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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March 24, 2016 Dario Fo

March 24 Happy Birthday Dario Fo!

Dario Foborn 24 March 1926 – Italian playwright and theater artist – 1997 Literature Nobel Prize

Read about Dario Fo here

Read “10 Questions for Dario Fo”

Q: Do you think comedians, intellectuals, and artists can be good politicians? Does playing politics require special skills that artists do not have? Should artists get involved in politics directly? Or should they just observe, comment, and criticize?

Dario Fo: First of all a good comedian has to be a politician. A comedian must know politics and the tragedy of life. The comedian must know what honesty, poverty, desperation, and lack of justice mean. And then choose one side or the other. The one who can choose to stay at this or at the other side of a program is a politician. We live in a society of lies.

Dario Fo talks about Italy today and his art


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LitBirthdays March 2016


March 1

Ralph Ellison

Akutagawa Ryūnosuke

Shantabai Kamble

March 2

Janos Arany

Evgeny Baratynsky

Metta Victoria Fuller Victor (Seeley Regester)


March 3

Yury (Karlovich) Olesha

George Miller (George Miliotis)

Caroline Lamarche

March 4

Robert Orben

Miriam Makeba

Khaled Hosseini

Robert Emmet


March 5

MC Solaar

Elisabeth Badinter


March 6

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Andrzej Wajda

Teru Miyamoto


March 7

Georges Perec

Robin Becker

Muhsin Al-Ramli (Arabic: ) محسن الرملي‎


March 8

Kenneth Grahame

Hafid Bouazza

Carole Bayer Sager


March 9

Robert James (Bobby) Fischer

Mickey (Frank Morrison) Spillane

Ismael Serrano



March 10

Lorenzo Da Ponte

Keren Ann Zeidel (Hebrew: קרן אן זיידל‎)

Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)


March 11

Lea Hernandez

Douglas Adams

Ezra Jack Keats

Jean “Binta” Breeze

Alba de Cespedes


March 12

Naomi Shihab Nye

Virginia Hamilton

Tian Han 田汉

Jack (Jean Lous) Kerouac


March 13

Lisa Lutz

André Téchiné

Mahmoud Darwish

Common, U.S. rapper


March 14

Pam Ayres

Horton Foote, Jr.

Caryl Phillips


March 15

Ben Okri

Veronica Maggio

Madelyn Pugh


March 16

Zoe Jenny

Sully Prudhomme

Richard Matthew Stallman

James Madison


March 17

Yokomitsu Riichi (横光 利一)

Nat King Cole


March 18

Queen Latifah

Luc Besson

Christa Wolf,

John Updike


March 19

John Burnside

Valerio Zurlini

Philip Roth


March 20

Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso)

Vera Panova

Lucy Myers Wright Mitchell


March 21

Ved Mehta

Phyllis McGinley


March 22

Beverley Knight

Louis L’Amour Lawrence Dearborn LaMoore


March 23

Plantu (Jean Plantureux)

Emmy Noether

Akira Kurosawa


March 24

Kate (Catherine Merrial) Webb

Lawrence Ferlinghetti


March 25

Gloria Steinem

Toni Cade Bambara

Thom Loverro


March 26

Bob Woodward

Robert Frost

Tennessee Williams


March 27

Julia Alvarez

Budd (Seymour Wilson) Schulberg

Ai Qing (艾青) (Jiang Haicheng)

Michael Aris

Abelardo Castillo


March 28

Jennifer Weiner

Dimcho Debelianov (Димчо Дебелянов)

Maxim Gorky (Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov)

Lauren Weisberger


March 29

Vangelis (Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou) (Greek: Ευάγγελος Οδυσσέας Παπαθανασίου)

Andrija Maurović

Lennart Meri

March 30

Thierry Cabot

Céline Dion

Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay (Bangla: শরদিন্দু বন্দোপাধ্যায়)

Moses Maimonides

March 31

Octavio Paz

Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut

René Descartes


Dempsey Books are on

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