The most significant events in the history of books on the 9th of November
1818: Ivan Turgenev is born. When the Russian novelist (author of Fathers and Sons) died, his brain was weighted and it was found that he had the heaviest brain on record.
1832: Émile Gaboriau is born. Gaboriau was a pioneer of detective fiction and the creator of Lecoq, one of the earliest detectives in all fiction (though Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin preceded him and was certainly an influence on Gaboriau). Lecoq is dismissed as ‘a miserable bungler’ by Sherlock Holmes in Conan Doyle’s first novel featuring the famous detective, A Study in Scarlet.
1918: Guillaume Apollinaire dies. An important figure in avant-garde French modernist poetry, he was influential on numerous writers including Ezra Pound, author of The Cantos. ‘Zone’ is his masterpiece; an English translation by David Lehman can be read here.
1928: Anne Sexton is born. A contemporary of Sylvia Plath, whom she would influence, Sexton would also take her own life, in 1974 aged 45. More information about her – and some of her poems – can be found here.
1934: Carl Sagan is born. Although best-known as a popular communicator of science (especially in his television series, and accompanying book, Cosmos), Sagan was also the author of a work of science fiction, Contact (1985), made into a 1997 film starring Jodie Foster. Sagan once remarked: ‘Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic.’
1937: Roger McGough is born. This Liverpudlian poet was a member of the skiffle group The Scaffold, who had a hit with a recording of ‘Lily the Pink’ in 1968. Nowadays he can be heard on BBC Radio presenting the programme Poetry Please.
1953: Dylan Thomas dies. The story about the ‘eighteen straight whiskies’ Thomas supposedly downed prior to his fatal collapse has been explored in our special post about Thomas’s fascinating life.
2004: Stieg Larsson dies. His novels have sold over 80 million copies worldwide, though he never saw any of this extraordinary success, as the novels were only discovered after his untimely death and published posthumously. Larsson said that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was based on what children’s character Pippi Longstocking would be like as an adult.
Image: Ivan Turgenev, via Wikimedia Commons.