Under normal circumstances deeply rooted in reality, there would be no reason for an Oxford Fellow, a Japanese jazz bar owner, a Spanish soldier, an American literary critic, and an English mathematician, all born in different eras, to be brought together on one little corner of the web courtesy a blogger’s whim. But a whim is never far from a fantasy, and in this case, we’re talking fantasy all the way.
As it happens, the characters mentioned above have two very significant things in common: birthdays in the month of January, and a flair for writing some pretty fantastical tales. So to celebrate each of these masterful authors’ birthdays, we’ve gone ahead and pulled in some of their most esoteric works as well. All on this page. Recommended with a strong toke and a stronger masala chai.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s 125th birthday is no minor occasion. He gave us more than most fantasy writers who ever lived on this planet of ours not half as cool as the Middle Earth. In fact some of us are doomed to die waiting for Gandalf to save our souls. But while we wait, lets dedicate this day to one of his lesser known, posthumously published tales – The Story of Kullervo. It is in fact the first story he ever wrote, marking his transition from a poet to a prose writer, based on the Finnish epic poem Kalevala. Buy it here.
On Haruki Murakami’s 68th birthday, give his better-known masterpieces a break and get yourself a copy of this dreamy novel that will surely leave you grappling for synonyms of ‘strange’ – Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. This surrealistic novel is as brilliant as it is underrated. Fans of sci-fi and speculative fiction, look no further. Buy it right here.
Chances are you’ve never heard of Pedro Calderón de la Barca (not even after multiple Spain holidays), but this 17th-century dramatist’s magnum opus – Life is a dream – pushed the boundaries between dream and reality. On his 417th birthday (indeed!), settle down with a free ebook copy of it here and let the Spanish Golden Age reach out to you in 2017.
“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” Keep these immortal words in mind as you reach out for a book on the literary pioneer Edgar Allan Poe’s 209th birthday. Poe fans have a vast repertoire to choose from, but we recommend his ingenious short story The Balloon-Hoax, which actually ran as a newspaper article before being discovered to be a hoax. A hoax that is said to be the inspiration behind Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. You can read it in this online collection.
Long before the world got its first game of Scrabble, there was a British mathematician called Lewis Carroll who had already invented several early versions that played with words. So for his 185th birthday, let Alice enjoy a cup of tea while you get busy with The Universe in a Handkerchief, which is a lovely collection of his games, puzzles and word plays compiled by science writer Martin Gardner. It’s waiting for you here.