e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the tag “200th anniversary”

The books that bind – Jane Austen and Timbuktu

burning book

Yesterday the BBC TV news carried two literary-related items.

Yesterday marked the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Yesterday the French army seized Timbuktu, only to discover that a library of ancient manuscripts had been burned and most of the books destroyed.

What a contrast! The peace of English village life/the violence of war; a book loved/books destroyed; appreciative readers celebrating/an act of childish spite.

The arsonists have achieved nothing but to rob the world of a treasure, and to weaken an age old connection between the local people and their ancestors.

I sometimes think of books as links in a chain joining the past to the future via the present. The chain is anchored in the past when the book was first made and its links uncoil into the future for as long as it’s remembered. Each generation adds a new one.

If the book still exists the links are strong, but once it’s gone the chain depends on human memory to keep forging.

Memories of some of those old scholars who built the library and wrote the books will start to fade. They do not deserve to be forgotten.

Austen however goes from strength to strength and this year will be celebrated all over the world.

Picture from dontstepinthepoop.

Dickens 200th anniversary celebrations go on

There are so many big events happening this year, many of them quite short-lived – particularly the sporting ones.

Dickens at his desk

Charles Dickens at his desk

However the celebrations of the life and work of Charles Dickens continue. This is fitting: it wouldn’t do to try and fit a lifetime of work and so many major novels into a few days. The events are summarised on http://www.dickens2012.org/

The exhibition at the Museum of London on Dickens and London is nearing its end, but an interesting one on Dickens and the Visual Imagination is due to open at the University of Surrey later this month. It will coincide with a major academic conference on the same subject.

I have to admit that I’ve read very few of the novels. Most of my Dickens-consumption has been from BBC serialisations. The novels certainly make good television. As the advertising for the conference on Dickens and the Visual Imagination states, he was a very visual writer, so it’s not surprising that his work translates so well to the screen, and that it has inspired so many excellent illustrators. He has also inspired stamp designers, not just in Britain but around the world.

Although very much a man of his time, he also wrote the truth about real people and their problems that transcends time and place.

Picture from Wikipedia.

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