LitBirthdays May 5, 2016

May 5 Happy Birthday Riad Sattouf!

Riad Sattouf1

Riad Sattouf (born May 5, 1978)  French cartoonist, memoirist, filmmaker – L’Arabe du futur / The Arab of the Future (2015)

Read about Riad Sattouf here and here

Read a Guardian article about Sattouf and his graphic memoir, The Arab of the Future:

Like most cartoonists in France, he remains “traumatised” by the events of January 2015, when two jihadists stormed the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people.

“Cartoonists are nerds,” he says, hunching awkwardly over his plate, pretending for a moment that his knife is a pen. “We’re men with no girlfriends who spend the whole day drawing, and then, suddenly, we’re made to feel as if we’re responsible for all the wars of the world.”

In his case, though, this comes with an additional burden, for Sattouf, who drew a regular strip for Charlie Hebdo until a few months before the attacks, is not only half Syrian, the son of a Sunni from a village near Homs; he is also the author of a celebrated graphic memoir, whose title is The Arab of the Future. Whether he likes it or not, the media is quite determined to enlist him as a spokesman on Syria, if not the entire Islamic world.

Sattouf cartoon

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LitBirthdays in May


May 1

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Judy Collins

Ignazio Silone (Secondino Tranquilli)

Helen Bamber

May 2

Satyajit Ray

Ichiyo Higuchi (Higuchi Natsu)

Kwon-taek Im

May 2 is
Holocaust Remembrance Day

May 3

Betty Comden

Leslie Marmon Silko

Yehuda Amichai

May 4

Rüdiger Nehberg

Rey Valera

Khwaja Abdullah Ansari


May 5

Thomas Boberg

Elizabeth Cochrane (Nellie Bly)

Soren Kierkegaard

Tammy Wynette


May 6

George Clooney

Vladimiro Ariel Dorfman

Sujata Bhatt

Sigmund Freud


May 7

William Dempsey Valgardson

Volker Braun

Rabindranath Tagore

Robert Browning


May 8

Beth Henley

Gary Snyder

Sirkka Hämäläinen


May 9

Nada El-Hage

Lucian Blaga

Ghostface Killah


May 10

Nayantara Sahgal

Bono (Paul David Hewson)

Olga Bancic


May 11

Andre Gregory

John Michael Hayes

Irving Berlin


May 12

Wu Wenjun

Claribel Alegria

Andrey Andreyevich Voznesensky


May 13

Stephen Colbert

Clive Barnes

Daphne du Maurier


May 14

Eoin Colfer

Sofia Carmina Coppola

Che Guevara

Luis Llorens Torres


May 15

Asala Nasri

L. Frank Baum

Katherine Anne Porter



May 16

Olga Berggolts

Studs Terkel


May 17

Jien (Jichin-daikasho)

Dennis Potter


May 18

Tina Fey

Omar Khayyam


May 19

Elena Poniatowska

Malcolm X (Malcolm Little)

Lorraine Hansberry


May 20

Sirivennela (Chembolu SeethaRama Sastry)

Honoré de Balzac

Cher (Cherilyn Sarkisian)

Joe (John Robert) Cocker


May 21

(Liv) Marit Bergman

Manly Wade Wellman


May 22

Betty Williams

Bernie Taupin

Georges Remi / Hergé

Arthur Conan Doyle


May 23

Sebastian Cordero

Walter Reisch

Pär Lagerkvist

Carl Linnaeus


May 24

Patti LaBelle

Joseph Brodsky

Mikhail (Aleksandrovich) Sholokhov

Bob Dylan


May 25

Alastair Campbell

Naim Frashëri

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Robert Ludlum


May 26

Peggy Lee (Norma Egstrom)

Nobuhiro Watsuki

Frankie Manning

Stevie (Stephanie Lynn) Nicks


May 27

Andrei Georgiyevich Bitov

John Cheever

Rachel Carson

Dashiell Hammett


May 28

Muriel Barbery

Patrick White

Ian Fleming

John Fogerty

May 29

Leah Goldberg (לאה גולדברג; )

G.K. Chesterton

May 30

Agnes Varda

Vizma Belševica

May 31

Svetlana Alexievich

Judith Wright

Walt Whitman

Dempsey Books are on

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LitBirthdays May 1, 2016

May 1 Happy Birthday Yasmina Reza!

Yasmina Reza

Yasmina Reza (born May 1, 1959)  French playwright, novelist – Art (1994)

Read about Yasmina Reza here

Read a 2015 interview of Yasmina Reza:

I wrote a play called Life x 3—it was performed here in New York with John Turturro in the lead role—and it opened with a woman in bed and a man walked in and said:

“He wants cake!”

And the woman replied:

“You know he can’t have cake after he brushed his teeth,”

and the man went on,

“Yes, but he wants cake anyway.”

And the man walked out again. That was the start of the play, and then the kid raised hell for the rest of the night. In France there was a very famous director, Roger Planchon—he has since passed away—who had come to see the play, and after the performance he said, How do you do it? In one sentence you clear the decks, you tell us exactly what we need to know, where we are, who we’re with …

I think my impatience is to blame. Nothing bores me more, in writing, than long introductions, explanations of childhood, that heavy backpack of contextualization. I’m not at all interested in that. In fact, I find that you can get to the point right away through recognizable symptoms, which everyone shares.


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LitBirthdays April 25, 2016

April 25 Happy Birthday Björn Ulvaeus!

Bjorn Ulvaeus

Björn Ulvaeus (born 1945) – Swedish musician, songwriter, part of ABBA rock group

Read about Björn Ulvaeus here and here

Ulvaeus talks about his home town and his musical beginnings in this short video bio:

Bjorn Ulvaeus very young

The music video of “Name of the Game” (ABBA skiing in Switzerland, 1979)

ABBA on skis Switzerland

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LitBirthdays April 24, 2016

April 24 Happy Birthday Eric Bogosian!


Eric Bogosian (born April 24, 1953) U.S. performer, playwright, novelist – Talk Radio (1987)

Read about Eric Bogosian here and here

Watch Eric Bogosian on the Tavis Smiley Show

(Bogosian tells Smiley about his 2015 book, Operation Nemesis, on the Armenian genocide and the Armenian-American team of assassins who enacted revenge killings for the genocide)

Bogosian’s CBC interview about the Armenian genocide here

Watch Bogosian’s 1990 show (monologue)
Sex Drugs and Rock and Roll (1 hr 42 minutes)

Watch excerpts from Bogosian’s works performed by various artists at


April 24 – Day to remember
the Armenian Genocide

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LitBirthdays April 13, 2016

Happy Birthday Ahlam Mosteghanemi!


Ahlam Mosteghanemi (born 1953) – Algerian novelist – Memory in the Flesh (1998)

Read a New York Times profile of Mosteghanemi here

LISTENING Since I spend half the year in Southern France and the rest of my time in the Lebanese mountains, I tend to let nature provide its orchestra, whether it’s the sound of sea gulls or singing cicadas. Otherwise, I love listening to André Rieu, a famous Dutch violinist, known for leading the Strauss Orchestra. I also like listening to Richard Clayderman, a French pianist who is both melancholic and romantic. I have been listening to him for the past 20 years.

WATCHING I made the conscious decision a few years ago to stop watching TV. When you live in the Arab world, what matters is not what you watch but what you choose not to watch. Most of what you see on Arab TV can poison your life, as it is mostly disasters. You could be watching a program and very often it would be interrupted by a live broadcast of some catastrophe. There is a competition between the TV channels to promote their version of events and a focus on graphic details.

For movies, I prefer ones that offer an escape from reality and provide a deep philosophical message such as “Dead Poets Society,” which makes you question everything you thought was indisputable and is ingrained in your brain as holy since childhood.

FOLLOWING I have more than eight million fans on my Facebook page who overwhelm me with constant commentaries to my posts. Considering what we are experiencing in the Middle East, everyone takes himself for a writer and has a story to convey. They mostly talk to me about exile — the despair of losing everything and the painful breakdown of families. I find myself becoming the reader of my readers.

Read an review of Memory in the Flesh:

Memory in the Flesh is the first novel written by an Algerian woman in Arabic that has become a best seller. It was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 1998 in recognition of its distinction. Ahlam Mosteghanemi is able to represent more than four decades of Algerian history as they interweave with the characters’ trajectories and memories, from the revolt of 1945 in East Algeria to 1988 when, Khaled, the protagonist-narrator is writing a memoir of his in the form of the novel we read.

Memory in the Flesh is dedicated to both the author’s militant father, who was engaged in the national liberation struggle, and to her literary father, the Francophone Algerian poet and novelist, Malek Haddad (1927-78), who decided after the independence of Algeria in 1962 not to write in a foreign language any more, and he ended up not writing at all. Haddad’s verbal traces in Memory in the Flesh, whether in allusions or intertextual references, attest to the literary kinship between the two writers. The issue of filiation and affiliation is a prominent motif in this novel.

Ahlam Mosteghanemi articulates the drama of contemporary Algeria in the language denied to colonized Algerians. Her novel partakes in cultural decolonization of her country on two levels: it reappropriates Algerian history and presents the ravages of colonialism from the point of view of its victims; and also she repossesses the mother tongue by writing in the language of the victims with passion and mastery. But the novel is not only about the Algerian struggle against foreign domination, it is also about the complex post-independence problems facing the emerging nation. Ahlam Mosteghanemi exposes, with a postcolonial awareness, the disappointments, deviations and displacements of revolutionary ideals.

 Listen to a 2014 BBC interview of Ahlam Mosteghanemi

“A writer writes from the unconscious”


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LitBirthdays April 2016


April 1

John Wilmot

Susan Boyle

Milan Kundera

Edmond Rostand


April 2

Joanna Chmielewska

Émile François Zola

April 3

Herb Caen

Washington Irving

Unni Lindell


April 4

Andrei Tarkovsky

Maya Angelou


April 5

Amalia Guglielminetti

Booker T. Washington


April 6

Leonora Carrington

Lowell Thomas


April 7

Daniel Ellsberg

Gabriela Mistral (Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga)


April 8

Robert Toru

Trina Schart Hyman


April 9

George David Weiss

Paule Marshall (Paule Burke)


April 10

Peter Morgan

George William Russell

John M. (Mike) Ford


April 11

Clive Exton

Attila József


April 12

Thomas Dybdahl

Tama Janowitz

Gary Soto

Tom Clancy


April 13

Drago Jančar

Eudora Welty

Seamus Heaney


April 14


April 15

Benjamin Zephaniah

Leonardo da Vinci

Henry James

(David) Wiley Miller


April 16

Gerry Rafferty

Diane Middlebrook

Anatole France (Jacques Anatole Thibault)


April 17

Ray Kluun

Giusy Ferreri

Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)


April 18

Rithy Panh

Costas [or Kostas] Ferris

George Henry Lewes


April 19

Sandro Petraglia

Maria Ember

Etheridge Knight


April 20

Asia Alfasi

Erna Brodber

John Paul Stevens


April 21

Elaine May

Queen Elizabeth II

Kole Omotosho


April 22

Damien Broderick

Kseniya Simonova

Immanuel Kant

Ana Maria Shua

April 23

Michael Moore

Fadil Hadzic

William Shakespeare


April 24

Eric Bogosian (

Carl (Friedrich Georg) Spitteler (pseudonym Carl Felix Tandem)


April 25

Grace Rasp Nuri

Albert Uderzo


April 26

Ğabdulla Tuqay

Marcus Aurelius

Carol Burnett

I.M. Pei


April 27

Edwin Morgan

Cecil Day Lewis (pseudonym Nicholas Blake)

Russell T Davies


April 28

Carolyn Forché

(Nelle) Harper Lee

Jay Leno


April 29

Egon Erwin Kisch

Jerry Seinfeld

April 30

Jaroslav Hašek

Willie Nelson

Aatish Kapadia

Dempsey Books are on

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