Portrait: Mark Twain, an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer

25 January 2023 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Portrait Reading Time:  6 minutes

Mark Twain by Ernest H  Mills, ca 1895 © NPR

Mark Twain by Ernest H Mills, ca 1895 © NPR

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. He was praised as the “greatest humorist the United States has produced”, and William Faulkner called him “the father of American literature“. His novels include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), the latter of which has often been called the “Great American Novel“. Twain also wrote A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889) and Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894), and co-wrote The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873) with Charles Dudley Warner.   read more…

Portrait: Oscar Wilde, Irish poet and playwright

28 December 2022 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Portrait Reading Time:  8 minutes

Oscar Wilde Memorial Sculpture in Merrion Square, Dublin © flickr.com - Stéphane Moussie/cc-by-2.0

Oscar Wilde Memorial Sculpture in Merrion Square, Dublin © flickr.com – Stéphane Moussie/cc-by-2.0

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish poet and playwright. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of the most popular playwrights in London in the early 1890s. He is best remembered for his epigrams and plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the circumstances of his criminal conviction for gross indecency for consensual homosexual acts in “one of the first celebrity trials”, imprisonment, and early death from meningitis at age 46.   read more…

Portrait: Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher, and Academic skeptic

28 April 2022 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Portrait Reading Time:  6 minutes

Bust of Cicero, Palazzo Nuovo, Musei Capitolini, Rome © Freud/cc-by-sa-3.0

Bust of Cicero, Palazzo Nuovo, Musei Capitolini, Rome © Freud/cc-by-sa-3.0

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher, and Academic skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during the political crises that led to the establishment of the Roman Empire. His extensive writings include treatises on rhetoric, philosophy and politics, and he is considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order, and served as consul in 63 BC.   read more…

Portrait: Richard Wagner, composer, theatre director, polemicist, conductor

23 March 2022 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Portrait Reading Time:  6 minutes

Wagner bust in Bayreuth © Schubbay/cc-by-sa-3.0

Wagner bust in Bayreuth © Schubbay/cc-by-sa-3.0

Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas (or, as some of his mature works were later known, “music dramas”). Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Carl Maria von Weber and Giacomo Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”), by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama. He described this vision in a series of essays published between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).   read more…

Portrait: Ernest Hemingway, American novelist, short-story writer, journalist, and sportsman

23 February 2022 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Portrait Reading Time:  6 minutes

Ernest Hemingway at the Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho, 1939 © Lloyd Arnold - www.phoodie.info

Ernest Hemingway at the Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho, 1939 © Lloyd Arnold – www.phoodie.info

Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American novelist, short-story writer, journalist, and sportsman. His economical and understated style—which he termed the iceberg theory—had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his adventurous lifestyle and his public image brought him admiration from later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, and he was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature. He published seven novels, six short-story collections, and two nonfiction works. Three of his novels, four short-story collections, and three nonfiction works were published posthumously. Many of his works are considered classics of American literature.   read more…

Portrait: Salvador Dalí, world renown Spanish surrealist

22 December 2021 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Portrait Reading Time:  9 minutes

Salvador Dali with his pet ocelot Babou in 1965 © Library of Congress - Roger Higgins

Salvador Dali with his pet ocelot Babou in 1965 © Library of Congress – Roger Higgins

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marquess of Dalí of Púbol was a Spanish surrealist artist renowned for his technical skill, precise draftsmanship, and the striking and bizarre images in his work. Born in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain, Dalí received his formal education in fine arts in Madrid. Influenced by Impressionism and the Renaissance masters from a young age, he became increasingly attracted to Cubism and avant-garde movements. He moved closer to Surrealism in the late 1920s and joined the Surrealist group in 1929, soon becoming one of its leading exponents. His best-known work, The Persistence of Memory, was completed in August 1931, and is one of the most famous Surrealist paintings. Dalí lived in France throughout the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) before leaving for the United States in 1940 where he achieved commercial success. He returned to Spain in 1948 where he announced his return to the Catholic faith and developed his “nuclear mysticism” style, based on his interest in classicism, mysticism, and recent scientific developments.   read more…

Portrait: Jules Verne, science fiction writer

23 December 2020 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Portrait Reading Time:  9 minutes

Félix Nadar (1820-1910) portraits Jules Verne

Félix Nadar (1820-1910) portraits Jules Verne

Jules Gabriel Verne was a French novelist, poet, and playwright. His collaboration with the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel led to the creation of the Voyages extraordinaires, a series of bestselling adventure novels including Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1872).   read more…

Portrait: The novelist and short-story writer Franz Kafka

26 February 2020 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Portrait Reading Time:  14 minutes

Franz Kafka in 1923 © Archiv Frans Wagenbach

Franz Kafka in 1923 © Archiv Frans Wagenbach

Franz Kafka was a German-speaking Bohemian novelist and short-story writer, widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature. His work, which fuses elements of realism and the fantastic, typically features isolated protagonists facing bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible socio-bureaucratic powers, and has been interpreted as exploring themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity. His best known works include Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle). The term Kafkaesque has entered the English language to describe situations like those found in his writing.   read more…

Portrait: The diplomat, politician, historian, philosopher, humanist, writer, playwright and poet Niccolò Machiavelli

22 May 2019 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Portrait Reading Time:  31 minutes

Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito

Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527) was an Italian diplomat, politician, historian, philosopher, humanist, writer, playwright and poet of the Renaissance period. He has often been called the father of modern political science. For many years he was a senior official in the Florentine Republic, with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs. He also wrote comedies, carnival songs, and poetry. His personal correspondence is renowned by Italian scholars. He was secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence from 1498 to 1512, when the Medici were out of power. He wrote his best-known work The Prince (Il Principe) in 1513, having been exiled from city affairs (Works by Niccolò Machiavelli).   read more…

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