Virtually all artists dream of making an impact with their work, and writers are no different, but in some cases authors don’t live to see their works become classics. Here are 14 famous books that were published after their authors died.
Arguably the most famous book to be published posthumously, A girl’s diary is a collection of diary entries written by Anne Frank. The teenager – who received the blank book that would become her diary for her 13th birthday – told what life was like after her family, with a group of other Jews, moved to an annex settled in his father Otto’s Amsterdam-based business in 1942 to hide from the Nazis.
Frank had been writing in his diary since almost two years when she heard Dutch politician Gerrit Bolkestein on the radio asking Dutch citizens to keep records such as war diaries so the world could understand what they had been through. Anne, inspired, decides that she will publish her diary after the war and started revising it; she planned to call her book Het Achterhuis (“The Secret Annex”).
On August 4, 1944, three days after Anne wrote their last journal entry, the residents of the Annex were apprehended. Later, Anne’s writings were discovered by her father’s secretary, Miep Gies (who had helped people hiding in the annex), and she gave the writings to Otto, the only surviving member of the Frank family, when he returned to Amsterdam after being released from Auschwitz. Otto supervised the publication her daughter’s diaries, which were first published in 1947, two years after Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany.
John Kennedy Toole wrote the first draft of A confederation of dunces in 1963 in just a few months, then passed the next two years edit it before becoming mentally ill and abandoning the project. Three years after Toole died by suicide in 1969, his mother Thelma found a copy of the manuscript and made it her mission to get it published. She didn’t have success until, like Tom Bissell written for the new yorker“she cornered novelist Walker Percy…and demanded he read it.”
Percy was initially reluctant, but after reading the book (he would later write, “surely it couldn’t have been that good”), he agreed to help. Even then, however, it took years to find a publisher. A confederation of dunces was finally released in 1980, 11 years after Toole’s death, and in 1981 it won the Pulitzer Prize.
Completed in 1799, Northanger Abbey has been the first of Austen’s works be accepted by a publisher (in 1803, under the name Susanna), but he was not released until a few months after his death in 1817 at the age of 41. Persuasionthe last novel Austen completed, was published in the same volume.
At the time of her death, Austen was working on a book that would eventually be titled sandit, what was originally published in 1925 as Fragment of a novel. Since then, a number of authors have added to the 120 pages of sandit that Austen left behind –including Austen’s own nieceAnna Austen Lefroy.
The first draft of Mikhail Bulgakov The Master and Margarita finished in flames: He began to write in 1928but burned the manuscript two years later “when he saw himself as having no future as a writer in the Soviet Union”, according to A Reference Guide to Russian Literaturedue to Stalin’s policy of censorship and oppression. But by 1931 he had started over and written several drafts before he died in 1940. It would take more than two decades before The Master and Margarita seen the light of day.
The novel was originally published in two parts heavily censored in the Russian magazine Moscow in 1966 and 1967; that same year a copy of a manuscript was smuggled out of the county and first published in book form in France. At the end of the day, The Master and Margarita has been published several times, although it it was only in 1973-33 years after the death of Bulgakov-that a completely uncensored version was published in Russia. Now considered a classic of Soviet literature, The Master and Margarita has been referenced in songs by artists like the rolling stones and pearl jam and adapted into films, TV shows, plays, ballets, and graphic novels.
Author Alex Haley, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 20 years, began his writing career writing love letters on behalf of the other seamen of his ship. He publishes his first book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X– a collaboration as we say with the famous activist – in 1965, and Roots: The Saga of an American Familywhich combined elements of his mother’s family history with fiction, in 1976. The novel became a bestseller, won the Pulitzer Prizeand was adapted into a much-loved miniseries in 1977.
After publishing a short story in 1988, Haley decided to write a story based on her father’s ancestry. The result was Queen— who, as Roots, combined history and fiction to tell the story of Alex Haley’s paternal grandmother, the biracial daughter of a slave woman and her slaver.
Haley died before the book was finished, leaving behind this The New York Times called “a 700-page draft” for the novel. At Haley’s request, it was completed by Australian writer David Stevens and published in 1993, a year after Haley’s death. Also as Roots, Queen was adapted into a popular miniseries, starring future Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry in one of her early roles.
Michelle McNamara became interested in true crime at a young age: When the future author was just 14, a woman was murdered near her home in Oak Park, Illinois, and the case was never solved. As an adult, McNamara started the blog true crime diary to draw attention to unsolved murders. The case that fascinated her the most was that of a series of burglaries, rapes and murders committed by the same man (although this fact was not definitively established until 2001) in California from 1974 to 1986.” and the “Original Night Stalker”, among other names, McNamara called him the “Golden State Killer” hoping that a better moniker would make the case stand out more.
A article on the case for The magazine led to a book deal; McNamara was writing this book, I’ll be gone in the darkwhen she passed away in 2016. (It was completed by her husband, Patton Oswalt, and two collaborators, Billy Jensen and Paul Haynes.) The book was released in February 2018; two months later, a suspect in the case, Joseph DeAngelo, was arrested after DNA evidence linked him to the crimes. In 2020, as part of a plea deal, DeAngelo to plead guilty to 13 counts of murder. He also had to admit guilt in the crimes for which he had not been charged. DeAngelo was sentenced to multiple consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Although she is one of the most famous poets of the 20th century, Sylvia Plath published only one book of poems (1960s The Colossus and Other Poems) in addition to his only novel, The glass bell. Despite this, Plath was an extremely prolific writer who left behind volumes of unpublished works when she committed suicide in 1963 at the age of 30.
Arielleedited by her ex-husband Ted Hughes, was the first of his works be published after his death; it features some of his most famous poems, including “Lady Lazarus”, “Tulips”, and “Daddy”, and remains one of his most enduring works. A restored edition which incorporated poems that Hughes had excised and restored Plath’s original arrangement was published in 2004.
Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson started writing his planned series of 10 books in 2002 and waited until he had first two books written (and the partially written third, which he completed later) before submitting them to the editors. He died of a heart attack in 2004 before any of them were released.
The first book in the series, title Man som hatar kvinnor (men who hate women) in Swedish, was published the year after Larsson’s death. It has been translated into English and published under the title The girl with the dragon tattoo three years later. The series has become a real phenomenon all over the world: it has sold more than 80 million copies and has been adapted into several films.
The Millennium series has continued after the original Larsson books: journalist David Lagercrantz wrote the fourth, fifth, and sixth books in the series, and author Karin Smirnoff was tapped to write additional books.
Ralph Ellison began work on June 19 just a few years after his first novel, The invisible Manwas published in 1952 – but despite publishing eight excerpts from the manuscript, reading portions at conferences, and decades of work, June 19 was not published during Ellison’s lifetime.
The author said he was plagued by writer’s block “as big as the Ritz and as stubborn as a grease stain on a gabardine suit”, and in 1967, “a good chunk of the novel” – Ellison would later claim it was about 360 pages. , then 500—was burned in a fire at his home in Plainfield, Massachusetts. (Ellison’s biographer, Arnold Rampersand, however, cast doubt on this claim; he writing that Ellison hadn’t done much work on June 19 during the summer of the fire, and just after the fire, he wrote to a friend that he “luckily had a full copy” of what he had previously written.)
Despite these setbacks, Ellison left behind over 2,000 pages of material when he died in 1994 at 80 years old. But the novel was not finally published until 1999, after being edited by John F. Callahan in a more digestible version. 354pages. A more complete version called Three days before shooting…, which had 1101 pages, was released in 2010.
After completing his studies, Franz Kafka worked as an insurance agent until he got too sick to work because of tuberculosis, to which he succumbed in 1924 at the age of 40. In his free time he wrote a lot. During his lifetime, Kafka published a number of short stories – he even published a book about them, titled Betrachtung, in 1913 – as well as the new Metamorphosis (1915) and In the penal colony (1919). But none of his novels were published during his lifetime.
Kafka left his estate to his friend, the author Max Brod, whom he asked to destroy his work. Instead, Brod published most of what Kafka had left behind, including three novels…The trial (1925)The castle (1926), and America (1927) – all of which are now considered classics.