Friday, May 14, 2010

May Author Birthdays - the International Edition

I thought it might be fun to look beyond the shores of North America for this month's installment of our author's birthdays post. Celebrate a world of reading with one of these authors - all born in May.

Born on May 3, 1469, Niccolo Machiavelli would have had a lot of candles on his birthday cake this year. Wikipedia describes him as "a diplomat, political philosopher, musician, and a playwright, but foremost, he was a civil servant of the Florentine Republic." I've been reading Salman Rushdie's 2008 novel The Enchantress of Florence, which is partially set in the Florentine Republic - Machiavelli is briefly mentioned, along with a large number of other historical figures. In modern times, Machiavelli is probably best known for his political treatise The Prince.

Australian author Peter Carey celebrated his birthday on May 7th. In a writing career spanning almost 30 years, Carey has frequently focused on the history of his mother country. His 2000 novel, The True History of the Kelly Gang offered a fictionalized account of the life and exploits of Ned Kelly an Australian outlaw and folk hero. His 1988 novel Oscar and Lucinda told a story of love and gambling, richly set, in part, in 19th century Australia. Both books won the Booker Prize. Recently Carey has turned his descriptive eye and pen to Asia, in a 2005 memoir called Wrong About Japan.

Two British authors of note with birthdays in May - one modern day and one from not so long ago. Graham Swift celebrated his birthday on May 4th and Daphne du Maurier would have celebrated hers on May 13th. A Booker Prize winner for his 1996 novel Last Orders, Swift is a frequent chronicler of life in modern Britain, although he has been known to branch into historical writing and even into something akin to Noir fiction in his 2003 The Light of Day. That book makes a decent segue to Daphne DuMaurier, who didn't write Noir fiction, but was known for her Gothic Thrillers - including Jamaica Inn and Rebecca.

Born May 20, 1882, Sigrid Undset is perhaps the most international of our international authors. Born in Denmark, raised in Norway, she traveled and studied throughout Europe in her twenties and lived in the United States for a period during the German invasion of Norway in the Second World War. She wrote fiction of historical Scandinavia and then modern day Norway and in 1928 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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