosure of our minds, there is a single one of those  that make us most happy which has not first sought, a very parasite, and won from an alien but neighbouring idea the greater part of the strength that it originally lacked."

Marcel Proust, Within A Budding Grove.


He who returns the book is more of an idiot: LitBash 21

An old Arabic proverb says: "He who lends a book is an idiot. He who returns the book is more of an idiot." Here's an opportunity to borrow (and, perhaps, never return) books by authors who were...

Born this week:

James Barrie, Scotland
"The best of our fiction is by novelists who allow that it is as good as they can give, and the worst by novelists who maintain that they could do much better if only the public would let them."

Camilo Jose Cela, Spain
"Literature is the denunciation of the times in which one lives."

Farley Mowat, Canada
"Inescapably, the realization was being borne in upon my preconditioned mind that the centuries-old and universally accepted human concept of wolf character was a palpable lie. On three separate occasions in less than a week I had been completely at the mercy of these 'savage killers'; but far from attempting to tear me limb from limb, they had displayed a restraint verging on contempt, even when I invaded their home and appeared to be posing a direct threat to the young pups. "

Daphne du Maurier, UK
"All autobiography is self-indulgent."

Adolf Muschg, Switzerland

Mikhail Bulgakov, Russia

"The tongue can conceal the truth, but the eyes never!"

Max Frisch, Switzerland
"Life is boring. I have experiences now only when I am writing."

Died this week:

Fredrich Schiller, Germany
"The joke loses everything when the joker laughs himself."

Rene Maran, Martinique
"Hatred is one long wait."

James Jones, USA
"As far as modern war is concerned I am a pacifist. Hell, it isn't even war anymore... It's an industry..."

Louis Boon, Belgium
"Don't fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have."

Peter Weiss, Germany
"I could buy myself paper, a pen, a pencil and a brush and could create pictures whenever and wherever I wanted. ... That evening, in the spring of 1947, on the embankment of the Seine in Paris, at the age of thirty, I saw that it was possible to live and work in the world, and that I could participate in the exchange of ideas that was taking place all around, bound to no country."

Joris-Karl Huysmans, France
"Worshiping the Devil is no more insane than worshiping God...It is precisely at the moment when positivism is at its high-water mark that mysticism stirs into life and the follies of occultism begin."

Nelly Sachs, Germany
"To me, a fairy tale seems to have become reality."

Sholom Aleichem, Jewish

Fiddler on the Roof.

Johan August Strindberg, Sweden

"I loathe people who keep dogs. They are cowards who haven't got the guts to bite people themselves."

Henry Rider Haggard, UK
"The food that memory gives to eat is bitter to the taste, and it is only with the teeth of hope that we can bear to bite it."


How do you read?

An interesting survey from China:

"A growing number of Chinese people have turned to digital reading, a trend insiders said will greatly improve the quality of literature.

Some 23 percent of respondents read books via mobile phones, 3.9 via e-book readers, 18 percent on the Internet, 2.6 percent by PDA (personal digital assistant)/MP4/electronic dictionaries", 52 in traditional paper format.

As the following graphic shows, at 16.8 minutes / day books fair quite well considering the fierce competition.

One peculiar comment from the director of the Academy of Press and Publication raises eyebrows: "E-books are a good rival to printed books and magazines. They can force traditional publications to produce even better quality works of literature." As though e-books are somehow different from printed editions! Of course it is something a "traditional", as in "paper publisher" would say. The only thing that differs is the method of delivery.