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Introduction

Literature, most generically, is any body of written works. More restrictively, literature refers to writing considered to be an art form or any single writing deemed to have artistic or intellectual value, often due to deploying language in ways that differ from ordinary usage.

Its Latin root literatura/litteratura (derived itself from littera: letter or handwriting) was used to refer to all written accounts. The concept has changed meaning over time to include texts that are spoken or sung (oral literature), and non-written verbal art forms. Developments in print technology have allowed an ever-growing distribution and proliferation of written works, culminating in electronic literature.

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Gabriel García Márquez in 2002
The General in His Labyrinth is a novel by the Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez. It is a fictionalized account of the last days of Simón Bolívar, liberator and leader of Gran Colombia. First published in 1989, the book traces Bolívar's final journey from Bogotá to the Caribbean coastline of Colombia in his attempt to leave South America for exile in Europe. In this dictator novel about a continental hero, "despair, sickness, and death inevitably win out over love, health, and life". Breaking with the traditional heroic portrayal of Bolívar El Libertador, García Márquez depicts a pathetic protagonist, a prematurely aged man who is physically ill and mentally exhausted. The story explores the labyrinth of Bolívar's life through the narrative of his memories.

García Márquez's insertion of interpretive and fictionalized elements—some dealing with Bolívar's most intimate moments—caused outrage in parts of Latin America when the book was released. Many prominent Latin American figures believed that the novel damaged the reputation of one of the region's most important historic figures and portrayed a negative image to the outside world. Others saw The General in His Labyrinth as a tonic for Latin American culture and a challenge to the region to deal with its problems.

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A photograph of Hamzah, likely taken between 1928 and 1937
Tengku Amir Hamzah (28 February 1911 – 20 March 1946) was an Indonesian poet and National Hero of Indonesia. Amir began writing poetry while still a teenager: though his works are undated, the earliest are thought to have been written when he first travelled to Java. Drawing influences from his own Malay culture and Islam, as well as from Christianity and Eastern literature, Amir wrote 50 poems, 18 pieces of lyrical prose, and numerous other works, including several translations. In 1932 he co-founded the literary magazine Poedjangga Baroe. After his return to Sumatra, he stopped writing. Most of his poems were published in two collections, Nyanyi Sunyi (1937) and Buah Rindu (1941), first in Poedjangga Baroe then as stand-alone books.

Poems by Amir deal with the themes of love and religion, and his poetry often reflects a deep inner conflict. His diction, using both Malay and Javanese words and expanding on traditional structures, was influenced by the need for rhythm and metre, as well as symbolism related to particular terms. His earlier works deal with a sense of longing and both erotic and idealised love, whereas his later works have a deeper religious meaning. Of his two collections, Nyanyi Sunyi is generally considered the more developed. Amir has been called the "King of the Poedjangga Baroe-era Poets".

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George Cruikshank - Tristram Shandy, Plate VIII. The Smoking Batteries.jpg
Credit: George Cruikshank

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is a humorous novel by Laurence Sterne, published in nine volumes between 1759 and 1767. Written as a biography of the fictional titular character, its style is marked by digression and amplification. This illustration depicts two characters puffing a hookah-like cannon-firing device.

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Today in literature

17 September

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