The most significant events in the history of books on the 7th of November
1913: Albert Camus is born. He is best known for his role in the philosophical and literary movement known as Existentialism, which sees human life is ultimately without purpose (Camus’ famous analogy was the myth of Sisyphus, the Greek king who was condemned endlessly to roll a boulder up a bill, only to watch it roll back down to the bottom when he had nearly completed the task). His most famous novels are The Plague and The Stranger. However, there was a jovial side to Camus, as this picture of him dancing demonstrates. He also once raced novelist Arthur Koestler across the Place Saint-Michel in Paris – on all fours. He once observed, ‘Nobody realises that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.’
1943: Stephen Greenblatt is born. One of the leading living Shakespeare scholars, Greenblatt is the founder of the critical school known as New Historicism, which effectively involves a more text-based study of literary history, discussing the political aspects of those texts and what they tell us about the world in which they were produced. (It isn’t unusual, for instance, to find a New Historicist discussing a Shakespeare play alongside a plague pamphlet, or a Dickens novel with a shopping list.) We include Greenblatt’s biography of William Shakespeare in our pick of great books on the Bard.
1990: Lawrence Durrell dies. He is perhaps best remembered for The Alexandria Quartet, a series of four novels published between 1957 and 1960 and set in Egypt before, during, and then after the First World War.
Image: Albert Camus in 1957 (Photograph by United Press International), via Wikimedia Commons.