sexta-feira, 10 de fevereiro de 2012

Charles Dickens - by Michael Cook

In Mercartornet

Today, February 7, is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. England is full of Dickens festivals and debates in the newspapers over whether 11-year-olds should be required to read his novels. His most recent biographer, Claire Tomalin, says that he is "amazingly relevant" - but feels that he is too demanding for schoolchildren. "Today's children have very short attention-spans because they are being reared on dreadful TV programmes. They are not being educated for long attention-spans."

Is this the problem? For the past decade schoolchildren have been devouring volumes of Harry Potter, books which swelled to incredible lengths. As far as I can see, Charles Dickens was probably the single most important literary influence upon the series, with its immense gallery of grotesque characters, lively language and convoluted plots.

Exuberance is the first of Dickens' great virtues, an Olympian quality shared by few other writers in English. He created characters with the cheerful prodigality of a drunken sailor. A Dickensian sentence is bursting with joy at the wrestle with language. He is credited with scores upon scores of new words, like flummox, rampage, butter-fingers, tousled, sawbones, casualty ward, footlights, dustbin, fingerless, squashed, seediness, Scrooge, Gradgrind, tousled and tintack.

The second is his anger. Most of his books are seething over the injustice dealt out to innocents by petty tyrants and the implacable law. He was unafraid to take sides, to be committed, to dream of a kind and juster world.

In fact, you cannot read Dickens - whether you are weeping or laughing or seething with indignation -- and fail to feel that being alive is an exhilarating vocation to slay the giants of injustice. There is no lack of giants today: abortion, euthanasia, the scandal of starvation in a world of consumerist waste, overflowing prisons, the drugs trade... Would that today we had novelists who combined Dickens' vitality with his righteous anger.