Monday, April 16, 2012

Happy birthday, Anatole France

Anatole France
It is the birthday of French novelist Anatole France (1844), who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921. France's first popular novel was The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard (1881), a comic story of a skeptical old literary man obsessed with finding and acquiring a manuscript by his personal hero. It is populated with a succession of bizarre characters, such as the wealthy couple who collect matchboxes. Among his most notable works are Monsieur Bergeret in Paris (1901), which deals with the famous Dreyfus Affair, an episode in French history in which a Jewish army captain was falsely accused of espionage. In France's Penguin Island (1908), penguins are transformed into humans after they have been baptized in error by a nearsighted abbot. It is a satire on the Catholic Church, which, along with other works, earned him the enmity of church leaders. It's small wonder that France grew up with an interest in literature. His father was a bookseller, so he spent much of his life surrounded by books, working in his father's store.

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