LitBirthdays June 19 – 25, 2011

June is

Audio book month


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June 19

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi (b. 1945) – Burmese political leader, human rights activist, 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner – Letters from Burma (1997)

Read about Aung San Suu Kyi here

Read Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Freedom from Fear” speech here

It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. Most Burmese are familiar with the four a-gati, the four kinds of corruption. Chanda-gati, corruption induced by desire, is deviation from the right path in pursuit of bribes or for the sake of those one loves. Dosa-gati is taking the wrong path to spite those against whom one bears ill will, and moga-gati is aberration due to ignorance. But perhaps the worst of the four is bhaya-gati, for not only does bhaya, fear, stifle and slowly destroy all sense of right and wrong, it so often lies at the root of the other three kinds of corruption. Just as chanda-gati, when not the result of sheer avarice, can be caused by fear of want or fear of losing the goodwill of those one loves, so fear of being surpassed, humiliated or injured in some way can provide the impetus for ill will. And it would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear. With so close a relationship between fear and corruption it is little wonder that in any society where fear is rife corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched.

*   *   *

The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit, born of an intellectual conviction of the need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nation’s development. A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success.

Watch Aung San Suu Kyi explain the Burmese concept of democracy

“What they understood was that they wanted security. They wanted freedom. They wanted to be free to shape their own destinies. They wanted to live in a land that was free from fear and free from want. They wanted to live in a nation where the people could elect their own government. Not because they had ever heard President Lincoln’s speech, but because their instinct told them that this was the kind of government that would look after their interests.”


Born June 19

Pauline Kael (b. 1919) – U.S. film critic – I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

Salman Rushdie (b. 1947) – British-Indian novelist – The Satanic Verses(1988)


June 20

Enn Vetemaa

Enn Vetemaa (b. 1936) – Estonian novelist, playwright, lyricist, poet

Read about Enn Vetemaa here

Read a bibliography for Enn Vetemaa

Two versions of the song “Laul Põhjamaast” (lyrics by Enn Vetemaa)

Laul Põhjamaast (Estonian for Song of the Northern Land) is a song by Enn Vetemaa to a melody by Ülo Vinter, originally for an Estonian musical adaptation of Pippi Longstocking. (Wikipedia)

Põhjamaa laul

Põhjamaa, me sünnimaa, / Northern land, my motherland

tuulte ja tuisuööde maa, / windswept and ___ land

range maa ja kange maa, / ___ land and hero’s land

virmaliste maa. / land of the Northern Lights.

Põhjamaa, me sünnimaa, / Northern land, my motherland

iidsete kuuselaante maa, / land of ancient spruce

kaugeil teil sa kallis meil, / so distant yet so dear to us

sind ei jäta ma. / I will not leave you.

On lumme uppund metsatalud, / Snowbound  forest farms

vaiksed taliteed, / quiet winter roads

nii hellad on su aisakellad, /__ ___ __ __ sleigh bells

lumel laulvad need. / they are singing in the snow.

Pohjamaa, me sünnimaa, / Northern land, my motherland

karmide meeste kallis maa, / tough men, cherished land

taplemiste tallermaa,

püha kodumaa. / hallowed homeland

Põhjamaa, me sünnimaa, / Northern land, my motherland

hinges sind ikka kannan ma, /your spirit is ever with me

lainte maa ja rannamaa, / ___ land and coastal land

sind ei jäta ma. / I will not leave you.


Born June 20

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

Anna Laetitia Barbauld (b. 1743) – British poet, essayist, children’s book writer –  “Eighteen Hundred and Eleven” in The Poems of Anna Letitia Barbauld


June 21

John Agard

John Agard (b. 1949) – U.K. – Guyana poet, playwright, children’s writer

Read about John Agard here and here

Alternative Anthem

Put the kettle on
Put the kettle on
It is the British answer
to Armageddon.

Never mind taxes rise
Never mind trains are late
One thing you can be sure of
and that’s the kettle, mate.

It’s not whether you lose
It’s not whether you win
It’s whether or not
you’ve plugged the kettle in.

May the kettle ever hiss
May the kettle ever steam
It is the engine
that drives our nation’s dream.

Long live the kettle
that rules over us
May it be limescale free
and may it never rust.

Sing it on the beaches
Sing it from the housetops
The sun may set on empire
but the kettle never stops.

Watch John Agard perform Alternative Anthem



Excuse me
standing on one leg
I’m half-caste

Explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when picasso
mix red an green
is a half-caste canvas/
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when light an shadow
mix in de sky
is a half-caste weather/

well in dat case
england weather
nearly always half-caste
in fact some o dem cloud
half-caste till dem overcast
so spiteful dem dont want de sun pass
ah rass
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when you say half-caste
yu mean when tchaikovsky
sit down at dah piano
an mix a black key
wid a white key
is a half-caste symphony/

Read the entire poem here


Born June 21

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

Jean-Paul Sartre (b. 1905) – French philosopher, playwright, novelist

Mary McCarthy (b. 1912) – U.S. novelist, theater critic – The Unimportance of Being Oscar


June 22 


Moana Maniapoto (b. 1961) – New Zealand / Maori singer/songwriter, filmmaker

Read about Moana here

Moana and The Tribe performing live

Moana and the Moahunters music video

Moana’s website


Born June 22

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

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

Sándor Weöres (b. 1913) – Hungarian poet

Dan Brown (b. 1964) – U.S. novelist – The DaVinci Code


June 23

steven dietz
 Steven Dietz (b. 1958) – U.S. playwrght

Read about Steven Dietz here


Born June 23

Anna Akhmatova (b. 1889) – Russian poet

Alfred Kinsey (b. 1893) – U.S. biologist who studied human sexuality – The Kinsey Reports (1948)

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


June 24

Julia Kristeva
 Julia Kristeva (b. 1941) – Bulgarian / French philosopher

Read about Julia Kristeva here

Kristeva’s main concerns are with the politics of marginality and against all monologic discourse, with the desire to produce a discourse which always confronts (and is thus in process all the time), the impasse of language, and moves to think language against itself. Julia Kristeva feels that instead of accepting consensual ideology and moralizing, we need to adopt an “analytic, relentless position” that takes negativity into account. She also challenges “writers” instead of intellectuals to reinvent the political realm. Kristeva, unlike many others, practices her theories. In her non-fiction and fiction she fractures language and conventions and interacts with multiple texts.”

Watch an interview with Julia Kristeva

Q: Is orthodox linguistic theory mistaken?

Kristeva: I do not think that modern linguistic theories are mistaken … but all these linguistic theories presuppose a separation between subject and object. … It is precisely this solidity and separation that are in contention … at times of revolt, innovation, or creation. So I proposed a model designed to accommodate these dynamic situations where meaning is not always given. …  To better understand this dynamic, I speak of two modalities. First, the semiotic, which is seen in echolalias — infant vocalizing prior to sign and syntax. And second, sign and syntax, or what I call the symbolic. The articulation of the two produces the dynamics of language. You could construct a typology of the discourse of human experience on the basis of these notions of semiotic and symbolic, which deals with critical states of language and possibilities of change and evolution.

Read excerpts from Desire in Language: a semiotic approach to literature and art here


Born June 24

Anita Desai (b. 1937) – Indian novelist – Clear Light of Day


June 25

Ricky Gervais
 Ricky Gervais (b. 1961) – U.K. comedan, screenwriter, producer

Read about Ricky Gervais here

Ricky Gervais and Jerry Seinfeld kidding around


Born June 25

George Orwell (b. 1903) – British novelist, essayist – 1984

Anthony Bourdain (b. 1956) – U.S. food and travel writer – No Reservations

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


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