And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

6 November

1888
George Bernard Shaw,
playwright

‘When I got to Birmingham I went to a vegetarian restaurant in Paradise St. and dined.’

GBS dines out

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1923
Mikhail Bulgakov,
writer

‘I am reading Gorky’s masterly work My Universities. I have been thinking a great deal, and one way and another have come to recognise that I must stop playing around. What’s more, literature has become my life. I am never going to go back to any form of medicine now. I don’t much like Gorky as a person, but what a giant, what a powerful writer he is, and what awesome and important things he has to say about the writer. . . I am frightened by the fact that I am 32, by the years I have squandered on medicine, by my illness and weakness. I have this idiotic swelling behind my ear, which has already been operated on twice . . .I am going to study from now on. I can’t believe that the voice that keeps troubling me at the moment is anything but prophetic. It must be. There is nothing else for me to be. I can only be one thing - a writer. I must observe, and I must study, and keep my own counsel.’

Manuscripts don’t burn

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1935
Ivan Chistyakov,
soldier

‘The frost is really setting in. Minus 18. I’ve put on my felt boots, a very good invention. We go through another one of our farces, searching the zeks for knives etc. They are so indignant. People need to be able to slice bread, peel potatoes, chop firewood, don’t they? If they had any serious weapons, they certainly wouldn’t store them in the huts. Budnikova (Article 35) rightly protests, and very forcefully. I would have done the same.

I give them a talk in the evening. They listen silently, mistrustful of every word. There is tension whenever we are present. I decide to leave. Budnikova has a way of petulantly kicking off her shoes. They dream of having boots, glance at my leather coat and say, ‘Nice boots that would make up into.”

“I’ll nick silk stockings just for you, but only tell me yes or no,” a baby-faced zek serenades me sarcastically.’

The general emptiness

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1944
Ayn Rand,
writer and philosopher

‘The art of writing is the art of doing what you think you’re doing. This is not as simple as it sounds. It implies a very difficult undertaking: the necessity to think. And it implies the requirement to think out three separate, very hard problems: What is it you want to say? How are you going to say it? Have you really said it?

It’s a coldly intellectual process. If your emotions do not proceed from your intellect, you will not be able to apply it, even if you know all the rules. The mental ability of a writer determines the literary level of his output. If you grasp only home problems well, you’ll only be a writer of good homey stories. (But what about Tolstoy?)’

The champion of reason

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Notes and Cautions
In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

For any other use of these diary extracts other than browsing please refer to the original sources.

Any author, publisher or other copyright holder who takes the view that I am unacceptably breaching their copyright please let me know. I have tried to remain sensitive to copyright rules (using far fewer quotes, for example, when a book, by an author still alive, remains in print and popular), but it is not practical for me to seek authorisation for every quote and article, since I maintain these websites without any funding or advertis-ing. I take the view that publicity for the source books is a quid pro quo for my use of the extracts, but I am more than happy to remove the extracts if asked.

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The Diary Junction is one of those wonderful privately maintained public resources for which the Internet is justly celebrated: a database of information about celebrated and obscure diaries[over 500] from all historical periods, with referrals to the dates the diaries cover, where the originals are held and bibliographic information on published versions.’ Laura Miller, Salon

The Diary Review, hosted by Blogger, publishes magazine-style articles on diaries and diarists, usually several every week. The blog has been publishing for over five years, and is the secondary source for the diary extracts in this online anthology.