B is for...Baudelaire, Borges, Borowski, and Bohjalian
I've figured out my guiding topic for the month! I'm feeling very accomplished today. This entire challenge will be focused on writers I truly enjoy or who have influence my readings/writings in some way. I hope people will explore some of the authors/works I discuss throughout the month.
For the letter B, I've got four stand out writers who have shaped my reading preferences: Charles Baudelair, Jorge Luis Borges, Tadeusz Borowski, and Chris Bohjalian.
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
A French poet, essayist, art critic, and Poe translator, Baudelaire focused on the industrialization of Parisian society during the 19th century. He believed that it was art's purpose to capture the fleeting experience of life in the urban landscape. Perhaps his most famous work, Las Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), published in 1857, highlighted themes of sex, death, decomposition, decay, metamorphosis, melancholia, and various vices. The volume was considered a scandal at the time; so much so that Baudelaire and his publishers were accused and convicted of crimes against public morals and required to remove six poems from the work. This judgment was overturned in 1947 and the poems were added back to the newer editions. Towards the end of his life, Baudelaire became a heavy user of laudanum, opium, and alcohol which eventually lead to him having a massive heart attack that left him partially paralyzed until his death two years later.
*Recommendation: Las Fleurs du mal...specifically "A Carcass," "To the Reader," and "You would take the whole world to bed with you"
Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)
An Argentinean short story writer and essayist focusing mainly on the character of unreality in literature, utilizing themes of labyrinths, dreams, mirrors, philosophy, and religion, Borges' works are now considered classics of world literature. Professionally, Borges was a lecturer and librarian in Buenos Aires before becoming blind in 1954 at the age of 55. Despite his blindness, he continued writing and receiving multiple awards recognizing his achievements, though none of these were as coveted as the Nobel Prize which he was never nominated for; this upset the writer greatly. Many critics and fellow writers have stated that, regardless of never having won a Nobel, he paved the way for future Spanish American novelists. His influence is most heavily seen in philosophical literature and the fantasy genre of today.
*Recommendation: Collected Fictions...specifically "The Library of Babel" and "Death and the Compass"
Tadeusz Borowski (1922-1951)
A Polish writer and journalist, Borowski wrote poetry and short stories chronicling his time spent as a prisoner in Auschwitz. During Poland's occupation by the Nazi's, Borowski worked for several underground newspapers publishing poems and short stories before purposely walking into a Gestapo trap after his fiancee's arrest. After being transported to Auschwitz, he was forced into slave labor, mainly on the railway ramps, before being assigned to the camp "hospital." Once the Allies liberated Dachau, where Borowski had been transferred in late 1944, he returned to Poland in 1946. It was at this time that Borowski wrote is most profound and well-known piece of literature, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, a collection of short stories written in the first person and showing the numbing effect that camp life had on the prisoners. Borowski committed suicide at the age of 28 by breathing in gas from a stove.
*Recommendation: This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
Chris Bohjalian (1962-)
An American novelist living in Vermont, Bohjalian's work takes on controversial, specific issues told from the perspective of multiple primary and secondary characters. In addition to his novels, Bohjalian has also written for Cosmopolitan, The New York Times, and The Readers' Digest. He also has a weekly column in the Burlington Free Press that he has been writing since 1992. His first novel, A Killing in the Real World, was published in 1988 and he has followed it up with 15 other works. His newest novel, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, will be released on July 8th.
*Recommendation: Midwives and Skeletons at the Feast
Sorry this was a little long, fellow A-Zers! I promise that the majority will not be nearly this lengthy. Happy Wednesday and Blog On!