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Giants of European Culture Quiz

European Culture Alphabet - Giants of European Culture Quiz


Below you’ll find short biographical notes on some of  the 20th c. important writers, artists and intellectuals from different European countries. Try to guess who the described people are. The first letter of the surname is given as a clue. When you’ve done the quiz read your score. (Maximum number of points is 26.)




Yugoslav (Bosnian) novelist who died in 1975. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1961. His novels and short stories present a gallery of Balkan characters and racial types and show the conflict between Eastern and Western values. His work is noted for an attempt to reconcile human aspirations with man’s suffering and vulnerability as well as the author’s vision of Bosnia as ‘a country of hate and fear’.




British figurative painter who died in 1992. Most of his works present hideously distorted figures trapped in claustrophobic spaces or show obsession with the loneliness and isolation of human beings. His art shows the influence of medical books about wounds and disfigurement as well as the scientific studies of motion.





French oceanographer who made the first underwater colour film (taken at the depth of 46 m) believed to have made more significant contributions to undersea exploration and study than any other individual. His work has been brought to a wide audience through books, cinema and TV. His television documentaries captured the imagination of millions.




Swiss playwright, novelist and essayist who died in 1990. He was one of the most important writers in the German language in the second half of the 20th c. His best known play is The Visit (Der Besuch der Alten Dame, 1956), about a rich woman’s revenge on her hometown for wrongs done to her many years before. Many of his plays have been classified as belonging to the theatre of the absurd since they are distinguished by a sense of futility and desperation.





Italian writer and academic, professor of semiotics at the University of Bologne, the author of many essays, works of fiction and children’s books, recipient of the title of Doctor Honoris Causa from over twenty universities, including the University of Tartu in Estonia.  His novel The Name of the Rose (1980) sold over nine million copies and was successfully filmed in 1986 by Jean Jacques Annaud, with Sean Connery in the role of Brother William of Baskerville and Christian Slater as a youthful novice.




An Italian actor, playwright and theatre manager born in 1926 whose worldwide reputation was developed after a series of plays combining fierce political comment with delirious farce. A number of his plays, songs and revue sketches were written in co-operation with his wife Franca Rame. He was awarded a Nobel Prize for literature in 1997.





German writer and graphic artist who was born in 1927 and spent his boyhood in Gdańsk (Danzig). He achieved international recognition with his first novel The Tin Drum (1958), the book which is the first part of Danzig Trilogy. An outspoken commentator on public affairs, he campaigned for Willy Brandt’s Social Democrats in the 1960s and aroused controversy when he opposed German unification. He received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1999.





Czech playwright, essayist and politician born in 1936 who was the president of Czechoslovakia in the years 1989 – 92 following the collapse of the communist regime and subsequently became the president of the Czech Republic in 1993. His plays reflect his long-standing political involvement, dealing with the suffering of the individual in a totalitarian state. His political essays in which he emphasises personal responsibility and the need to restore the values of honesty and decency are thought to be historically important.




French playwright born in Romania in 1912 whose plays belong to the theatre of the absurd. The best known titles are: The Bald Prima Donna (1950), The Chairs (1952) and Rhinoceros (1960). The dramatist’s considerations evolve around the relationship between the real and the conceptual and the inadequacy of language as a means of communication.




Finnish female writer and illustrator born in 1914 who was writing in Swedish and achieved international fame as the author of the Moomin books for children. She studied in Stockholm, Helsinki and Paris. Between the years 1945 and 1975 she wrote ten Moomin books which have been widely translated and turned into films and strip cartoons.





French literary theorist born in Bulgaria in 1941 who studied linguistics, literature and psychology in Paris. She worked as an assistant to Claude Levi-Strauss and also Roland Barthes. In her later work she investigated the complex relationship between sexuality and text and the way in which language seems to exclude the idea of women as intellectual beings. In the 1980s she was considered a vogue figure among feminist theorists.




Swedish writer best known for her children’s books, especially a series about Pippi Longstocking (Langstrump). Other well known titles include the Bullerby books and Little Brother and Karlsson on the Roof. A prolific writer, she also played an active role in politics and social life campaigning against factory farming. She took a stance against Swedish membership of the European Community.




Polish poet born in Lithuania who was an exile and worked for many years in the US, awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1980. He was a professor of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of California. Apart from the poetry he’s also well known for a book of essays The Captive Mind (1953). He died in August 2004 in Kraków.




Russian-born ballet dancer and choreographer who died in1993, believed to be the best known dancer of the later half of the 20th c. He began his career as an amateur and subsequently joined the Kirov Ballet, where he acquired a reputation as a gifted and charismatic performer. While appearing in a ballet performance in Paris in 1961 he applied for political asylum and soon after made a career dancing with the best world companies. He was the artistic director of the Paris Opera Ballet in the years 1983-89 restoring its reputation as one of the most prestigious in the world.





British stage and screen actor, director and producer, living between 1907 and 1989, who became the first director of the Royal National Theatre. His reputation as Britain’s leading classical actor was established after his performances in many plays by Shakespeare, notably Henry V, Hamlet, and Richard III. He was the first actor to be honoured with a peerage in 1970.




Film director of Polish descent, born in 1933, whose mother died in the concentration camp in Auschwitz. His first feature film - Knife in the Water (1962) – won a prize at the Venice Film Festival. He also made Repulsion with Catherine Deneuve (1965), Rosemary’s Baby with Mia Farrow (1968), Chinatown with Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson (1974), Tess with Nastassja Kinski (1979) and Frantic with Harrison Ford (1988). His Pianist won Palm d’Or at the Cannes Festival.




London fashion designer, the creator of the famous mini-skirt who famously said, “Good taste is death. Vulgarity is life.” Born in 1934, she became synonymous with the Chelsea Look of the Swinging London of the 1960s. Her shop Bazaar, which opened in 1955 in the Kings Road, London, was the first boutique in England. In 1966 she received an OBE for her contribution to the fashion industry and appeared in Buckingham Palace wearing a mini and cut-away gloves.




British novelist born in India in 1947 whose fiction is considered an example of magic realism. He was educated in England at Rugby and Cambridge. Commercial and critical success came with his novel of post-independence India - Midnight’s Children (1981), which won the Booker Prize and the Booker of Bookers. In 1989 much controversy surrounded the novel The Satanic Verses and the debate about the conflict between secular and religious values and the concepts of free speech and blasphemy.




Hungarian film director born in 1938 who emerged as the leading figure in Hungarian cinema in the 1970s and 1980s. His international reputation was established with the film Confidence in which two people masquerade as husband and wife during the Nazi occupation. Further acclaim came in 1981 with Mephisto in which an actor (played by Klaus Maria Brandauer) attempts to justify the moral compromises he makes in order to advance his career under the Nazis.




Greek composer and politician who served with the Resistance during WWII and was deported from Greece for his leftist views during the Greek Civil War (1947-52). He studied in Paris, where he began to write modern folk songs for the bouzouki with which his name is mainly associated. His first significant success came with the Covent Garden production of his ballet Antigone in 1959. His many works include song cycles, oratorios, ballets and film scores – most famously for the film Zorba the Greek (1965).




Norwegian writer born in Denmark who received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1928, also a member of the Resistance movement during World War II. Her books combine powerful descriptions of life in the Scandinavian countries during the Middle Ages and psychological analysis. The trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter (1920-22), which depicts a woman’s life in the devout Catholic Norway of the 13th/14th c. has been translated into many languages and is considered her masterpiece.




Italian film and theatre director born in an aristocratic family in 1906 in Milan who died in 1976. As a stage director he concentrated on modern dramas although he was also praised for his productions of plays by Goldoni, Shakespeare and Chekhov. His love of the historical epic was reflected in his 1963 film based on the novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa The Leopard, which won the Golden Palm award at the Cannes Film Festival. His 1971 Death in Venice starring Dirk Bogarde was an adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novella.




Polish film director widely considered the most important figure in contemporary Polish cinema. Many of his films, notably Ashes and Diamonds (1958), Man of Marble (1977), Man of Iron (1981), won international acclaim. He received an Oscar for his lifetime achievements.




French composer of Greek parentage born in 1922 in Braila (Romania) who died in 2001.  He was one of the leaders of modernist music, composing avant-garde orchestral and instrumental pieces using techniques derived from scientific and mathematical theories. While studying in Paris in 1922, he became a member of Le Corbusier’s architectural team.




Irish poet, dramatist and prose writer, one of the greatest English-language poets of the 20th c. who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1923. The central theme of his literary output is Ireland – its folklore, painful history and public life. His two most famous plays are Cathleen Ni Houlihan (1902) and The Land of Heart’s Desire (1894).





Italian opera, theatre and film director and designer. He created sets and costumes for Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It with Salvador Dali in 1948. In 1960 he produced Romeo and Juliet at London’s Old Vic Theatre. Seven years later it was transferred to the silver screen in the film under his direction.

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