Wednesday, 16 March 2011
From a medieval damsel in distress to a contemporary figure of striking independence, the woman has seen a marked transformation in literature. Following International Women's Week, the Guardian has released a podcast, debating the place of the woman in modern writing. 'Heroines and Feminists' can be heard here
On this day...Lithuanian book smuggler Jurgis Bielinis was born in 1846. 1864 heralded the start of the Lithuanian press ban, during which all Lithuanian language books published in the Latin alphabet were forbidden by the ruling Russian Empire. Tsarist authorities hoped that this measure, part of a larger Russification plan, would decrease Polish influence on Lithuanians and would return them to what were considered their ancient historical ties with Russia.
However, Bielinis showed resistance, taking it upon himself to form the Knygnešiai society - the largest contemporary book smuggling organisation. Nicknamed 'The King of the Book Carriers', Bielinis was actively sought by the authorities, who promised a large monetary reward for his capture after he had escaped their guards at least five times. During the 31 years of his activity, it is estimated that he and his society illegally brought about half of all Lithuanian books from East Prussia into the Lithuanian mainland during the entire press ban. Bielinis died in 1918 at the age of 71.
Tuesday, 15 March 2011
This year sees the 400th anniversary of one of the world's greatest literary achievements. Whilst for some that may immediately conjure up images of Shakespeare or John Donne, it is, in fact, the work of King James, and his now eponymous publication of the Bible. The third English translation, the work required 47 scholars of Hebrew and Ancient Greek and took 7 years to complete, eventually selling for 10 shillings a copy. Only recently usurped by the more more NIV and Message translations, the KJV has inspired centuries of Christians, encouraging them to delve into the word and making their gospel more accessible to others. In a series of recent BBC documentaries, the makings and influence of this masterpiece have been explored. 'The King James Bible: The Book that Changed the World' can be seen here.
On this day...German writer Paul Johann Ludwig von Heyse was born in 1830. The son of Felix Mendelssohn's tutor, and a Prussian court jeweller descendant, Heyse was born into a family already heavily connected with the artistic world. Thus he soon befriended names such as Theodor Fontane and Emanuel Geibel, joining the literary group Tunnel über der Spree, before publishing his first poem, 'Frühlingsanfang', in 1848. Although settled on becoming a writer, Heyse's hopes were initially short-lived, as he was discovered to have been conducting an affair with the wife of a university professor and was sent back to Berlin in disgrace.
Yet it was in Munich that his literary revival was secured. Granted an audience with the King of Bavaria, Heyse presented his verse tales, 'Hemen', and preceeded to become known as one of the Nordlichten, establishing his own literary society, Die Krokodile. He continued to write prolifically and his work was recognised in 1910, when he received the Nobel Prize for Literature as 'a tribute to the consummate artistry, permeated with idealism, which he has demonstrated during his long productive career as a lyric poet, dramatist, novelist and writer of world-renowned short stories'. Hysee died in 1914, at the age of 84.
Monday, 14 March 2011
It has travelled with a naval commander to Hong Kong and Australia, but this week a rare library book has found itself back home in Wallington thirty years on. A 1928 volume of Samuel Pepys' Diary, part of a set worth an estimated £200, was taken out in 1981 by former Royal Australian Navy Commander Ron Robb to help his daughter with a school project. Yet shortly afterwards he returned back home from his posting in London, and did not rediscover the book until recently, when he was in the process of moving house.
Although, at the current rate Mr. Robb would face an overdue fine of more than £1,600, local Councillor Graham Tope has waived it and is just pleased to have the book returned, 'We've had the odd overdue library book, but 30 years must be a record..it's great that this valuable book has been returned to complete the set, particularly as they have been part of the library for so long'. The book is now back with the other volumes of the edition in Wallington Library's Mallison Room.
On this day...English author Thomas Malory died in 1471, at the age of approximately 66. The compiler of 'Le Morte d'Arthur', Malory translated the Arthurian romance tales of the King, Guinevere and Lancelot from French prose into eight books of Middle English verse, providing the basis for later literary works such as T.H. White's 'The Once and Future King', and Tennyson's 'The Idylls of the King'. Yet despite a lasting literary legacy, much uncertainty surrounds the man himself.
At least six Thomas Malorys were alive at the time of the books writing, and from those, three main theories have emerged as to the identity of the author. Firstly, it was proposed by John Bale, that Malory was Welsh, hailing from Maloria and related to the poet Edward Rhys Maelor. The second alias is that of Thomas Malory of Papworth St. Agnes - a respected, yet average, country gentlemen. Yet it is to the turn that most scholars look, Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel. A soldier and politician in the early years of his life, Sir Thomas turned to thievery, rape and kidnapping, serving time in both Marshalsea and Newgate Prisons. The most popular claimant, it is this Thomas Malory who died 540 years ago.