LitBirthdays February 6 – 12, 2011

February is

Black History Month


Library Lovers Month

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February 6

Pramoedya Ananta Toer (born 1925) – Indonesian novelist, journalist, human rights activist Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Read the Authors Calendar biography of Pramoedya Ananta Toer

The Japanese occupation (1942-1944) and Indonesia’s struggle for independence provided the basic material for Pramoedya’s writing. His best-known work is the Buru Quartet (1980-88), banned by the Suharto regime. The story is set at the turn of the 19th century and depicts the emergence of anticolonial Indonesian nationalism.

Read the New York Times obituary for Pramoedya Ananta Toer

“It was Mr. Pramoedya’s ability to draw the “big picture” that set him apart from most post-World War II Asian novelists. A leftist and a supporter of the first Indonesian leader, Sukarno, Mr. Pramoedya was taken prisoner two weeks after an abortive coup attempt in September 1965 that eventually led to the coming to power of Suharto, a general and a tough anti-Communist. He was held without charges for 14 years on Buru, then kept under house arrest in Jakarta until 1992.

He made his first visit to the United States in 1999 to coincide with the publication in English of “The Mute’s Soliloquy,” a memoir of his years in the hard labor prison that details survival through foraging for worms and snakes.”

Read the ThinkShop blog about Pram’s series of novels about Dutch colonial Indonesia, The Buru Quartet

The story of western colonization is well known, but too often is told by the colonizers alone. The colonized remain silent, the passive, frequently unnamed, victims of decisions taken in London, Paris or The Hague.  For many western historical novelists, the former colonies simply form an exotic backdrop to the action, the natives provide little more than picturesque colour. All the more reason then to be grateful for the works of the late Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer.  I don’t know of any other work that so clearly dissects the phenomenon of imperialism, reveals the haughty ignorance of the colonizer and the despair of the colonized, and exposes how colonialism poisoned the relationship between the so-called developed and lesser-developed countries.

Read the BookConscious blog about Pram’s novel based on his grandmother’s life, The Girl from the Coast

Certain themes (the power of mother love, the struggle between good and evil, and the wisdom of experience, for example) and certain character types (such as an evil overlord, wise old woman, pure-hearted young woman, and fool or jester) appear in literature and folklore everywhere. The Girl from the Coast contains these folkloric elements as well, and Pramoedya uses them to cast light on colonial Indonesia’s inequality and the ways in which people adapt to deal with it.

I was particularly impressed with the empathy with which he writes his female characters, all of whom are important to the outcome of the book. Perhaps his own experience with oppression helped him to describe the lot of colonial era Indonesian women; however, he also nails the innocence and inexperience of his protagonist, and I have rarely read such a poignant description of the heart wrenching, life changing love of a mother for her infant as that which Pramoedya renders in The Girl from the Coast‘s dramatic climax.

Born February 6

Melvin B. Tolson

Christopher Marlowe

February 7


Gay Talese
(born 1932) – U.S. journalist, novelist

Read the biography of Gay Talese here

Read “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” (Esquire, April 1966)

Sinatra was ill. He was the victim of an ailment so common that most people would consider it trivial. But when it gets to Sinatra it can plunge him into a state of anguish, deep depression, panic, even rage. Frank Sinatra had a cold.

Sinatra with a cold is Picasso without paint, Ferrari without fuel — only worse. For the common cold robs Sinatra of that uninsurable jewel, his voice …

Read more

Read about Gay Talese in the Daily Routines blog

Born February 7

Chris Rock

Charles Dickens

February 8

Nancy Oliver (born 1955) – U.S. screenwriter – Lars and the Real Girl Nancy Oliver

Read the Wikipedia article about Nancy Oliver

Read a New York Times article about Oliver’s Lars and the Real Girl

Born February 8

Mae Street Kidd

Ron Tyson

John Grisham

February 9

Carole King Carole King (b. 1942) – U.S. songwriter/singer

Read about Carole King here and here

Listen to Carole King’s ‘Nightingale’

Born February 9

Alice Walker

Cassandra Steen

Amy Lowell

February 10

Johan Harstad
Johan Harstad (b. 1979) – Norwegian novelist, playwright – Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? (2011)

Read about Johan Harstad here 

Watch video interviews with Johan Harstad (Norwegian and English language)

Born February 10

Michael Anthony

Roberta Flack

Ivri Lider

February 11

Celeste O. Norfleet Celeste O. Norfleet (born 1959) – U.S. romance novelist

Read about Celeste Norfleet here and here

Born February 11

Jarena Lee

Florynce Kennedy

Lydia Maria Child

February 12

Michel Joseph Martelly “Sweet Micky”
(born 1961) – Haitian musician, performer, political activist/candidate
Michel Martelly

Read about Michel Martelly here and here and here

Watch Michel Martelly speak about his political goals

Born February 12

George Elliott Clarke

Abraham Lincoln

Charles Darwin

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