July 3: On this day in 1883: Franz Kafka is born in Prague in what was then known as Bohemia to a well-educated Jewish family. While in Prague last week, I learned Kafka’s three younger sisters all died in the Holocaust, a fate that would have surely been Kafka’s if he had lived longer.

July 4: Independence Day for the U.S.A. Both Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams both die on this day in 1826. Jefferson in Monticello, Adams in Quincy, Mass.

July 5: On this day in 1924, Nikos Kazantzakis returns to Crete from Berlin and begins working on his poem The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel which when translated finally into English 20 years later in 1958 is called “a masterpiece of literature” and a book of “singular power and power” by Time Magazine.

July 6: William S. Porter boards a train headed for New Orleans on this day in 1895 hoping to flee to South America after being charged with embezzlement. But his escape is thwarted and Porter is jailed and becomes O. Henry, master of the short story.

July 7: The birth of a literary character occurs on this day. Dr. John H. Watson, Sherlock Holmes’ companion, is born on this day in 1852. In Edinburgh, at the College of Surgeons museum, there is currently an exhibit of the real life origins of Holmes and Watson. Dr. Joseph Bell was the inspiration for Holmes and Dr. Patrick Heron Watson shared many of the biographical background of John H. Watson.

July 8: Red Cross volunteer Ernest Hemingway is wounded in the trenches near Fossalta, Italy on this day in 1918. His recovery will be memorialized in fiction later in A Farewell to Arms.

July 9: A month after starting the diary she had begun writing in on her 13th birthday, Anne Frank and her family, along with four other Jews, go into hiding on this day in 1942 in the warehouse behind her father’s business in Amsterdam.

July 10: Canadian-born Saul Bellow, the winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1976, is born in Lachine, Quebec to Russian emigre parents.


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