Literary Birthdays – Week of June 20 – 26, 2010

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June 20

Amos Tutuola Amos Tutuola (b. 1920) – Nigerian novelist  – The Palm Wine Drinkard (1952)

Read the Authors Calendar biography of Amos Tutuola

Read the New York Times obituary for Amos Tutuola

Read The Palm Wine Drinkard and
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts online

Amos Tutuola was born in 1920, of Christian parents, and he
received elementary education in the Salvation Army school and
later at Lagos High School, not more than six years in all. He
became a coppersmith, and continued this trade in the Royal Air
Force in Nigeria for three years during the war.

Tutuolas writing is original and highly imaginative. His direct
style, made more vivid by his use of English as it is spoken in
West Africa, is not published or sophisticated and gives his
stories unusual energy. It is a beginning of a new type of
Afro-English literature.

(Excerpt from the Foreword to The Palm Wine Drinkard)


June 21

Benazir Bhutto photo
Benazir Bhutto (b. 1953) – Pakistani political leader –  Daughter of Destiny: An Autobiography (1989)

Read about Benazir Bhutto here and here

Read an editorial by Benzir Bhutto:
“A moment of truth in Pakistan” (August 2007),0,4190919.story

“… Today is Pakistan’s moment of truth. Decisions made now will determine whether extremism and terrorism can be contained to save Pakistan from internal collapse. The stability of not just Pakistan but the civilized world is at stake.

In a democratic Pakistan, extremist movements have been minimal. In all democratic elections, extremist religious parties never have garnered more than 11% of the vote. But under dictators — most notably Gen. Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s, but unfortunately also Gen. Pervez Musharraf during this decade — religious extremism has gained a foothold in my homeland.

Whether leaders like Zia exploited religion for their own political ends, or dictatorships inherently induce deprivation and desperation, the fact remains that extremism has emerged as a threat to my nation, to the region and to the world. These extremists are the petri dish of international terrorism. It need not be so. It must be reversed. And it can be done. …

Pakistan is at the crossroads. Our success can be a signal to 1 billion Muslims all over the world that Islam is compatible with democracy, modernity and moderation. I go back to Pakistan this autumn knowing that there will be difficult days ahead. But I put my faith in the people and my fate in the hands of God. I am not afraid. Yes, we are at a turning point, but I know that time, justice and the forces of history are on our side.”

Jean-Paul Sartre (born June 21, 1905) – French philosopher, playwright, novelist – Nobel Prize Literature 1964

Read the Authors Calendar biography of Jean-Paul Sartre

Read the Nobel Prize biography of Sartre here


June 22

Abbas Kiarostami (Persian: عباس کیارستمی (b. 1940) – Iranian film director, screenwriter – Close-Up (1990)

Read the Wikipedia article for Abbas Kiarostami

Read more about Kiarostami here

“In 1990, though, he made Close-Up and so began a decade when he would become the darling of cinephiles around the world. In the autumn of 1989, Kiarostami had read a bizarre magazine story about an unemployed print worker who had divorced and had very little contact with his little boy. The man had been jailed after impersonating his idol, Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, seemingly for dubious motives. Kiarostami decided to recreate the events on film – amazingly using the real-life protagonists (he has for many years enjoyed using non-professional actors).”

Watch Kiarostami discuss his film Close-Up

Kaarina Helakisa (born June 22, 1946) – Finnish children’s book writer – At Least a Million Blue Cats. Ainakin Miljoona Sinistä Kissaa (1978)

Read about Kaarina Helakisa here (See page 6)

Kaarina Helakisa was one of the notable children’s writers of 1970s and 1980s. One of her early works, Elli-Velli Karamelli (1973) is a statement against pollution and greedy adults. Prior to that, the topic had only been published in Inari and Leena Krohn’s picture book, The Green Revolution.
Already Helakisa’s early work reformed the ways of storytelling. She combined the traditional fairy tale themes in everyday life. Fantasy and realism discussed and merged into a multilayered narrative. She started in 1960s by writing parodies of traditional fairy tales and later, wrote notable fairy-tale novels: Ainakin miljoona sinistä kissaa (At least a million blue cats, 1978), Annan seitsemän elämää (Anna’s seven lives, 1987). Helakisa also published regenerative and insightful children’s poetry, for example the collection Annan ja Matiaksen laulut (Anna and Matthias’ songs).

Read the Authors Calendar biography of Kaarina Helakisa

Read a Finnish language article about Helakisa here


June 23

Patrick Monahan (b. 1976) – Irish-Iranian standup comedian

Read about Patrick Monahan here and here

Watch an interview with Patrick Monahan

and Patrick Monahan’s show reel


June 24

Mercedes Lackey (b. 1950) – U.S. science fiction – fantasy author, singer/songwriter Mercedes Lackey

Read about Mercedes Lackey here and here

Read Mercedes Lackey’s secrets to becoming a writer

“There are many fine books out there (the title usually begins with “How to Write . . .”) to teach you the mechanics of writing. Ray Bradbury has also written an excellent book on the subject. You only learn the soul of writing with practice. Practice will make you better—or it will convince you that maybe what you really want to do is go into furniture restoration and get your own television show on The Learning Channel.”

Listen to a Mercedes Lackey song


June 25

_ Yann Martel (b. 1963) – Canadian novelist – Life of Pi

Read the Wikipedia article about Yann Martel



June 26

Ya’akov Cohen (also spelled Cahan) (Hebrew: יעקב כהן) (b. 1881) – Israeli poet, playwright, translator

Read a biography of Yaakov Cohen here

“His response to the external world was one of emotion rather than reason and the underlying themes of his poetry – beauty for its own sake and the search for the good – penetrate all levels of his writings. Cahan, however, did not belong to the school of individualistic poets whose poetry is completely personal. The emotions and ideals that inspired him were born out of his identification with national and universal values. In his aesthetics, Jewish values are fused with German thought, whose influence upon his work is strong. He saw Jewish revival effected through a complete identification of a “New” Judaism and enlightened humanism.”


Day after day as the day sets,
And the sun’s heat is waning,
There walks Tirzah, lovely faun,
Into the garden singing.

Day after day as the day sets —
To listen to her singing,
A cherub descends from the skies
To the garden winging.

In mysterious quiet all is wrapped,
The shadow spreading thickens —
And Tirzah singing, still sings on,
And still the cherub listens.

Then as a sudden tremor moves
Through leaves of tree about her,
Tirzah a slight moment shudders,
Stares expectantly behind her.

But nothing whatever does she see,
Completely unaware,
Confident she sings again
For the cherub’s listening ear.

(From Modern Hebrew Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology by Ruth Finer Mintz)

Song of the Biryonim

We have arisen and returned mighty youths,
We have arisen and returned, We are Biryonim!
To redeem our land in war’s storm,
We demand our heritage with upraised hand.

In blood and fire Judea fell!

In blood and fire Judea will arise!

(Read more…)

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