LitBirthdays July 15 – 21, 2012

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July 15

Jacques_Rivière_1922 Jacques Rivière b. 1886 – French essayist, critic

Read about Jacques Rivière here

One can imagine that three years in prison camps had particularly weakened [Jacques Rivière], as he would die seven years after the war, at the age of 39 years. Jacques Rivière, born in Bordeaux in 1886, was the brother-in-law of Alain Fournier, author of Grand Meaulnes, killed in 1914. (Correspondence between Jacques Rivière and Alain-Fournier released after Rivière’s death between 1926 and 1928).

Mobilized in 1914 in the 220th Infantry Regiment and made a prisoner of war on August 24 during the first battle, Rivière was imprisoned at Camp Königsbrück in Saxony. He tried to escape, which earned him a transfer to a disciplinary Camp Hulsberg in Hanover, where he recorded his memories of captivity, published in 1918 under the title: The German: Memories and Reflections of a prisoner of war.

Seriously ill, he was transferred to Switzerland in 1917 and was interned there until the end of the war. Following the end of the conflict, he relaunched the NRF (New French Review / Nouvelle Revue Française) in 1919, whose publication had stopped. He published Proust, Francois Mauriac, Paul Valery, Saint-John Perse, Jean Giraudoux, Jules Remains, and also Louis Aragon.

It is often said that Jacques Rivière  neglected his own writing to benefit his friends’ careers. The 14 books of his diary written between 1914 and 1917 analyzed his long captivity, expressing the feelings of humiliation, guilt, and the slow agony experienced by a captive. He died February 14, 1925 in Paris, from typhoid fever.

[translated from a forum post here about French writers]

Read an excerpt of Jacques Riviere’s article, published in Nouvelle Revue Française in May of 1923, about post-World War I relations between France and Germany here

Even if the occupation of the Ruhr proves a failure, it can always be said in its defense that it was an honest effort to solve the monstrous problem of Franco-German relations. France is accused of seeking other objects than Reparations there, but if we look at her action from the standpoint of European peace I think she should be praised rather than blamed for cherishing such ulterior designs.

The Versailles Treaty contains two fatal weaknesses: it pretends to base Germany’s obligations to her conquerors upon a recognition of moral delinquency; and it represents all the demands that the victors make of the vanquished as reparations for injury sustained.

When the war ended, nations — and therefore individuals — had indulged for four years in a veritable debauch of intellectual, moral, and physical injustice. The world was strewn with ruins. Men everywhere were possessed of a single idea: to leave principles to take care of themselves, and to recover as speedily as possible the wealth they had stupidly destroyed. In a word, to get Reparations.

Obviously Germany must pay the bill. But instead of justifying this by her defeat, what was done? We tried to make her acknowledge not only her defeat but her guilt. We tried to enforce an impossible moral reform before taking up the tremendous question of physical restitution. We endeavored to overwhelm Germany with a remorse, a grief, a discontent with herself that was utterly absurd, that did not exist, that could not possibly exist in the hearts of the masses of the German people.

It was on a cloud bank like this that we built the Versailles Treaty.

Read excerpts from The Ideal Reader, an English translation of some of Riviere’s essays, here


Born July 15

Dorothy Fields (b. 1905) – U.S. lyricist

Iris Murdoch (b. 1919) – Irish-British philosopher, novelist, poet


July 16

Mari Evans b. 1923 – U.S. poet, playwright Mari Evans

Read about Mari Evans here

I am a Black Woman

I am a black woman
the music of my song
some sweet arpeggio of tears
is written in a minor key
and I
can be heard humming in the night
Can be heard
in the night
I saw my mate leap screaming to the sea
and I/with these hands/cupped the lifebreath
from my issue in the canebrake
I lost Nat’s swinging body in a rain of tears
and heard my son scream all the way from Anzio
for Peace he never knew….I
learned Da Nang and Pork Chop Hill
in anguish
Now my nostrils know the gas
and these trigger tire/d fingers
seek the softness in my warrior’s beard

I am a black woman
tall as a cypress
beyond all definition still
defying place
and time
and circumstance
on me and be

Born July 16

Ross King (b. 1962) – Canadian historian – Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling

Saint Clare of Assisi – (Chiara Offreduccio) (b. 1194) – Italian nun, mystic, founder of the Order of Poor Clares


July 17

Born July 17

Erle Stanley Gardner (b. 1889) – U.S. detective fiction writer (Perry Mason series) – The Case of the Perjured Parrot (1939)

Shmuel Yosef Agnon (Hebrew: שמואל יוסף עגנון) (b. 1888) – Hebrew novelist, short story writer, 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature winner – The Day Before Yesterday / Only Yesterday (1945)

Michael Francis Gilbert (b. 1912) – U.K. mystery writer –  Smallbone Deceased (1950)


July 18

Born July 18

Yevgeny Yevtushenko (b. 1933) – Russian poet

Alfian Sa’at (b. 1977) – Singapore playwright, poet

Elizabeth Gilbert (b. 1969) – U.S. novelist, memoirist  –  Eat, Pray, Love (2006)

Nelson Mandela (b. 1918) – South African political leader, activist – Long Walk to Freedom (1994)


July 19

Born July 19

Norman Manea (b. 1936) – Romanian essayist, novelist – The Hooligan’s Return (2005)

Garth Nix (b. 1963) – Australian fantasy novelist – Mister Monday (2003, Keys to the Kingdom series)

A.J. (Archibald Joseph) Cronin (b. 1906) – Scottish novelist – The Stars Look Down (1935)

Vladimir Mayakovsky (b. 1893) – Russian poet, playwright – The Bedbug (1929 play)


July 20


Born July 20

Simin Beh’bahāni (Persian: سیمین بهبهانی) (b. 1927) – Iranian poet – A Cup of Sin: Selected Poems (1999)

Imam Bukhari (Muhammed Al-Bukhari) (b. 810) – Turkistan Sunni Islamic scholar – Sahih Al-Bukhari

(Elizabeth) Dilys Powell (b. 1901) – U.K. film critic, essayist – The Golden Screen: Fifty years at the films (1989)

Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca) (b. 1304) – Italian humanist, poet


July 21

Born July 21

Mohammed Dib (b. 1920) – Algerian novelist, poet – La Grande Maison / The Big House (1952)

Ernest Miller Hemingway (b. 1899) – U.S. short story writer, novelist – For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)

Suso Cecchi d’Amico (b. 1914) – Italian screenwriter


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