Of football and literature

This has been a great month for all sports lovers. The World Cup fever kept people awake and in front of their television sets all over the world, in addition to other events like Formula 1 racing, Wimbledon, the Tour de France and who knows what else. Nothing unites and divides like sports, so throughout the month we witnessed people impassioned about the teams, the players, the referees, the linesmen… Countries have lost their boundaries; the iconic players from different nations are now household names.

I couldn’t help drawing a parallel with a totally different sort of phenomenon that merits if not celebration then at least remembrance – great men and women from these great football playing nations who devoted their lives to quite a different kind of pursuit – that of literature. 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of several imminent writers hailing from Mexico, France, and United States of America. We thought that it may be interesting to talk about a few of them in this editorial.

Nobel laureate Octavio Paz was born in 1914 in Mexico, the year the Great War started in Europe. Considered to be one of the greatest poets writing in Spanish, Paz had a very strong influence on Spanish literature, especially for writers like Juan Ramon Jiménez, César Vallejo, Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Pablo Neruda, to name only a few. An impassioned believer in justice and liberty, Octavio Paz was an active participant in a lot of international movements, criticizing injustice and oppression whether it was in Nicaragua or Cuba, or defending writers like Alexander Soljenitsyne.

Writing under the pseudonym of Willian Lee, Willam S.Burroughs was born in 1914 as well. Born to a very wealthy family in St Louis, Missouri, he was a prolific writer and started publishing very early in life. He studied in Harvard University, attended the medical school in Vienna, and was all set to become a successful man. But a rejection by the US Navy in 1942 to serve in World War II had a very negative influence on his life– he became a heroin addict and dropped out of the genteel American society. His prose is dark and bitter and sardonic and brilliant, best witnessed in his novel ‘Naked Lunch’. Another brilliant writer, all but forgotten who lived his life like he lived his writing – in open conflict with the values and morals of his time.

The third great writer I have in mind whose 100thbirth anniversary is celebrated this year is Marguerite Duras (also a pseudonym). I have a fond remembrance of seeing the 80 year old writer on TV talking about feminism at the age of 90 – she died a year later. Born in French Indo-China, she spent her growing years there with her mother and came to France at the age of 17. A member of the French Communist Party, belonging to the French Resistance, she published her first novel in 1943. Marguerite Duras wrote plays, novels, essays and film scripts. She was one of the major contributors of the French literary movement ‘Nouveau Roman’ (the new novel) and was well known for her experimentations with words and forms of writing. Marguerite Duras wrote the script for the internationally acclaimed film‘Hiroshima mon amour’ and directed ‘India song’.

Maybe it is time to start writing about these literary stalwarts who lived their lives on their own terms, taking a firm stand against established social norms, mediocrity, oppression. Maybe those glued to the TV screens chanting the names of the football players, should also know about these great men who came from the nations they are supporting in the World Cup who actually contributed in shaping our modern society.


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