Literary Birthdays – Week of June 28 – July 4

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June 28

jean-jacques-rousseau-3 Jean-Jacques Rousseau (b. 1712) – Swiss-French philosopher

Read about Jean Jacques Rousseau here

June 29

Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Toure) (b. 1941) – U.S. political activist Stokely Carmichael

June 30

James Goldman James Goldman (b. 1927) – U.S. screenwriter and playwright – The Lion in Winter

See this short excerpt from the film The Lion in Winter (Katharine Hepburn plays Eleanor of Aquitaine, King Henry the Second’s wife):

July 1

Juan Carlos Onetti (b. 1909) – Uruguayan novelist – The Shipyard Juan Carlos Onetti
Read the Wikipedia article here

July 2

Wibo (“Wim” Willem Louis Joseph Boost) (b. 1918) – Dutch cartoonist

Read a short biography about Wibo here:

July 3

Franz Kafka Franz Kafka (b. 1883) – Austrian short story writer – “The Metamorphosis”

Excerpt from Kafka’s story “The Trial”

“You fool yourself in the court,” said the priest, “it talks about this self-deceit in the opening paragraphs to the law.

In front of the law there is a doorkeeper.  A man from the countryside comes up to the door and asks for entry.  But the doorkeeper says he can’t let him in to the law right now.  The man thinks about this, and then he asks if he’ll be able to go in later on.

‘That’s possible,’ says the doorkeeper, ‘but not now’.  The gateway to the law is open as it always is, and the doorkeeper has stepped to one side, so the man bends over to try and see in.

When the doorkeeper notices this he laughs and says, ‘If you’re tempted give it a try, try and go in even though I say you can’t.  Careful though: I’m powerful.  And I’m only the lowliest of all the doormen.  But there’s a doorkeeper for each of the rooms and each of them is more powerful than the last.  It’s more than I can stand just to look at the third one.’

The man from the country had not expected difficulties like this, the law was supposed to be accessible for anyone at any time, he thinks, but now he looks more closely at the doorkeeper in his fur coat, sees his big hooked nose, his long thin tartar-beard, and he decides it’s better to wait until he has permission to enter.

The doorkeeper gives him a stool and lets him sit down to one side of the gate.  He sits there for days and years.  He tries to be allowed in time and again and tires the doorkeeper with his requests.  The doorkeeper often questions him, asking about where he’s from and many other things, but these are disinterested questions such as great men ask, and he always ends up by telling him he still can’t let him in.

The man had come well equipped for his journey, and uses everything, however valuable, to bribe the doorkeeper.  He accepts everything, but as he does so he says, ‘I’ll only accept this so that you don’t think there’s anything you’ve failed to do’.  Over many years, the man watches the doorkeeper almost without a break.  He forgets about the other doormen, and begins to think this one is the only thing stopping him from gaining access to the law.

Over the first few years he curses his unhappy condition out loud, but later, as he becomes old, he just grumbles to himself…

Read “The Trial” here:

Part of Orson Welles production of The Trial:

July 4

Mao Dun (Shen Yen-ping / Shen Yan Bing) (b. 1896) – Chinese novelist, short story writer, journalist –
“The Shop of the Lin Family”

Read “The Shop of the Lin Family” here:

Read a biography of Mao Dun here:

Nathaniel Hawthorne (b. 1804) – U.S. novelist, short story writer – The House of the Seven Gables (1851)


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1 Response to Literary Birthdays – Week of June 28 – July 4

  1. Rob V. says:

    And, of course, July 4 also marks the birth of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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