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Friday, January 25, 2013

Can you name these famous authors?

If you consider yourself a true bibliophile, here's a quick test for you. At right are photos of 18 famous authors (of fiction, although many also wrote nonfiction), from the 19th and 20th centuries. Eleven wrote solely or primarily in English; seven wrote in a language other than English. As far as I know, only one of these people is still alive.

For this particular test, I'm including only male authors. In a future post, I'll do female authors only. That'll be much more challenging.

Scoring works like this. There are 18 authors. Give yourself five points for every correct answer (that's a possible total of 90 points), then give yourself a free 10-point bonus if you end up not using any of the hints shown below. If you do use the hints (any of them), you don't get the 10-point bonus.

Check the bottom of the page to see how you did. Good luck!


1. Tried to study engineering; became a wordsmith instead. Dead at 44 after writing a dozen novels plus scores of stories, poems, essays.

2. Left school to work in a factory after his father was thrown into debtors' prison.

3. The godfather of futurist steampunk.

4. Workaholic pioneer of literary realism.

5. Less than three years after winning the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature, he died in a car wreck at age 46.

6. Novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate. Known for epic irony and ironic epics.

7. He won the 1962 Nobel Prize for literature for his "realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and keen social perception."

8.In 1851, after running up heavy gambling debts, he went with his older brother to the Caucasus and joined the army. Then he began writing.

9. In addition to his famous dystopian novel, he wrote literary criticism, poetry, and polemical journalism. Heavy smoking did not help his tuberculosis.

10. Known for his prescience.

11. This Prague-born author's social satire was as grotesque as it was moving.

12. He went from unknown to famous to unknown in the space of his 72-year-long life.

13. Wait. You don't recognize Достое́вский? He and other members of his literary group were arrested, sentenced to death, subjected to a mock execution, then given four years of hard labor in Siberia.

14. Poet, painter, and master of the Bildungsroman. He received the Nobel Prize in 1946.

15. Winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature. Dead in 1961 at age 61.

16. Better known in Kashmiri as अहमद सलमान रुशदी. He started out as an ad copywriter with Ogilvy & Mather.

17. His major opus was reportedly typed as a single paragraph on a 120-foot-long scroll of paper.

18. While genuinely a gifted writer, he became famous mainly for being famous. Many think of him as having pioneered the "nonfiction novel."


1. Robert Louis Stevenson. 2. Charles Dickens. 3. H.G. Wells. 4. Honoré de Balzac. 5. Albert Camus. 6. Thomas Mann. 7. John Steinbeck. 8. Leo Tolstoy. 9. George Orwell. 10. Arthur C. Clarke. 11. Franz Kafka. 12. Herman Melville. 13. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. 14. Herman Hesse. 15. Ernest Hemingway. 16. Salmon Rushdie. 17. Jack Kerouac. 18. Truman Capote.

(5 points per correct answer plus 10 points if you didn't use Hints)

90 to 100: Master bibliophile. Congratulations.
80 to 89: Excellent. You've been paying attention.
70 to 79: Solid. You're no literary dummy.
60 to 69: Acceptable. It's possible you actually earned your degree.
50 to 59: Poor. You've been reading the wrong stuff.
40 to 49: Were you not paying any attention in school?
below 40: Give your degree back. You were wasting everyone's time.


  1. Anonymous9:50 AM

    Aw man. Got 7 out of 18 right, and misidentified 4. Thanks for the post.

  2. Loved this quiz, and it surprised me to realize how few of these guys I recognize (by face).

    However, you compiled a list of 18 famous authors and *all of them were men*. This might be helpful for the sake of the quiz, but it sells short all of the great female authors throughout history. Maybe a follow-up quiz is in order?

  3. Anonymous1:31 PM

    In junior and senior high school, which is when I read books by many of these authors, there was no emphasis placed on the lives of these people--only on their writings. I recognized some faces but could only accurately identify two: Ernest Hemingway and Salmon Rushdie. The written descriptions meant nothing to me.

  4. Four correct ones, misidentified two. Also, you spelled Mr. Rushdie's first name as "Salmon".

  5. I'm saying nothing about my score. Under 40 is all. Totally agree with Ben that you should do a follow up quiz with female authors

  6. I believe no.8 is a photo of Ilya Tolstoy, son of Lev Tolstoy, not the author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina himself.


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