LitBirthdays November 20 – 26, 2011

Go To November 21| November 22| November 23|

November 24| November 25| November 26|

November is

Native American Heritage


November 20

Nadine Gordimer
Nadine Gordimer (born November 20, 1923) – South African novelist, human rights activist, 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature

Read about Nadine Gordimer here

Watch a video portrait of Nadine Gordimer here



Born November 20

Sheema Kalbasi (born November 20, 1972) – Iranian poet – Echoes in Exile

Alistair Cooke (born November 20, 1908) – U.K. journalist – Alistair Cooke’s America


November 21

Isaac Bashevis Singer ( יצחק באַשעװיס זינגער ) (born November 21, 1902) – Polish / U.S. short story writer, novelist

Read about Isaac Bashevis Singer here

Watch an excerpt from the 1986 documentary Isaac in America

Born November 21

Qian Zhongshu (born November 21, 1910) – Chinese essayist, novelist, scholar – Fortress Besieged (1947)

Tina Brown (Christina Hambley Brown) (born November 21, 1953) – U.K. / U.S. editor, publisher, writer – The Diana Chronicles (2008)



November 22


Victor Pelevin (born November 22, 1962) – Russian novelist – Generation P / Homo Zapiens (English title) (1999)

Read about Victor Pelevin here

Read an interview of Victor Pelevin here
Using the upheaval of late-Soviet and post-Soviet society as his raw material, Victor Pelevin has spent the last decade producing works of exceptional humor, beauty, and insight.

Q: Omon Ra was written with some confidence that its writing would not land you in the loony bin. If there had been no Gorbachev, do you believe you would have still written Omon Ra? Or would it have never been written at all?

Victor Pelevin: Well, I’d rather put it this way: it was written with some confidence that its writing actually took place in the loony bin. Writing Omon Ra, I sometimes felt scared of what I was doing. But this fear was residual, like white noise—there was no real danger. The political aspect of this book wasn’t really important to me. I didn’t write a satire of the Soviet space program, as the book was branded both in Russia and abroad. It was a novel about coming of age in a world that is absurd and scary.

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Generation P / Homo Zapiens by Victor Pelevin:

When Tatarsky was out walking one day, he stopped at a shoe shop that was closed for lunch. Swimming about in the summer heat behind the glass wall of the shop window was a fat, pretty salesgirl whom Tatarsky promptly dubbed Maggie, and there in the midst of a chaos of multicoloured Turkish handicrafts stood a pair of unmistakably Soviet-made shoes.

Tatarsky felt a sensation of instantaneous, piercing recognition. The shoes had pointed toes and high heels and were made of good leather. They were a light yellowish-brown, stitched with a light-blue thread and decorated with large gold buckles in the form of harps. It wasn’t that they were simply in bad taste, or vulgar; they were the clear embodiment of what a certain drunken teacher of Soviet literature from the Literary Institute used to call ‘our gestalt’, and the sight was so pitiful, laughable and touching (especially the harp buckles) that tears sprang to Tatarsky’s eyes. The shoes were covered by a thick layer of dust: the new era obviously had no use for them.

Tatarsky knew the new era had not use for him either, but he had managed to accustom himself to the idea and even take a certain bitter-sweet satisfaction in it. The feeling had been decoded for him by the words of Marina Tsvetaeva: ’Scattered along the dusty shelves of shops (No one has bought them and no one buys!) My poems, like precious wines, will have their day’: if there was something humiliating in this feeling, then it was not he, but the world around him that was humiliated. But in front of that shop window his heart sank in the sudden realisation that the dust settling on him as he stood there beneath the vault of the heavens was not the dust that covered a vessel containing precious wine, but the same dust as covered the shoes with the harp buckles; and he realised something else too: the eternity he used to believe in could only exist on state subsidies, or else — which is just the same thing — as something forbidden by the state. Worse even than that, it could only exist in the form of the semi-conscious reminiscences of some girl called Maggie from the shoe shop. This dubious species of eternity had simply been inserted into her head, as it had into his, in the same packaging as natural history and inorganic chemistry. …He didn’t write any more poems after that; with the collapse of Soviet power they had simply lost their meaning and value.

Read a book review of Generation P / Homo Zapiens here

Watch the trailer for Generation P, based on Pelevin’s satirical novel about Russia in the post-Soviet ’90s

Born November 22

Marjane Satrapi (Persian: مرجان ساتراپی) (b. 1969) – Iranian graphic novelist, filmmaker – Persepolis (2000)

George Eliot (Mary Ann [Marian] Evans) (b. 1819) – British novelist and poet – Brother Jacob 



November 23

Charles Berlitz Charles Frambach Berlitz (born November 23? or 20? 1914) U.S. linguist, nonfiction writer – The Bermuda Triangle (1974)

Read about Charles Berlitz here and here

Born November 23

Lidija Bajuk (born November 23,. 1965) – Croatian singer/songwriter and poet – Kneya (1999)

Nirad C. Chaudhuri (born November 23, 1897) – Indian (Bengali) writer –  A Passage to England



November 24

Stephen Merchant (born November 24,. 1974) – U.K. comedian, scriptwriter – The Office (2001), Extras (2005) (co-writer)

Read about Stephen Merchant here and here

Stephen Merchant talks about making The Office with Ricky Gervais

Stephen Merchant in the film The Invention of Lying

Stephen Merchant answers Tweeted questions here

Born November 24

Yoshiko Uchida (born November 24, 1921) – U.S. (Japanese-American) memoirist, children’s writer – Desert Exile (1982)

Dale Carnegie (born November 24, 1888) – U.S. writer – How To Win Friends and Influence People (1936)



November 25

Thea Gilmore
Thea Gilmore (born November 25, 1979) – U.K. singer/songwriter (folk ballad) – Strange Communion (CD) (2009)

Read about Thea Gilmore here and here

“I like to provoke a response, whether that’s someone telling me they love what I do or throwing a bottle at me. The trouble is that the bottle-throwing faction won’t buy the album. You’ve immediately limited your audience.”

In her early 20s she was courted by all the major record labels, but turned them down; creative control has always been a greater priority for her than any financial incentive. “I hate the business I’m in,” she says. “I was under a lot of pressure to make records that sounded the way other people wanted them to sound. That was intrinsically wrong to me.”

[U.K. Guardian profile by Stephanie Merritt, May 29, 2008]

Listen to Thea Gilmore perform at a tribute to Bob Dylan concert (2011)

Watch the music video “That’ll Be Christmas”



Born November 25

Alexis Wright (b. 1950) – Australian (indigenous) novelist, short story writer – Carpentaria (2006)

Lope de Vega (Félix Lope de Vega y Carpio) (b. 1562) – Spanish playwright, poet – The Star of Seville



November 26

Uladzimir Karatkevich-8

Uladzimir Karatkevich (Уладзімір Караткевіч) (born November 26, 1930) – Belarusian novelist, poet, screenwriter

Read about Uladzimir Karatkevich here and here and here

The traditional piece of Belarusian literature is a constant lamentation about the “bitter fortune“ of the poor folk, accompanied by vivid verbal images of a typical Belarusian fellow – a barefooted peasant with matted greasy hair. Used to cliché-laden stories, the school pupils are usually quite reluctant to get their hands on the first book of the epic The Ears of Rye under Thy Sickle by Uladzimir Karatkevich. However, what sounds like a good title for a kolkhoz love story, appears to be an elaborate trap. Having once opened the book, one has a real difficulty shutting it.

The Ears of Rye under Thy Sickle is an exciting life story of Ales Zahorski, the young Belarusian duke, who would later take part in the Belarusian uprising of 1863-1864 against the oppressive Russian tsarist rule. Unlike heroes of many previous books by Belarusian authors, bewildered and naive countrymen, who feel themselves utterly uncomfortable outside of their native village, Ales Zahorski is smart and flexible, honest and brave. He is similarly skilled in riding an unsaddled horse, as in speaking French or German.

The traditional socialist realism literature would never tolerate a character like Ales Zahorski – at most he would be shown as a class enemy. The Soviet regime had never reverenced for the Tsar regime, but the very idea of Belarusians rebelling against the Russian rule was nevertheless highly suspicious. No wonder Karatkevich had to fight censors while working on this novel.

[from an article by Ales Kudrytski)

Read some English translations of Uladzimr Karatkevich’s writings

Visit the Uladzimir Karatkevich website (in Belarus and Russian languages)

Listen to a Karatkevich poem set to music

Песня колаў

Кожны раз, як дамоў ад’язджаю, / Every time I leave home,
Еду я міма дома твайго… / I go past your house
Ноч, як лёс, дамам пагражае / Night, as fate, the ladies face
Цёмнай злівай, слатой, тугой. / dark plum, rain, longing.
Ў небе іскры ўзлятаюць, як слёзы, / In the sky sparks fly, like tears,
І, калі мой цягнік закрычыць, / And when my train shouts,
Застаешся ты з ноччу і з лёсам / You are left with the night and the fate
На чужым, непатрэбным плячы. / of a strange, useless shoulder.

Прасціны твае, бы ў калючай асве, / Your sheets, a thorny school,
Клубіцца скупы цыгарэтны дым… / Wisps of smoke from a cigarette
А я табе прапаноўваў свет, /
Цэлы свет у сэрцы маім. / The whole world in my heart.
Вольны вецер і песні палян… палян… / Wind and a song field … field …
Неба ў маю… Неба ў маю… / Heaven in my … Heaven in my …
Кахання майго акіян… акіян… / My ocean of love … ocean …
Сонца і душу… Душу маю… / Sun and soul … my soul …
Мне – як табе, пустэчу хапаць. / I — like you, seize emptiness.
У начах маіх золь і драма. / My night of mess and drama
І ёсць дзесяткі, з кім можна спаць, / Yet there are many who can sleep,
Прасыпацца – ніводнай няма. / — no one there.
І знічкаю падае сэрца ў палі / And a light always burns in my heart
І ў агні згарае на тло: / And the fire burns down to ashes:
Прынцэсы былі, царыцы былі,- / There were princesses, there were queens —
Папялушкі адной не было. / Cinderella was not alone.
Хутары сумней у палях і сумней… / Boring farms and boring fields …
Спускаюся ў цемру, нібы вадалаз… / I went down into the darkness, like a diver …
Прадала, прадала, прадала ты мяне, / Sold, sold, sold – me to you,
Прадала, галавой аддала. / Sold, his head handed over.
На спакой змяняла крылаў страду, /
Катула – на месікаслоў, /
На смецце – гордае золата дум, / the bad — proud golden doom,
На даброты – музыку слоў. / the good — the music of words.

Born November 26

Charles M. Schulz (born November 26, 1922) – U.S. cartoonist – Peanuts (1950)

Eugène Ionesco (born November 26, 1909) – Romanian / French playwright – The Lesson (1951)



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