Jun. 7, 2009

To Virgins, to Make Much of Time

by Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
   Old time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
   Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
   The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
   And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
   When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
   Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
   And while ye may, go marry;
For, having lost but once your prime,
   You may forever tarry.

"To Virgins, to Make Much of Time" by Robert Herrick. Public domain. (buy now)

It's the birthday of poet and novelist Louise Erdrich, (books by this author) born in Little Falls, Minnesota (1954). She's best known for her series of four books that follow three generations of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota during the 20th century: Love Medicine (1984), The Beet Queen (1986), Tracks (1988), and The Bingo Palace (1994).

It's the birthday of novelist Elizabeth Bowen, (books by this author) born in Dublin, Ireland (1899). She's known for writing about British upper-class society in novels such as The Death of the Heart (1938) and A World of Love (1955). During World War II, she worked as an air raid warden in London, and she used the experience to write her best-known work, The Heat of the Day (1949).

It's the birthday of Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, (books by this author) born in Istanbul (1952). In 2006, he won the Nobel Prize in literature. His books have been translated into more than 50 languages, and have sold more than 7 million copies.

He grew up in an affluent Turkish family in Istanbul, was educated at Western-style schools, and aspired to be a painter. He went to architecture college thinking he'd be practical, but dropped out in his third year and decided to devote his life to writing. He moved back in with his mother, and lived with her until he was 30 years old, writing his first novel and trying to get it published.

Pamuk is the first Turkish author to receive any Nobel Prize. But in Turkey, Pamuk is a controversial figure, and he's known in his home country as much for being a social and political activist as for being a writer (though he himself considers himself only a novelist). He supports political rights for Kurds, a large ethnic minority group in Turkey (and also in Iraq). And he has been vocal about one of Turkey's most sensitive and divisive issues, the 1915 Ottoman Empire mass slayings of Armenians and Kurds. He has said publicly, "Thirty thousand Kurds have been killed here, and a million Armenians. And almost nobody dares to mention that. So I do."

Because of such statements, he was the target of a hate campaign in his home country, and felt forced to flee. Turks gathered in public demonstrations in Istanbul and set his books on fire. In 2005, he came under criminal prosecution. He was arrested for violating a new law that forbids Turkish citizens to "insult Turkishness."

The case made newspaper headlines internationally, and many famous writers around the world came to his defense. Within minutes of his trial starting, the charge was dismissed, not on principle but on some obscure procedural technicality.

Pamuk is now a professor of literature and writing at Columbia University in New York. Though he lives in the U.S., Pamuk continues to write fiction almost exclusively in Turkish. Many of his books and interviews have been translated into English by Maureen Freely, including Snow (2004), Istanbul, Memories and the City (2005), The Black Book (2006), and Other Colors: Essays and a Story (2007). Maureen Freely's English translations often function as the basis for European and other language translations of Pamuk's work.

Pamuk said: "For me, a good day is a day like any other, when I have written one page well. Except for the hours I spend writing, life seems to me to be flawed, deficient, and senseless."

And he said: "What literature needs most to tell and investigate today are humanity's basic fears: the fear of being left outside, and the fear of counting for nothing, and the feelings of worthlessness that come with such fears…"

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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