LitBirthdays April 17 – 23, 2011

April is

National Frog Month


National Poetry Month

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April 17

Ray Kluun Ray Kluun (b. 1964) – Dutch novelist – Komt een vrouw bij de dokter (Love Life) (2003)

Read about Ray Kluun here and here

Ray Kluun is a young Dutchman who slept around while his wife was at home dying from cancer. This might have remained a matter for him and his conscience if he had not then written a book about a young Dutchman who sleeps around while his wife is dying from cancer. In Kluun’s case one of the partners became a serious and long-term lover. So too with the man in his book.

“I’m not proud of what I did,” he says, referring to his infidelity, “but when you have to give all your energy to something like this, in a part of your life when you should be having fun; ­ when you turn from a man into a nurse having to support someone physically, mentally, emotionally, then something else drops out. If all this positive energy is going out towards someone else, then an existing black side of you comes up. A guy I know collected stamps. When his wife got cancer, he became obsessed with stamp-collecting, and he never cheated on his wife. You always use your escape route. My weakness had been nightlife and women.”

(Read the entire Times interview here)

Read excerpts from Kluun’s novel Love Life

Love Life by Ray Kluun - Google Books

(from page 308)

When Carmen wakes up I ask her if she wants anything to eat.

‘Yes. Half a morphine pill.`

‘Are you in pain again?

She nods. ‘Terrible pain. My back.’

‘Then l’ll give you a whole one.’

‘Are we supposed to do that?’

‘What else? Scared it’s going to kill you?’

She bursts out laughing. ‘lf only . . .‘

All of a sudden her face grows taut. ‘Isn’t it time to tell Luna I soon won`t be here?’

‘I’ve already prepared her for that a little bit this morning.’

‘And what did she say?`

‘That’ – gulp – ‘it was OK if it meant you aren’t in pain any more and you don’t have to be sick.’ Together we cry over our little ray of sunshine.

`Feeling a bit better?’ I ask after a while. She nods. ‘Shall I read out the emails you’ve got?’ She nods again. Like a real star, she replies to her fans. Like a real secretary I type in the answers Carmen dictates.

Read the comments to the BBC4 Saturday Live interview of Kluun

Comment 7.

I find Mr Kluun’s story very reassuring. I find it such a confusing thing to be living in a society where people do dreadful and deceitful things while maintaining the illusion that they are someone ‘perfect’ and ‘respectable’…. I think Mr Kluun and his wife probably experienced something in their time together that many couple I know seem to lack entirely- an honesty and an ability to talk together openly about the things about each other that were good, as well as bad.


Born April 17

Giusy Ferreri (b. 1979) – Italian singer-songwriter

Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) (b. 1885) – Danish memoirist, short-story writer – “Babette’s Feast”


April 18


Rithy Panh (b. 1964) – Cambodian filmmaker

Read about Rithy Panh here and here

Ever since his 1994 movie “Rice People” introduced a Cambodian voice to world cinema, the director Rithy Panh has become the conscience of a nation still haunted by the tragedy of its recent past. “From the beginning I knew my work would focus on the problems in my country,” Panh said. “It’s been 26 years since the fall of the Khmer Rouge, yet we still don’t fully understand why we were forced to live through these horrors.”

“Most of these men still don’t understand how they became killers,” Panh said. “It’s not simply a question of judgment. We need to find answers to these questions. “Pol Pot is dead, but so far not a single person has been tried or convicted for crimes committed during that period. ”

“We have no recorded images of the genocide,” he said. “If we don’t confront the past, we will lose these essential memories; which is why I encourage people to tell their stories. The Khmer Rouge tried to destroy our culture and our identity, but it could never be simply a process of erasing something from a blackboard.”

(from “Staring down horrors of the Khmer Rouge”

by Robert Turnbull, New York Times, April 5, 2007)

Watch a trailer for Panh’s documentary S21

Rithy Panh interview on the beach at Cannes Film Festival, 2010


Born April 18

Costas [or Kostas] Ferris (b. 1935) – Greek film director, screenwriter, lyricist – Rembetiko (1983)

George Henry Lewes (b. 1817) – British philosophical writer, literary critic – Problems of Life and Mind


April 19

Sandro Petraglia (b. 1947) – Italian screenwriter, film director – The Girl by the Lake (2007)

Read about Sandro Petraglia here

Sandro Petraglia’s filmography

Read a review of The Best of Youth, screenplay by Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli

From a summer day in Roma in 1966 to a winter night in Norway in 2003, Best of Youth chronicles some 40 years in the lives of the Carati family and their friends.  Over the course of six riveting hours, Giordana weaves a delicate tapestry of human ecstasy and misery, paralleling the ups and downs of a family with the rise and fall of a country. Italy unravels and so do its people. Best of Youth is about the search for a national and personal identity and everything that happens to the Carati family becomes an act of self-preservation. Yes, Best of Youth is talky, but it’s also unmistakably, blisteringly human.

From an interview:

Sandro Petraglia, “The Best of Youth” is not only the title of a collection of  Friulian poetry by Pasolini, it is also a tragic song of the mountain people as  they were going to die in war.  The meaning of the title (typically romantic) is also a way of  mocking the definition of  the “best”, which basically says not to  be so sure …  A strong belief of “baby boomers” born after the war is that you want to stay young forever.  Jim Morrison of The Doors said, I hope I die before I get old. This generation has never said “everything that is real is rational, ” but: everything that is real is not right and must be changed. This path naturally involves many mistakes: only he who stands still is never wrong.

(translated with Google from the Italian)

Sandro Petraglia: “La Meglio Gioventù” non è solo il titolo d’una raccolta di poesie friulane di Pasolini, è anche una canzone tragica degli alpini che andavano a morire in guerra. Nell’accezione tipicamente romana è anche un modo beffardo di definirsi i “migliori”; in fondo chi lo afferma è il primo a non esserne così convinto… L’elemento forte dei “baby boomers” nati dopo la guerra sta nel fatto di voler restare giovani nella testa. Jim Morrison dei Doors diceva: spero di morire prima di diventare vecchio. Questa generazione non ha mai detto “tutto ciò che è reale è razionale”, ma: tutto ciò che è reale non va bene e bisogna cambiarlo. Questo naturalmente comporta anche molti sbagli: solo chi sta fermo non sbaglia mai.

Read the interview (Italian language) here

Watch a scene from La Meglio Gioventu / The Best of Youth

Sandro Petraglia talks about his films (in Italian language) [1 hour]


Born April 19

Maria Ember (b. 1931) – Hungarian novelist, Jewish Holocaust historian – Hairpin Turn / Hajtukanyar (1974)

Etheridge Knight (b. 1931) – U.S. poet


April 20

Asia Alfasi (b. 1984) – U.K. / Libyan Manga artist

Read about Asia Alfasi here and here

Listen to a BBC Radio 4 interview of Asia Alfasi

Alfasi: Glasgow is a rough city. And the area we moved in was rougher still. And we were the only Muslims. And the only non-white Scottish. I was the first to wear a hijab in school. And coupled with not being able to afford a uniform at that time as well — we also had to wear frilly dresses. That completed the look. But the great thing was, after I didn’t change, through taunting, they respected me for who I was. And I learned something great from that.

Asia Alfasi at Birmingham Comics Festival

Alfasi comic art

Born April 20

Erna Brodber (b. 1940) – Jamaican novelist, cultural historian – Louisiana (1994)

John Paul Stevens (b.1920) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice


April 21

Elaine May (b. 1932) – U.S. comedian, playwright, screenwriter, theater director – The Birdcage (1995)

Read about Elaine May here and here

Watch a funny Nichols and May skit


and listen to “My son, the nurse”

Queen Elizabeth II by Yousuf Karsh 1951

Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926) – U.K. monarch

Read about Queen Elizabeth here and here

Watch documentary footage of the Queen, with her voiceover speaking of her life

Visit the British Monarchy Facebook page here


Born April 21

Kole Omotosho (b. 1943) – Nigerian novelist, playwright, essayist – Just Before Dawn (1988)


April 22

Kseniya Simonova
Kseniya Simonova (b. 1985) – Ukrainian artist, performance artist, sand stories

Read about Kseniya Simonova here

“Miss Simonova  drew a series of pictures on an illuminated sand table showing how ordinary people were affected by the German invasion during World War II. The images, projected onto a large screen, moved many in the audience to tears …. She begins by creating a scene showing a couple sitting holding hands on a bench under a starry sky, but then warplanes appear and the happy scene is obliterated.”

(Read the U.K. Telegraph article here)

Watch Simonova talk about and create her art


Born April 22

Immanuel Kant (b. 1724) – German philosopher – The Critique of Pure Reason

Ana Maria Shua (b. 1951) – Argentinian novelist, poet

April 23


Michael Moore (b. 1954) – U.S. filmmaker, journalist – Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)

Read about Michael Moore here and here

Michael Moore at the 2015 New York Film Festival

“Art is more important than politics.”

Watch Michael Moore speak about his autobiography in 2011


Born April 23

Fadil Hadzic (b. 1922) – Yugoslavian (Bosnian/Croatian) journalist, playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker 

William Shakespeare (b. 1564; baptized April 26, 1564) – English playwright, poet – Hamlet (1600)

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