Install Theme
Menu \

The Cult of Genius

The Daily Rituals of Famous Writers

JANE AUSTEN

Austen rose early, before the other women were up, and played the piano. At 9:00 she organised the family breakfast, her one major piece of household work. Then she settled down to write in the sitting room, often with her mother and sister sewing quietly nearby. If visitors showed up, she would hide her papers and join in the sewing. Dinner, the main meal of the day, was served between 3:00 and 4:00. Afterward there was conversation, card games, and tea. The evening was spent reading aloud from novels, and during this time Austen would read her work-in-progress to her family.

___________________________________________________________

VICTOR HUGO

Hugo wrote each morning, standing at a small desk in front of a mirror.

He rose at dawn, awakened by the daily gunshot from a nearby fort, and received a pot of freshly brewed coffee and his morning letter from Juliette Drouet, his mistress, who he had installed on Guernsey just nine doors down. After reading the passionate words of “Juju” to her “beloved Christ,” Hugo swallowed two raw eggs, enclosed himself in his lookout, and then wrote until 11:00 A.M.

___________________________________________________________

MARK TWAIN

His routine was simple: he would go to the study in the morning after a hearty breakfast and stat there until dinner at about 5:00. Since he skipped lunch, and since his family would not venture near the study – they would blow a horn if they needed him – he could usually work uninterruptedly for several hours. “On hot days” he wrote to a friend, “I spread the study wide open, anchor my papers down with brickbats, and write in the midst of the hurricane, clothed in the same linen we make shirts of.”

___________________________________________________________

STEPHEN KING

King writes every day of the year, including his birthday and holidays, and he almost never lets himself quit before he reaches his daily quota of two thousand words. He works in the mornings, starting around 8:00 or 8:30. Some days he finishes up as early as 11.30, but more often it takes him until about 1:30 to meet his goal. Then he has the afternoons and evenings free for naps, letters, reading, family, and Red Sox games on TV.

___________________________________________________________

FRANZ KAFKA

In 1908, Kafka landed a position at the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute in Prague, where he was fortunate to be on the coveted “single shift” system.

[He] was living with his family in a cramped apartment, where he could muster the concentration to write only late at night, when everyone else was asleep. As Kafka wrote to Felice Bauer in 1912, “time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straight forward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers. In the same letter he goes on to describe his timetable: “…at 10.30 (but often not till 11.30) I sit down to write, and I go on, depending on my strength, inclination, and luck, until 1, 2 or 3 o’clock, once even till 6 in the morning.”

___________________________________________________________

LEO TOLSTOY

“I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine.” This is Tolstoy in one of the relatively few diary entries he made during the mid-1860s, when he was deep into the writing of War and Peace.

According to Sergei [his son], Tolstoy worked in isolation – no one was allowed to enter his study, and the doors to the adjoining rooms were locked to ensure that he would not be interrupted.

___________________________________________________________

CHARLES DICKENS

First, he needed absolute quiet; at one of his houses, an extra door had to be installed to his study to block out noise.

And his study had to be precisely arranged, with his writing desk placed in front of a window and, on the desk itself, his writing materials - goose-quill pens and blue ink – laid out alongside several ornaments: a small vase of fresh flowers, a large paper knife, a gilt leaf with a rabbit perched upon it, and two bronze statuettes (one depicting a pair of fat toads duelling, the other a gentleman swarmed with puppies).

___________________________________________________________

GEORGE ORWELL

The post at Booklovers’ Corner [a London second-hand bookshop where he was a part-time assistant] proved an ideal fit for the thirty-one-year-old bachelor. Waking at 7:00, Orwell went to open the shop at 8.45 and stayed there for an hour. Then he had free time until 2:00, when he would return to the shop and work until 6.30. This left him almost four and a half hours of writing time in the morning and early afternoon, which conveniently, were the times that he was most mentally alert.

___________________________________________________________

HARUKI MURAKAMI

When he is writing a novel, Murakami wakes at 4:00 A.M. and works for five to six hours straight. In the afternoons he runs or swims (or does both), runs errands, reads, and listens to music; bedtime is 9:00. “I keep to this routine every day without variation,” he told The Paris Review in 2004. “The repetition itself becomes the most important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

The one drawback to this self-made schedule, Murakami admitted in a 2008 essay, is that it doesn’t allow for much of a social life.

___________________________________________________________

SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR

Although Beauvoir’s work came first, her daily schedule also revolved around her relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre, which lasted from 1929 until his death in 1980. (Theirs was an intellectual partnership with a somewhat creepy sexual component; according to a pact proposed by Sartre at the outset of their relationship, both partners could take lovers, but they were required to tell each other everything.) Generally, Beauvoir worked by herself in the morning, then joined Sartre for lunch. In the afternoon they worked together in silence at Sartre’s apartment. In the evening, they went to whatever political or social event was on Sartre’s schedule, or else went to the movies or drank Scotch and listened to the radio at Beauvoir’s apartment.

via shortlist.com 

Dante’s Divine Comedy Illustrated in a Remarkable Illuminated Medieval Manuscript (c. 1450)

Few writers have inspired so many artists, so deeply and for so long, as Dante Alighieri. His epic poem the Divine Comedy (find in our collection of Free eBooks)has received striking illuminations at the hands of Gustave DoréSandro BotticelliAlberto Martini, and Salvador Dalí — to name only those we’ve featured before here on Open Culture. The names Priamo della Quercia and Giovanni di Paolo may mean relatively little to you right now, but they’ll mean much more once you’ve taken a look at the illustrations featured here and at The World of Dante, which come from an illuminated manuscript of the Divine Comedy at the British Library known as Yates Thompson 36. Produced in Siena around 1450 for an unknown original patron, “the codex belonged to Alfonso V, king of Aragon, Naples, and Sicily,” and includes “110 large miniatures and three historiated initials.” (See all here.) Della Quercia illustrated the Inferno and Purgatorio and all three historiated initials; di Paolo illustrated Paradiso.

“This makes for two distinctly different styles,” continues The World of Dante’s page. “Priamo’s work reflects the more realistic style of late fifteenth-century Florentine painting, an influence which is particularly noticeable in his use of contours and outlines in the depiction of nudes. Giovanni di Paolo’s style is closer to that of late fourteenth-century Sienese artists,” producing results “greatly admired for their visual interpretation of the poem: the artist doesn’t just transcribe Dante’s words but seeks to render their meaning.” The British Library’s medieval manuscripts blog describes it as “certainly a lavish production” that “must have been an expensive undertaking,” given the status of the men doing the illuminating as “two of the preeminent artists of the day.” But when it came to visualizing Dante’s journey, quite literally, to hell and back in 15th-century Italy, no artist ranked too highly. Even today, I can’t imagine any artist reading the Divine Comedy, illuminated or no, without getting a few vivid ideas of their own.

More images can be found on the British Library web site (scroll down the page).

via Open Culture

“ To be champion requires more than simply being a strong player; one has to be a strong human being as well. ”

—    Anatoly Karpov

(Source: thecultofgenius)

Leo Tolstoy Creates a List of the 50+ Books That Influenced Him Most (1891)

War and PeaceAnna KareninaThe Death of Ivan Ilyich — many of us have felt the influence, to the good or the ill of our own reading and writing, of Leo Tolstoy. But whose influence did Leo Tolstoy feel the most? As luck would have it, we can give you chapter and verse on this, since the novelist drew up just such a list in 1891, which would have put him at age 63. A Russian publisher had asked 2,000 professors, scholars, artists, and men of letters, public figures, and other luminaries to name the books important to them, and Tolstoy responded with this list divided into five ages of man, with their actual degree of influence (“enormous,” “v. great,” or merely “great”) noted. It comes as something of a rarity, up to now only available transcribed in a post at Northampton, Massachusetts’ Valley Advocate:

WORKS WHICH MADE AN IMPRESSION

Childhood to the age of 14 or so

The story of Joseph from the Bible - Enormous

Tales from The Thousand and One Nights: the 40 Thieves, Prince Qam-al-Zaman - Great

The Little Black Hen by Pogorelsky - V. great

Russian byliny: Dobrynya Nikitich, Ilya Muromets, Alyosha Popovich. Folk Tales - Enormous

Puskin’s poems: Napoleon - Great

Age 14 to 20

Matthew’s Gospel: Sermon on the Mount – Enormous

Sterne’s Sentimental Journey – V. great

Rousseau Confessions - Enormous

Emile - Enormous

Nouvelle Héloise - V. great

Pushkin’s Yevgeny Onegin - V. great

Schiller’s Die Räuber - V. great

Gogol’s Overcoat, The Two Ivans, Nevsky Prospect - Great

“Viy” [a story by Gogol] – Enormous

Dead Souls - V. great

Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Sketches - V. great

Druzhinin’s Polinka Sachs - V. great

Grigorovich’s The Hapless Anton - V. great

Dickens’ David Copperfield - Enormous

Lermontov’s A Hero for our TimeTaman - V. great

Prescott’s Conquest of Mexico - Great

Age 20 to 35

Goethe. Hermann and Dorothea - V. great

Victor Hugo. Notre Dame de Paris - V. great

Tyutchev’s poems – Great

Koltsov’s poems – Great

The Odyssey and The Iliad (read in Russian) – Great

Fet’s poems – Great

Plato’s Phaedo and Symposium (in Cousin’s translation) – Great

Age 35 to 50

The Odyssey and The Iliad (in Greek) – V. great

The byliny - V. great

Victor Hugo. Les Misérables - Enormous

Xenophon’s Anabasis - V. great

Mrs. [Henry] Wood. Novels – Great

George Eliot. Novels – Great

Trollope, Novels – Great

Age 50 to 63

All the Gospels in Greek – Enormous

Book of Genesis (in Hebrew) – V. great

Henry George. Progress and Poverty - V. great

[Theodore] Parker. Discourse on religious subject – Great

[Frederick William] Robertson’s sermons – Great

Feuerbach (I forget the title; work on Christianity) [“The Essence of Christianity”] – Great

Pascal’s Pensées - Enormous

Epictetus – Enormous

Confucius and Mencius – V. great

On the Buddha. Well-known Frenchman (I forget) [“Lalita Vistara”] – Enormous

Lao-Tzu. Julien [S. Julien, French translator] – Enormous

The writer at the Valley Advocate, a Tolstoy aficionado, came across the list by sheer happenstance. “On my way to work, I found something just for me in a box of cast-off books on a sidewalk,” they write: a biography of Tolstoy with “something cooler inside”: a “yellowed and fragile New York Times Book Review clipping” from 1978 containing the full list as Tolstoy wrote it. “Gold,” in other words, “for this wannabe Tolstoy scholar.” If you, too count yourself among the ranks of wannabe Tolstoy scholars — or indeed credentialed Tolstoy scholars — you’ll no doubt find more than a few intriguing selections here. And if you simply admire Tolstoy, well, get to reading: learn not how to make the same things your idols made, I often say, but to think how they thought. Not that any of us have time to write War and Peace these days anyway, though with luck, we do still have time to read it — along with The Thousand and One Nights, David Copperfield, The Odyssey, and so on. Many of these works you can find in our collection, 600 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.

via Open Culture

A Waxwork of the ‘Real’ Jane Austen Is Unveiled in Bath

image

A waxwork of Jane Austen which has taken three years to produce has been unveiled in Bath.

With no “acceptable likeness” of the author, the Jane Austen Centre claims it is the closest “anyone has come to the real Jane Austen for 200 years”.

It has been created using eyewitness accounts, and the help of Emmy award-winning costume designer Andrea Galer and an FBI-trained forensic artist.

The waxwork went on show to the public in Bath earlier.

The only confirmed portrait of Austen made during her lifetime is by her sister, Cassandra.

'Sucking lemons'

Melissa Dring, forensic artist, said she used the small pencil and watercolour sketch as a “starting point” for her pastel portrait, which became the basis for the waxwork.

"[Cassandra’s portrait] does make it look like she’s been sucking lemons," Ms Dring said. "She has a somewhat sour and dour expression.

"But we know from all accounts of her, she was very lively, very great fun to be with and a mischievous and witty person."

image

Who was Jane Austen?

Jane Austen was an English novelist whose books, set among the English middle and upper classes, are notable for their wit, social observation and insights into the lives of early 19th century women.

Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 in the village of Steventon in Hampshire. She was one of eight children of a clergyman and grew up in a close-knit family. She began to write as a teenager. In 1801 the family moved to Bath. After the death of Jane’s father in 1805 Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother moved several times eventually settling in Chawton, near Steventon.

Jane’s brother Henry helped her negotiate with a publisher and her first novel, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, appeared in 1811. Her next novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’, which she described as her “own darling child” received highly favourable reviews. ‘Mansfield Park’ was published in 1814, then ‘Emma’ in 1816. ‘Emma’ was dedicated to the prince regent, an admirer of her work. All of Jane Austen’s novels were published anonymously.

In 1816, Jane began to suffer from ill-health, probably due to Addison’s disease. She travelled to Winchester to receive treatment, and died there on 18 July 1817. Two more novels, ‘Persuasion’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’ were published posthumously and a final novel was left incomplete.

image

Summary

  • Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775
  • One of eight children of a clergyman
  • Sense and Sensibility, her first novel, appeared in 1811
  • Books notable for wit, social observation and insight
  • Died on 18 July 1817 after treatment for Addison’s disease
  • Two novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey published posthumously

via BBC News and BBC History

The Beauty of a Scientific Study

With a focus on the dynamic interplay between science and imagination, the Huntington Library’s “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World,” exhibition features a collection of written and illustrated work charting the changing role of science over time. There are four main sections—astronomy, natural history, medicine, and light—dividing the collection. To celebrate the exhibition, the Library has digitized a number of the volumes on display, available here

(Source: nautil.us)

Good morning, I'd like to know if you have published something about Marina Cvetaeva. Thank you :)

Asked by Anonymous

We haven’t yet, but we shall. Best!

Since 2007,  Lee Jee Young shoots the invisible. Whereas traditional photography submits extracts of reality to our eyes, the artist offers excerpts from her heart, her memory, or her dreams. Restrained by the inherent limits of the conventional photographic medium, she adds plastic creativity and theatrical performance to it, in order to blow life into her immense needs of expression, and interrogation.

(Source: opiomgallery.com)