Today in Literary History – January 31, 1923 – Norman Mailer is born

Norman Mailer, the pugnacious American novelist, essayist and activist was born in New York on January 31, 1923. He grew up in Brooklyn, where he was a good student in school. He was enrolled in Harvard University at the age of 16, earning a degree in aeronautical engineering. Mailer's first novel, The Naked and the …

Thought of the Day

"I am pretty sure that, if you will be quite honest, you will admit that a good rousing sneeze, one that tears open your collar and throws your hair into your eyes, is really one of life’s sensational pleasures." -Robert Benchley

Today in Literary History – January 30, 1994 – author and spy Pierre Boulle dies

Pierre Boulle, the French novelist and wartime secret agent died in Paris on January 30, 1994 at the age of eighty-one. Boulle was best known in the English language world for two of his books which became bestsellers in translation and were made into award-winning movies: The Bridge On the River Kwai and Planet of …

Book Review – Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (translated by Jonathan Wright)

Ahmed Saadawi's Frankenstein in Baghdad won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (also known as The Arabic Booker) in 2014, the first Iraqi novel to do so. It has just been translated into English by Jonathan Wright, who has translated over a dozen Arabic novels, including several other IPAF winners. The bleak and darkly comic …

Today in Literary History – January 28, 1813 – Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is published

Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice was published on January 28, 1813. Its opening line -- "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." -- is one of the most famous in English literature. The novel was sold as a …

Today in Literary History – January 27, 1931 – the Canadian novelist Mordecai Richler is born

One of the greatest Canadian novelists, Mordacai Richler, was born in Montreal on January 27, 1931. He grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in the immigrant community centred on St. Urbain Street. He grew up speaking English, French and Yiddish. His grandfather was a well known rabbi in Poland and later in Canada. Richler …

Today in Literary History – January 26, 1907 – J.M. Synge’s “The Playboy of the Western World” premiers in Dublin causing riots

John Millington Synge's play The Playboy of the Western World was first produced on January 26, 1907, at The Abbey Theatre in Dublin. It received a very hostile and violent reception from Irish nationalists and republicans who objected to Synge's less than flattering portrayal of his fellow countrymen. Rioting and brawling broke out inside the …

Today in Literary History – January 25, 1882 – Virginia Woolf is born

Virginia Woolf, the novelist and essayist was born in London on January 25, 1882 as Adeline Virginia Stephen. She was born into the wealthy and very literary family. She and her sister Vanessa were educated at home by their parents (somewhat haphazardly it seems) and the sisters were encouraged to follow their own literary tastes …

Today in Literary History – January 24, 1670 – Restoration playwright William Congreve is born

The comedic playwright William Congreve was born in Yorkshire on January 24, 1670. Congreve's family moved to Ireland while he was an infant and he grew up there, becoming a friend with the great satirist Jonathan Swift when they were fellow students at Trinity College, Dublin. Congreve moved to London to study law but concentrated …

Today in Literary History – January 23, 1883 – illustrator Gustave Doré dies

Gustave Doré, the illustrator whose engravings provided the defining illustrations for many works of literature from The Bible to the Mother Goose tales, died in Paris on January 23, 1883, at the age of fifty-one. Doré never married and lived with his mother his entire life. Doré was much sought after by book publishers in …

Today in Literary History – January 19, 1921 – novelist Patricia Highsmith is born

The great mystery and suspence writer Patricia Highsmith was born in Fort Worth, Texas on January 19, 1921. Her parents divorced just ten days before her birth and Highsmith claimed that her mother later told her that she had tried to have her aborted. Highsmith continued to have a strained relationship with her mother and …

Thought of the Day

"Fire hath its force abated by water, not by wind; and anger must be allayed by cold words, and not by blustering threats." – Anne Bradstreet

Today in Literary History – January 18, 1989 – travel writer and novelist Bruce Chatwin dies

Bruce Chatwin, the British travel writer, novelist and art historian died on January 18, 1989 at the age of forty-eight. Chatwin, who was married but carried on many homosexual affairs, died from AIDS. Although he tried to keep the real reason for his final illness secret (to protect his conservative parents from knowing the truth …

Book Review – The Perfect Nanny by Leïla Slimani (translated by Sam Taylor)

The Perfect Nanny by the Morrocan-French writer Leïla Slimani is a taught, beautifully crafted suspense story that won France's prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2016 and was the country's top-selling novel. It has been a bestseller across Europe and has just been released in an English translation. (In Britain the book is released with the title …

Today in Literary History – January 16, 1605 – Part One of Don Quixote is published

Part One of Miguel de Cervantes's masterpiece Don Quixote was published in Spain on January 16, 1605 as El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha ("The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha"). Don Quixote is generally referred to as the first modern novel. Its plot arc and its scenes of dialogue distinguish it …