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Revisiting Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon

By Audrey Golden. May 20, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Book History, History

In 1940, Arthur Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon appeared in English. While Koestler, a Hungarian-born author and journalist who later immigrated to Britain, wrote in German early on, he later began writing and publishing in English. The novel has an interesting backstory to it. Koestler wrote the novel in German (indeed, the last novel that he wrote in German), yet for decades, readers, scholars, and other interested parties had only known the novel in its English translation. While attempting to escape to the U.K. during the early years of World War II, Koestler convinced his lover, Daphne Hardy, to translate the novel into English. Everyone assumed that the original German-language version of the novel had been lost, and the English translation became the first edition of the text for all intents and purposes.

However, in 2015, a researcher in Switzerland discovered an original German-language version of the novel, reopening the background to Koestler’s famous twentieth-century work and to numerous political issues surrounding translation, wartime violence, and totalitarianism.

     
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Best Books on Indonesia

By Audrey Golden. May 13, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History, Literary travel

Like many other countries in South and Southeast Asia, Indonesia’s modern history is one marked by colonization and the harms of imperialism. While some of the most frequently read books on Indonesia focus on the colonial period or postcolonialism in the country, we think it is important to make sure that you don’t think the region’s history begins with its colonization by the Dutch. Indonesia has a widely diverse cultural, social, and religious makeup, with parts of the country still governed by pre-colonial monarchy and others the democratic state. It is often described as one of the most heavily populated Muslim countries in the world, yet many religions beyond Islam are practiced, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity.

Given’s the region’s diversity, there are many exciting books on Indonesia to discover. Below we have just a few of our picks for the best books on Indonesia.

     
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The History of Children's Literature: Part 1

By Adrienne Rivera. May 12, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Book History, Newbery Award, History

Children's literature today is as celebrated and lauded as literature for adult audiences. Entire sections of libraries are dedicated to it. Scholarly publications are dedicated to giving it advanced critical thought. Distinguished panels are put together annually to award the year's best and most important examples of literature for children. In recent years, it has become so popular that entirely separate best seller lists have been established in order to accommodate all of the worthy books being published for children. In short, it is hard to imagine a world in which children's books are not a large part of childhood. However, books written specifically for children are actually a rather new development in the greater history of literature.

     
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The Lasting Legacy of Athol Fugard’s Dramatic Works

By Audrey Golden. May 6, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History, Drama

For most American readers, references to South African literature conjure the names of the country’s two Nobel Prize winners: Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetzee. While the essays and works of fiction by these Nobel laureates are enormously important for understanding the politics of and modes of resistance to apartheid in South Africa, we want to highlight the significance of another genre for you today. Born in 1932 in a remote region of South Africa to an Afrikaner father and English-speaking mother, Athol Fugard has become one of the more prominent names in South African theatre. He often co-wrote plays with Black South Africans during the heights of the apartheid regime, and the plays involved Black actors, as well. Given that co-authorship during apartheid meant that many of the Black South Africans who contributed equally to the plays could not be named as collaborators in print, it is perhaps more important than ever for us to acknowledge the collective work of Fugard’s playwriting.

     
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Esther Forbes: First Female Member of the American Antiquarian Society

By Leah Dobrinska. Apr 12, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

Historian and writer Esther Forbes had a knack for bringing the life and experiences of the past to present-day readers through the pages of her books. Most well known for her books, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In (1942) and Johnny Tremain (1943), Forbes’ writing garnered her attention from the outset. Her first published novel, O Genteel Lady!  was selected as the second book for the Book of the Month Club, ensuring her book was sold to a wide readership. In a review in The Independent, O Genteel Lady! was described as “A distinguished first novel, written with ease and a mastery of technique unusual in a young writer." Indeed, Forbes was a master of her craft, and to this day remains one of the premier contributors to historical and historical fiction writing.

     
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The History Behind William Styron's Fictional Nat Turner

By Alex Marcondes. Mar 16, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History

William Styron's account of The Confessions of Nat Turner differs significantly from the original Confessions of Nat Turner garnered by Turner's lawyer while he awaited his trial and impending execution. Because of this, the fact of whether it is historical-fiction or historical-fiction, is not an irrelevant minutia. Cries of controversy—that Styron is a racist or that he minimizes the genuineness of the Nat Turner Rebellion—depend wholly on how the reader approaches the text through the lens of it's emphasis. 

     
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Five Fun Facts About Winston Churchill

By Anne Cullison. Mar 9, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners, History

Winston Churchill is a universally recognized name. Even if you don't know his entire back story, it is most likely you've studied him and his role in British politics in a history class somewhere along the line. Today, we thought it would be interesting to dig up a couple facts about the great leader that may be lesser known. Here are five things we found that don't necessarily come to mind when you picture Winston Churchill.

     
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Arthur Miller: Writing During the Red Scare

By Claudia Adrien. Mar 3, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History, Drama

The Cold War was an era clouded by persistent paranoia, not only between the United States and the Soviet Union. When it came to its own citizens, the U.S. government was, in some cases, just as fearful as it was about foreign threats—especially when it came to the Hollywood crowd. Indeed, in October 1947, members of a congressional committee, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), began investigating members of the movie industry who they suspected were communist sympathizers. They banned the work of 325 screenwriters, actors, and directors*. Among those blacklisted were composer Aaron Copland, writers Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman, and Dorothy Parker, playwright Arthur Miller, and actor and filmmaker Orson Welles.

     
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Three of the Best Books from Poland

By Audrey Golden. Feb 21, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History, Literary travel

The twentieth century was a complicated and often tragic one for Poland. The years leading up to Polish independence and the Second Republic were characterized by uprisings against the partitioning powers surrounding the region, and that independence was short-lived. During World War II, Poland was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany, and many of the most notorious concentration camps were located within Poland’s borders. Once the war came to an end, Communist Poland, within the Soviet sphere of influence, became a repressive state. In the decades that followed, Polish citizens waged acts of resistance against various regime policies, culminating in some ways with the Solidarity movement in the early 1980s. Yet despite—or perhaps due to—its tumultuous political past, Poland has produced some of the most notable writers of the modern period. Are you interested in learning more about Poland and its writers of imaginative literature? We have some suggestions for you.

     
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Freedom of the Press Battles in America

By Matt Reimann. Dec 27, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book History, History

In 1853, a Swedish visitor named Per Siljeström noted that “In no country in the world is the taste for reading so diffused among the people as in America.” Alexis de Tocqueville reached a similar conclusion two decades earlier, while surveying the young nation. The French sociologist observed the overwhelming inclination for reading and self-education among the American people. He even went so far as to call this land “the most enlightened community in the world.” The United States began as a nation of bookworms.

     
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