This blog post is part of a conversation between Jacky den Haan and Brixton Sandhals about how our personalities dictate how each of us went about writing biographies on Modernist writers.
At the first April meeting for King’s University MAPP RAs, I received the task of writing the biographies of Fyodor Dostoevsky and D. H. Lawrence. Dostoevsky is a 19th-century Russian writer, but a translation of several of his works, entitled Stavrogin’s Confessions and The Plan of the Life of of a Great Sinner, was published by the Hogarth Press in 1922. D.H. Lawrence similarly worked in translation, and worked with S. S. Koteliansky to translate “The Gentleman from San Fransisco”by I.A. Bunin, published in a larger collection of Bunin’s works by the Hogarth Press in 1922.
Tall dusty bookshelves, softly silent rooms and row after row of slightly tattered, well-loved books- as a child, this was my image of paradise. And it still is. There is something inexplicably powerful about the image of the book; that (generally) small collection of marked papers, often stored on the sideline of everyday life and yet containing the power to transform the world. This image combined with that of the writer who often stands seemingly still on the edges of society with a lack of that glitter which draws the eye of the world, and yet still molding, still shaping and moving that world with their ideas, their passions, their words, is one that has captured my imagination since I was very small. So heading into the MAPP project, I have been constantly overwhelmed and grateful for every bit of the experience.