Love, sex, death, boredom, ecstasy, existential angst, political upheaval – the history of literature offers a rich and varied exploration of the human condition across the centuries.
In this absorbing companion to literature’s rich past, arranged by days of the year, acclaimed critics and friends John Sutherland and Stephen Fender turn up the most inspiring, enlightening, surprising and curious artefacts literature has to offer.
The authors reveal a new calendar of book-lovers’ dates – such as 9 September 1471, on which William Caxton completes his translation of The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye, which he will later produce as the first printed book in English; 25 April 1719, when Daniel Defoe invents the English novel with Robinson Crusoe, but has no word to describe his invention; and 8 May 1962, when Dick Francis delivers his first racing thriller to his publisher, having begun writing it on New Year’s Day, creating a timetable he will stick to religiously for 39 years.
Why did 16 June 1904 matter so much to James Joyce? Which great literary love affair was brought to a tragic end on 11 February 1963? And why did Roy Campbell punch Stephen Spender on the nose on 14 April 1949?