June 25, 2013

The author Winston Churchill

I have amused myself by writing a biography book on the entrepreneur Elon Musk - who has founded or co-founded companies like PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity - called The Engineer - Follow Elon Musk on a journey from South Africa to Mars. One of Elon Musk's role models is the former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. As research for the book I wrote, I decided to learn more about Churchill's life and if I could draw some parallels to Elon Musk. 
    What I discovered was that the young Churchill had traveled around in what would become South Africa before he became the British Prime Minister. Elon Musk wasn't born at the time but his ancestor lived in the area. What Churchill did in the region was working as a reporter for a British newspaper and his main job was to cover a war that had broken out called the Second Boer War. I also learned that Churchill was in fact an author and has written several non-fictional books and one work of fiction called Savrola. The books he wrote while covering the Second Boer War were London to Ladysmith via Pretoria and Ian Hamilton's March. These books, and a few other books by Churchill, are now available for free via Project Gutenberg. The author Churchill was awarded with the 1953 Nobel Prize in literature with the motivation: 
"for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values." 
Churchill was in fact a very productive author and didn't spare any details when describing his and others endeavors. But it turned out that also someone like Churchill became tired of writing a book when the end neared, as clearly shown by this quote:
"Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public."
Churchill might be remembered as the leader who inspired Britain with powerful speeches during the darkest days of the Second World War:
"You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terror. Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival."
He wrote every word of his famous speeches and claimed how he spent an hour working on every minute of a speech. But the fact is that politics was his secondary job - except during the war. He actually tried to write during the war but it turned out that the result was an "unformed, unfinished, unpublishable work by any standards." Churchill's passion was writing and it was his primary income source until his death. It has been estimated that he wrote eight to ten million words in more than 40 books, thousands of newspaper and magazine articles, and at least two film scripts. But he also needed the money - during these days in Britain, politicians were not well paid so they needed an outside income. Churchill, who had an expensive lifestyle, spent more money on wine than what he earned from his salary as a politician. 
    The question is how Churchill could be so productive before the days of the computer. It certainly helped that writing was his passion, but he also used a team of assistants, researchers, secretaries and proof-readers to write some of his books. He also dictated his books aloud to secretaries, which might be the reason to why each book has so many pages - he didn't have time to make his books shorter.

Source: Wikipedia, AbeBooks, Winston Churchill. Del 1, 1874-1939 (only available in Swedish), npr

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