Today's Page: August 20th
20 Aug 2012 10:57
H. P. Lovecraft, Salvatore Quasimodo, Tarjei Vesaas, Edgar Guest, and Bolesław Prus are the acclaimed authors who were born or died on a day like this.
H. P. Lovecraft
Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born on a day like this in 1890 in Rhode Island. He was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction, especially the subgenre known as weird fiction. Lovecraft's guiding aesthetic and philosophical principle was what he termed "cosmicism" or "cosmic horror", the idea that life is incomprehensible to human minds and that the universe is fundamentally inimical to the interests of humankind. As such, his stories express a profound indifference to human beliefs and affairs. Lovecraft is best known for his Cthulhu Mythos story cycle and the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire of magical rites and forbidden lore. Although Lovecraft's readership was limited during his lifetime, his reputation has grown over the decades, and he is now regarded as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th century. According to Joyce Carol Oates, Lovecraft—as with Edgar Allan Poe in the 19th century—has exerted "an incalculable influence on succeeding generations of writers of horror fiction". Stephen King called Lovecraft "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale." King has even made it clear in his semi-autobiographical non-fiction book "Danse Macabre" that Lovecraft was responsible for King's own fascination with horror and the macabre, and was the single largest figure to influence his fiction writing. His stories have also been adapted into plays, films and games. "The Strange High House in the Mist", "The Whisperer in Darkness", and "The Thing on the Doorstep" are some of his works. Lovecraft died on March 15, 1937, aged 46.
Salvatore Quasimodo was born on a day like this in 1901, and passed away on July 1968. He was an Italian author and poet. In 1959 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature "for his lyrical poetry, which with classical fire expresses the tragic experience of life in our own times". Along with Giuseppe Ungaretti and Eugenio Montale, he is one of the foremost Italian poets of the 20th century. Traditional literary critique divides Quasimodo's work into two major periods: the hermetic period until World War II and the post-hermetic era until his death. Although these periods are distinct, they are to be seen as a single poetical quest. This quest or exploration for a unique language took him through various stages and various modalities of expression. As an intelligent and clever poet, Quasimodo used a hermetical, "closed" language to sketch recurring motifs like Sicily, religion and death. Subsequently, the translation of authors from Roman and Greek Antiquity enabled him to extend his linguistic toolkit. The disgust and sense of absurdity of World War II also had its impact on the poet's language. This bitterness, however, faded in his late writings, and was replaced by the mature voice of an old poet reflecting upon his world.
Tarjei Vesaas, born on a day like this in 1897, was a Norwegian poet and novelist. Vesaas is widely considered to be one of Norway's greatest writers of the twentieth century and perhaps its most important since World War II. Vesaas spent much of his youth in solitude, seeking comfort and solace in nature. The destruction he witnessed after World War I made a deep impression on him. His authorship covers almost 50 years, from 1923 to 1970. Written in Nynorsk, his work is characterized by simple, terse, and symbolic prose. His stories are often about simple rural people that undergo a severe psychological drama and who according to critics are described with immense psychological insight. His debut was in 1923 with "Children of Humans", but he had his breakthrough in 1934 with "The Great Cycle". His mastery of the nynorsk language, landsmål, has contributed to its acceptance as a medium of world class literature. A prolific author, he won a number of awards, including the Gyldendal's Endowment in 1943, The Nordic Council's Literature Prize in 1963 for his novel "The Ice Palace" and the Venice Prize in 1953 for "The Winds". He was mentioned as being considered for the Nobel Prize for Literature on three separate occasions (1964, 1968 and 1969). Vesaas died on March 15, 1970.
Edgar Albert Guest (aka Eddie Guest) was a prolific English-born American poet who was popular in the first half of the 20th century and became known as the People's Poet. In 1891, Guest came with his family to the United States from England. After he began at the Detroit Free Press as a copy boy and then a reporter, his first poem appeared in 1898. He became a naturalized citizen in 1902. For 40 years, Guest was widely read throughout North America, and his sentimental, optimistic poems were in the same vein as the light verse of Nick Kenny, who wrote syndicated columns during the same decades. From his first published work in the Detroit Free Press until his death in 1959, Guest penned some 11,000 poems which were syndicated in some 300 newspapers and collected in more than 20 books, including "A Heap o' Livin'" (1916) and "Just Folks" (1917). Guest was made Poet Laureate of Michigan, the only poet to have been awarded the title. His popularity led to a weekly Detroit radio show which he hosted from 1931 until 1942, followed by a 1951 NBC television series, A Guest in Your Home. Guest passed away in 1959, aged 77.
Bolesław Prus, born Aleksander Głowacki on a day like this in 1847, is one of the leading figures in the history of Polish literature and a distinctive voice in world literature. As a 15-year-old, he had joined the Polish 1863 Uprising against Imperial Russia; shortly after his sixteenth birthday, in a battle against Russian forces, he suffered severe injuries. Five months later, he was imprisoned for his part in the Uprising. These early experiences may have precipitated the panic disorder and agoraphobia that would dog him through life, and shaped his opposition to attempts to regain Polish independence by force of arms. In 1872 at age 25, in Warsaw, he settled into a 40-year journalistic career that highlighted science, technology, education, and economic and cultural development. These societal enterprises were essential to the endurance of a people that had in the 18th century been partitioned out of political existence by Russia, Prussia and Austria. Głowacki took his pen name Prus from the appellation of his family's coat-of-arms. As a sideline he wrote short stories. Achieving success with these, he went on to employ a larger canvas. Over the decade between 1884 and 1895, he completed four major novels: "The Outpost", "The Doll", "The New Woman" and "Pharaoh". Prus passed away on May 19, 1912, aged 64.