The most significant events in the history of books on the 11th of November
1821: Fyodor Dostoevsky is born. In 1849, he was sentenced to death by firing squad. At the very last minute the sentence was commuted to four years’ hard labour. At the time he was still an aspiring novelist, having written several minor works such as a novella titled The Double (1846). He would go on to write such classic novels as Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov.
1855: Søren Kierkegaard dies. The Danish philosopher, known for such works as Either/Or and Fear and Trembling, reportedly had a bit of a coffee addiction, but that was nothing compared with his sugar fetish: he would pour black coffee over a cup of sugar and gulp the resultant mixture down.
1920/21: James Bond is apparently born. A fictional biography gives the year as 1921, but John Griswold has calculated from Ian Fleming’s novels that the year was 1920. Either way, today is 007’s birthday.
1922: Kurt Vonnegut is born. The American novelist is best known for such works as Slaughterhouse 5, Cat’s Cradle, The Sirens of Titan, and Breakfast of Champions. To reflect his original contribution to science fiction, he has an asteroid named after him. ‘We are here on Earth to fart around’ was his philosophy. ‘Don’t let anybody tell you any different.’
1954: The Two Towers, the second instalment in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, is published. We’ve put together some of our favourite Tolkien facts here, and our post about C. S. Lewis contains an entertaining story about Tolkien and fancy-dress.
1961: Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 is published. Original titles considered for the book included ‘Catch-11’ and ‘Catch-18’, but these were rejected. A winning title – and an everyday phrase for a no-win situation – was born. Heller failed to repeat the success of Catch-22 in his later work and wittily remarked, ‘When I read something saying I’ve not done anything as good as ‘Catch-22’ I’m tempted to reply, “Who has?”‘
Image: Photo of Kurt Vonnegut from an appearance on WNET-TV, 1972, Wikimedia Commons.