Saturday, January 31, 2009

31 January

Franz Schubert
b. 1797

Tallulah Bankhead
b. 1903

Thomas Merton
b. 1915

Mario Lanza
b. 1921

Norman Mailer
b. 1923

Carol Channing
b. 1923

Jean Simmons
b. 1926

Kenzaburo Oe
b. 1935

Philip Glass
b. 1937

Derek Jarman
b. 1942

I intended initially to include a portrait of Anna Pavlova, whose birth certificate says she arrived on this planet (for its own good) on 31 January 1882. Later I discovered that she did not die with the same birthday she was born with. Czarist Russia had stayed with the Julian calendar, which Europe had abandoned at the Pope's decree in the 16th century. The Bolsheviks implemented the "new" calendar in 1918, and that is when Anna Pavlova's birthday got transformed from 31 January to 12 February. And this was especially disappointing to me because the amusing lists of notable people who all have the same birthday are invariably bogged down by too many persons of the male gender. Anonymity was a form of enforced respectability for almost all women until very recently. I remember reading in some forgotten English novel that "the name of a decent woman would appear in the newspaper only three times in her life: when she was born, when she married, and when she died."

So, we will resolve the ambiguity of Anna Pavlova's birthday by including her on the date she was born with, even though it would have been a different date if she had been born in Europe.

Anna Pavlova
b. 1882