1 (3)“Winter is coming.”

The ‘Game of Thrones’ fans at Random House India would not allow a blog about winter to get published without the aforementioned lines! With the temperature dropping each day and the nights getting longer, how amazing is it to cozy up and read your favourite book?

This month’s edition of ‘Kickass facts about authors born this month’ looks at some of the greatest writers in history. From works about female empowerment to great adventure novels, these authors born in November have written it all. While many have celebrated their works, they have managed to arouse resentment in some. However, looking at how these literary elites have lived their lives, Rhett Butler would probably sum up their feelings to the naysayers, “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”

 Louisa May Alcott

 (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888)

“Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.”

The American novelist and poet is best known for her work ‘Little Women.’ Louisa May Alcott grew up in New England among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Her family suffered severe financial difficulties and Alcott had to work from an early age to help support the family. When she began her writing career, she wrote under the pseudonym A. M. Barnard.

Louisa May Alcott is remembered today as an abolitionist and a feminist. When the American Civil War broke out, she served as a nurse in a Union Hospital at Georgetown.

Alcott suffered chronic health problems in her later years. She is buried in Concord, near Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau, on a hillside now known as “Authors’ Ridge.”

“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

Albert Camus

(November 7, 1913 – January 4, 1960)

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

A Nobel Prize winning author, Camus’ views led to the rise of a philosophy called absurdism. He later wrote that he devoted his life to opposing the philosophy of nihilism while still delving deeply into individual freedom.

Born in a poor family, his father died during the First World War. He was able to get a scholarship and join university where he used to play football. He had to give up his football dreams because of tuberculosis, and when he was once asked football or theatre, he replied, “Football, without hesitation.”

During World War 2, Camus joined the French Resistance cell Combat, which published an underground newspaper of the same name.

Camus died in a car accident when he was just 46. In his coat pocket was an unused train ticket. Despite planning to travel by train with his family, he changed his mind at the last minute and accepted his publisher’s proposal to travel with him in the car.

“I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live as if there isn’t and to die to find out that there is.”

Margaret Mitchell

(November 8, 1900 – August 16, 1949)

“With enough courage, you can do without a reputation.”

American author and journalist, Margaret Mitchell, is best known as the author of ‘Gone With The Wind.’ Despite having only one novel published during her lifetime, the American Civil War-era novel won her the National Book Award for Most Distinguished Novel of 1936 and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937.

Mitchell was born in Georgia into a wealthy and powerful family. Her works are based on the life in the south of the United States and most of them are from her experiences.

Never a shy one, Mitchell was well known in the Atlanta “high circle” as a flamboyant and mischievous young woman. She was not scared of demanding rights equal to her male counterparts.

She volunteered for the Red Cross during the Second World War and was active during the war. Margaret Mitchell died in 1949 after she was struck by a speeding automobile while on her way to see a movie with her husband.

“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

(November 13, 1850 – December 3, 1894)

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Robert Louis Stevenson used to travel often, and his journeys lent themselves well to his brand of fiction.

A literary celebrity during his lifetime, Stevenson is one of the most translated authors in the world.

The young Stevenson was tremendously influenced by the strong religious convictions of his parents. During his college years, however, his beliefs underwent a sharp change.

Despite his poor health, he started travelling a lot and wrote of his travels. Some of the best-known adventure books in literature history were penned by the Scotsman.

In his later years, he settled down in Samoa and lived amongst the tribes there. He helped develop the island nation and when he died, his tombstone epigraph was translated to a Samoan song of grief, which is still sung in Samoa till today.

“That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much.”

Jonathan Swift

(November 30, 1667 – October 19, 1745)

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”

Born in Dublin, Jonathan Swift is arguably the greatest writer to come out of Ireland. He is considered to be the foremost satirist in the English language. Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ read as a children’s classic is actually a work of satire against the English and the church.

Swift originally published all of his works under pseudonyms – like Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff, MB Drapier – or anonymously.

One of the greatest literary names, George Orwell named him as the writer whom he admired the most despite disagreeing with him in terms of philosophy.

In 1742, Swift suffered a stroke and lost the ability to speak, he died in 1745. The author was laid to rest next to Esther Johnson inside Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“No wise man ever wished to be younger.”

Mark Twain

(November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910)

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

Born in Florida, Missouri, Samuel L. Clemens wrote under the pen name Mark Twain and went on to pen several novels, including two major classics of American literature, ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’

When he was young, he shifted to the West to become a gold prospector. His experiences as a prospector and his travels inspired many of his works. His writing style was funny, often sarcastic and most of the times he took on the pretentious.

He suffered a lot financially in his later life and this seemed to have a major impact on him. He also lost three of his children to add to his anguish. The loss of his wife of 34 years also pushed him to become more pessimistic and bitter. Later accounts revealed that by the end, he had raging anger and his memory faltered.

“Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.”


The Penguin India Blog

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