February 10

Amber pages

Charles Lamb, reducer of Shakespeare to a Victorian equivalent of Shmoop, born today in 1775 (better than Thomas Bowdler's versions anyway) 

Boris Pasternak, born today in 1890. Where I have successfully reduced Lamb to "all that there is to say about him", Pasternak is quite another matter. Much about him in my novel "Going To The Wall" - it was Pasternak who initially saved Osip Mandelstam's life, while he himself was still in favour with Stalin. But the truly significant moment in Pasternak's life was the announcement of his Nobel Prize for Literature, on October 23, 1958. It might as well have been a death-sentence by a black-wigged judge. I shall tell the story there.

Bertolt Brecht, born today in 1898. The great maverick of 20th century theatre, the man who tore down the Fourth Wall but chose to live behind the Berlin Wall, because Soviet Realism was in the end no worse than American Realism... but this will require a book, or at least an extended essay... and silly me for not remembering, that I am in process of writing one (and in the meanwhile, there is always this).

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