Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Classics Club: Why I read the Classics

For October, the Classics Club's question is so multi-faceted, I will have to restrain myself:  The meme is why do I read the Classics.  It might as well have been why do I breathe...
To me, it's not just simply the fact that I read the Classics, it's that I prefer the Classics to modern literature.

A few words on this preference, then:




The power of the first love

Allow me first to be a little melodramatic.  The fact remains that at age 14, my mother gave me as a birthday present a pile of books, among which was (the unabridged version of) Jane Eyre.  At that age my English was not that good - still, the first experience with such a strange subject, a complicated plot and a text where every third word was unknown, captivated me - to this day!


The use of language


I do read a lot of modern literature, don't get me wrong.  And while I believe there are excellent samples of literature nowadays, I cannot help but remark the decrease in importance given to the language used. The rise of electronic (see: fast, direct, short) means of communication - which I use myself - have replaced many wonderful expressions with colourless abbreviations and have oversimplified a vast variety of emotions.  Here, I want to raise my personal fear as depicted in 1984 by G. Orwell:  stop using the language, and you stop thinking...


Ever-lasting impact

The Classics have a way of making a substantial impact by telling their stories in a manner that stays with me.  While I may read about The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, belonging to a century before my time, I can identify with the characters and follow the plot as if it were happening today.  The secret to the Classics' longevity is, to my opinion, the analysis they provide of the situations.  We have such a influx of what is going on nowadays, instant access to a labyrinth of information that we stop looking into the essence of things.  And that's what I like about the Classics:  they go beyond the surface of the world.


Things of the past

Apart from all the above, there is of course a personal preference for things of the past:  I do acknowledge I live in my own little bubble (whenever I can), away from ultra-modern society, in a world where an ordinary life is not a bad word, where most people are kind and helpful to each other (I repeat most...) and where good deeds will almost always be rewarded.


These are some of the reasons why I seek refuge in the Classics.  I like the solace they provide, and I know that once I've read a Classic, I'll feel better, I'll think better, and maybe I'll come out a better person!

19 comments:

  1. You've made my response (which I'm still writing in my head) seem mundane! It seems almost like it's the timelessness of the novels that you enjoy for that exact reason - the love stories and the language can be anywhere or anytime and just happen to be in that time.

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    1. kindred spirits ;-) it's exactly like you say!

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  2. I love your response -- and I also admire you greatly -- reading in multiple languages!

    I agree with your point about the oversimplification of emotions with the streamlining of language. I blame Strunk and White and also Hemingway ;) (I'm only half kidding!)

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    1. Indeed, the simplification process is not totally a recent invention, but it has increased exponentially in the last years! Many thanks for your kind words, I really appreciate them!

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  3. Lovely post; like others, I'm still mulling over my responses. I, too, had an early experience with Jane Eyre which strongly influenced my preference for classics.

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    1. Some works of literature are eternal!

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  4. Timelessness, language...I'm with you on these! I also think faith or even the lack of it....something that's missing in postmodern and contemporary writing.

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  5. Definitely the language. I love the way they speak in classic literature. It seems that they have "the art of communicating" or something like that, even the art of being sarcastic, sometimes. And yes, I love the lasting impression they give. To make something that people will still read hundreds of years after you die is the dream of every writer, and those classic authors were evidently successful in doing so.

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    1. ... all the things that are missing nowadays!

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  6. Thank you so much for your wonderful post.

    I am reading classics for pleasure, as well as build a list for my daughter. We home educate and can't wait to read some of these together.

    Have a wonderful afternoon.

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    1. never too early for good literature!

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  7. Well said! Classics are so important, they are our bridge to the past, indispensable building blocks of our own history.

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    1. I like the idea of the building blocks!

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  8. I'm glad I read so many classics when I was "too young" because now I can re-read them and laugh at how I interpreted them when I was a child. Not that I was wrong as a child...but it's fascinating how you pick up on totally different things depending on your mood, your age, and the atmospheric pressure on the day of perusal.

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  9. Ah, how true. Reading this made me realize that what was predicted by Orwell about Newspeak is happening now, too bad.

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    1. we can't escape our destiny...

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  10. This post is perfect :) You're inspiring me to write my post <3

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    1. thanks a lot - I appreciate this!

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