Friday, 24 July 2015

Happy Birthday A 2 Z... Well Alexandre 2 Zelda At Least....

On this date, 24th of July, there are two birthdays that may be of note to literary lovers... Both of which could be used, (by a writer in the habit of wishing to 'represent' on behalf of equality and social balance) to highlight the contribution non-male-AngloSaxons have made to the world of literature...namely, Alexandre Dumas and Zelda Fitzgerald!

Now I have to confess to the fact that I'm writing this impromptu blog mainly because I got a bit annoyed today. (Yes. It happens). 
The reason behind this annoyance was a certain FB page post of a giant of the literary publishing world that shall remain nameless. (They use a small black and white bird as their emblem....).

This publishing house (usually one of my favourites, I collect their early publications, love their styling, love their work all round, generally) posted on Facebook a 'happy birthday' to Zelda Fitzgerald... so far so good... then proceeded to refer pretty much entirely to her famous husband and his (admittedly well-known) work.

Come on! It's HER birthday, I said, in a comment and they deleted my contribution! Nope. Can't have anything pointing out our failings. No way. Apparently.

So Happy Birthday Zelda Fitzgerald. Who wrote one, and mostly finished another, novel. (A bigger achievement than most of us will manage). Who suffered mental illness and a certain degree, (by modern standards at least) of mental cruelty and bullying by her more famous husband, and who, finally, and tragically died in a fire at the institution in which she was, at the time a patient. 

Alongside Zelda today, entirely thanks to the vagaries of the Gregorian calendar, sits Alexandre Dumas. Legendary French author of what was to become perhaps the most famous of French stories outside of France, The Three Musketeers. The author of literally dozens of works, including The Count of Monte Cristo (famously referenced in the movie Shawshank Redemption as the work of 'Alexander Dumb-ass'...) and many less well known non-fiction works, Alexandre had the distinction of being the son of the first black general of the French army. 

Alexandre himself, in spite of his father's fame had to deal with racial discrimination in his lifetime, and did so using the literary skills he had been born with. In his 1843 short novel Georges he addressed the issues of race and colonialism, and responded to a man who insulted him about his ancestry with the rejoinder... "My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends."

So this is a blog for the birthday girl and boy, who were who they were, regardless of who they were to others, regardless of preconception.

Happy reading

Stevie at BLM