Jonathan Franzen, Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin, Roger Peyrefitte, V. S. Naipaul

De Amerikaanse schrijver Jonathan Franzen werd geboren op 17 augustus 1959 in Western Springs, Illinois. Hij groeide op in St. Louis en studeerde in het begin van de jaren tachtig in Berlijn. In 1988 verscheen zijn debuutroman The Twenty-Seventh City. In 1992 volgde Strong Motion en in 2001 kreeg hij voor zijn derde boek The Corrections de National Book Award. In 2002 verscheen de bundel essays How to be alone. 

Uit: The Corrections 

„The madness of an autumn prairie cold front coming through. You could feel it: something terrible was going to happen. The sun low in the sky, a minor light, a cooling star. Gust after gust of disorder. Trees restless, temperatures falling, the whole northern religion of things coming to an end. No children in the yards here. Shadows lengthened on yellowing zoysia. Red oaks and pin oaks and swamp white oaks rained acorns on houses with no mortgage. Storm windows shuddered in the empty bedrooms. And the drone and hiccup of a clothes dryer, the nasal contention of a leaf blower, the ripening of local apples in a paper bag, the smell of the gasoline with which Alfred Lambert had cleaned the paintbrush from his morning painting of the wicker love seat.Three in the afternoon was a time of danger in these gerontocratic suburbs of St. Jude. Alfred had awakened in the great blue chair in which he’d been sleeping since lunch. He’d had his nap and there would be no local news until five o’clock. Two empty hours were a sinus in which infections, bred. He struggled to his feet and stood by the Ping-Pong table, listening in vain for Enid.”   


Jonathan Franzen (Western Springs, 17 augustus 1959)


De Ethiopische schrijver Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin werd geboren op 17 augustus 1936 in Boda bij Ambo. Hij studeerde experimenteel theater in Londen en Parijs. Van 1961 tot 1971 was hij directeur van het Ethiopische Nationale Theater. Hij schreef gedichten, toneelstukken en essays. Zijn moedertaal was het Afaan Oromo, maar hij schreef in het Amhaars. Zijn landgenoten vergeleken hem met Shakespeare. Van hem vertaalde Gabre-Medhin ook werk, evenals van Brecht en Molière.  


Prologue to African Conscience

Tamed to bend
Into the model chairs
Carpentered for it
By the friendly pharos of its time
The black conscience flutters
Yet is taken in.

it looks right
It looks left
It forgets to look into its own self:
The broken yoke threatens to return
Only, this time
In the luring shape
Of luxury and golden chains
That frees the body
And enslaves the mind.

Into its head
The old dragon sun
Now breathes hot civilization
And the wise brains
Of the strong sons of the tribes
With an even more strange suffocation.

Its new self awareness
(In spite of its tribal ills)
Wishes to patch
its torn spirits together:
Its past and present masters
(With their army of ghosts
That remained to haunt the earth)
Hook its innermost soul
And tear it apart:
And the african conscience
Still moans molested
Still remains drifting uprooted.



Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin (17 augustus 1936 – 25 februari 2006)


De Franse schrijver en diplomaat Roger Peyrefitte werd geboren op 17 augustus 1907 in  Castres. Na zijn afstuderen ving hij een diplomatieke carrière aan als ambassadesecretaris in Athene van 1933 tot 1938. Zijn openbaar homoseksueel gedrag werd een tijdje gedoogd tot hij gedwongen werd ontslag te nemen om ‘familiale redenen’. Terug op de Quai d’Orsay, het hoofdkwartier van de Franse diplomaten, gaf hij na enige tijd ontslag ‘om persoonlijke redenen’, maar werd in volle oorlogstijd in 1943 gereïntegreerd in de “carrière”. In februari 1945 zag hij zich verplicht, nu om politieke redenen, zich volledig uit de diplomatieke wereld terug te trekken. Ondertussen was hij een literaire loopbaan begonnen met de publicatie van de ‘Amitiés’, dat een overweldigend succes kende en meteen bekroond werd met de Renaudot-prijs. In 1964 werd het boek ‘Les Amitiés particuliéres’ verfilmd.    

 Uit: Roy 

« En un tournemain, il ôta sa robe de chambre pour se présenter sans voiles dans toute sa gloire. Puis, avec délices, il défit la ceinture de Bob, lui enleva le T-shirt de la strict éducation, son
slip, son short, le contempla nu, avec ses chaussettes, ses baskets et son sexe, aussi raide que le sien. C’est Roy qui agissait avec l’autorité de l’acte final qu’il s’apprêtait à accomplir. Un de ses doigts gagna l’orifice dans lequel Jim avait joui ici, l’automne dernier. Bob, à son tour, le caressait au même endroit. « Ah ! ce cul toujours sans poils », dit-il. Roy continuait à tâter la place, si tendrement velue, qui avait encore la moiteur de la course.


Roger Peyrefitte (17 augustus 1907 – 5 november 2000)


De Britse schrijver Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul werd geboren op 17 augustus 1932 in Chaguanas, Trinidad en Tobago. Zie ook mijn blog van 17 augustus 2006.


Uit: Half a Life 

“Roger said one day, “My editor is coming to London soon. You know I do him a weekly letter about books and plays. I also drop the odd word about cultural personalities. He pays me ten pounds a week. I suppose he’s coming to check on me. He says he wants to meet my friends. I’ve promised him an intellectual London dinner party, and you must come, Willie. It will be the first party in the Marble Arch house. I’ll present you as a literary star to be. In Proust there’s a social figure called Swann. He likes sometimes for his own pleasure to bring together dissimilar people, to create a social nosegay, as he says. I am hoping to do something like that for the editor. There’ll be a Negro I met in West Africa when I did my National Service. He is the son of a West Indian who went to live in West Africa as part of the Back to Africa movement. His name is Marcus, after the black crook who founded the movement. You’ll like him. He’s very charming, very urbane. He is dedicated to inter-racial sex and is quite insatiable. When we first met in West Africa his talk was almost all about sex. To keep my end up I said that African women were attractive. He said, ‘If you like the animal thing.’ He is now training to be a diplomat for when his country becomes independent, and to him London is paradise. He has two ambitions. The first is to have a grandchild who will be pure white in appearance. He is half-way there. He has five mulatto children, by five white women, and he feels that all he has to do now is to keep an eye on the children and make sure they don’t let him down. He wants when he is old to walk down the King’s Road with this white grand child. People will stare and the child will say, loudly, ‘What are they staring at, Grandfather?’ His second ambition is to be the first black man to have an account at Coutts. That’s the Queen’s bank.”    


V. S. Naipaul (Chaganuas, 17 augustus 1932)