Literary Birthdays: Week of January 25 – January 31

January 25

virginia woolf

Virginia Woolf  (born January 25, 1882) – British novelist, essayist – Three Guineas [1938]

Excerpt from Three Guineas:
The whole iniquity of dictatorship, whether in Oxford or Cambridge,
in Whitehall or Downing Street, against Jews or against women,
in England, or in Germany, in Italy or in Spain is now apparent to you.
But now we are fighting together. The daughters and sons of educated men
are fighting side by side. That fact is so inspiring, even if no
celebration is possible, that if this one guinea could be multiplied
a million times all those guineas should be at your service without
any other conditions than those that you have imposed upon yourself.

Take this one guinea then and use it to assert ‘the rights of all–
all men and women–to the respect in their persons of the great principles
of Justice and Equality and Liberty.’ Put this penny candle in the window
of your new society, and may we live to see the day when in the blaze of our
common freedom the words tyrant and dictator shall be burnt to ashes,
because the words tyrant and dictator shall be obsolete.

Listen to Virginia Woolf speak about words in this excerpt of a 1937 BBC radio program:

Literary Birthdays – Virginia Woolf BBC radio program audio

January 26

Jules Feiffer (born January 26, 1929) – U.S. cartoonist, screenwriter, novelist, children’s book writer – I Lost My Bear

See this Youtube video of Jules Feiffer at the Strand Bookstore in New York in May 2008:

January 27

Mordecai Richler (born January 27, 1931) – Canadian novelist, screenwriter, essayist – The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959 – novel; 1974 – film)

Richler on Canada: “There seems to be this parochial self-satisfaction…”

See Mordecai Richler criticize life in Canada in this 1961 CBC interview on Youtube:

January 28


José Martí (born January 28, 1853) – Cuban poet, political activist, essayist – A Cuba

Excerpt from Marti’s poem Versos Sencillos (1891)
Yo soy un hombre sincero / I am a sincere man
De donde crece la palma, / from where the palms grow
Y antes de morirme quiero / and before I die I want
Echar mis versos del alma. / to call verses from my soul.

Yo vengo de todas partes, / I come from all parts,
Y hacia todas partes voy: / And towards all parts I go:
Arte soy entre las artes, / Art I am with arts,
En los montes, monte soy. / In mountains, I am so.

Yo sé los nombres extraños / I know the foreign names
De las yerbas y las flores, / of herbs and of flowers,
Y de mortales engaños, / Of mortal false claims,
Y de sublimes dolores. / And of sublime sorrows.

Yo he visto en la noche oscura / I have seen in darkest night
Llover sobre mi cabeza / Like rain upon my head
Los rayos de lumbre pura / The rays of pure light
De la divina belleza. / Of beauty’s divine stead.

See the Cuban Compay Segundo and his group with Omara Portuondo perform Guantanamera (Europe 1998?) on this Youtube video:


January 29

2 Olga Tokarczuk.PNG

Olga Tokarczuk (born January 29, 1962) Polish novelist – Flights (2007)

Read about Olga Tokarczuk here and here

Anton (Pavlovich) Chekhov – (b. January 29, 1860 in the Gregorian / new calendar) – Russian playwright, short story writer – Uncle Vanya

Germaine Greer (b. 1939) – Australian feminist and cultural commentator – The Change: Women, Ageing, and the Menopause (1991)

January 30


Anton Tammsaare [born January 30, 1878] – Estonian novelist, playwright – Tõde ja õigus I-V, 1926-33 – Trubornth and Justice, Vol.1-5

Read the Wikipedia article about Tammsaare


January 31

Kenzaburō Ōe (born January 31,1935) – Japanese novelist, short story writer, essayist – A Personal Matter (1964) Nobel prize winner in literature, 1994

See an interview with Oe done at University of California, Berkeley, on Youtube:

About litbirthdays

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