Dienstag, 3. Januar 2012

Literature? Dickens!

I grew up surrounded by an invisible man: I knew the sound of his voice, I knew the stories he told me, I knew what made him smile and what made him angry, I knew what he smelled like (rainy days, smoke from chimneys and sometimes snow) and, more than anything, I knew what he felt like.
He was not so much a person to me as he was a feeling, a part of myself and an undeniable part of the world around me. I only learned his name when I was ten, long after I had first met him, but I can remember that Charles Dickens sounded so right to me, so familiar, that afterwards I would be puzzled by every other child who did not know this great name.
I am afraid my classmates in primary school did not particularly like me...

I did not know so many stories by Dickens, actually only Oliver Twist and the Mickey Mouse adaption of A Christmas Carol, but these two I knew as if I had written them (I have watched the Disney Christmas Carol every December for the last 12 years).
Anyway, I always had the feeling as if Mr Dickens and I understood each other, as if we were like-minded people, and so I made up stories that I thought could come from his feather too all the time.

Typical Dickens-Weather
There were some times of the year when I was especially caught up in Dicken's (in fact mine, put I pretended that it was his) story world: Christmas, of course, but also whenever the sky was grey and heavy with clouds. I don't know why I never associated fine weather with him, probably because a) he was English and for my ten-year-old self there was no sunshine in England and
b) because I had the feeling that big, important things always happen when it's rainy; which tragical story ever started on a beautiful summer day?
On stormy days I always thought I could hear his voice murmuring in the wind.

Also there were some places connected inseparably with my strange imaginary friend, this church in my neighbourhood for example:

I cannot explain to you why, but up to this day I have to think of the famous novelist everytime I pass it. I have always felt as if the architect had somehow captured the quintessence of Dicken's stories in this building, and perhaps you can understand what I mean?

As I grew a little older I became more interested in education, it seemed very important to me and I used it as a tool to judge people. Still Dickens occupied a special position for me: The name Charles Dickens was the incarnation of literature, and whoever had read his books could not possibly be a bad person. I am convinced that I would have regarded a prison inmate as the best human being in the world, as long as he quoted Dickens. Mind, I still had not read a single one of his books, but it did not matter to me because I felt I knew this famous writer better than any literature professor.

And today? I have let go of my childish naïvety and read Great Expectations but not more, I had other things to do and other writers to explore, and I am very sorry about that. This year Oliver Twist and A Tale of two Cities are on my reading list and I am looking forward to reading them very much.
It's about time I returned to my old childhood friend!


  1. How lovely that you have such a beloved relationship with Dickens. It's been ages since I've read any of his work, but I'm planning on finally reading Bleak House this year. I hope you enjoy your reading!

  2. Lovely post. I've read Oliver Twist and hope to read Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Citoes, and David Copperfield this year.

    I love it when we treasure a writer so much we feel we can claim him as our own. :)

  3. Amanda: Thank you I am sure I will. And now, off to read Dickens, you will love him and he is worth to be read ;)

    Jillian: Thanks again! I am looking forward to your thoughts on Great Expectations and A Tale of two Cities very much, so the same for you; go and read! I know, I have to learn a little patience :)

  4. Beautiful post, "I grew up surrounded by an invisible man" - wow, so bang on.

    I actually started Great Expectations just half an hour ago! I've been reading, or trying to read, Pickwick Papers, but really not enjoying it. I am enjoying Great Expectations, but actually, I'm also finding it hard: I'm at the part where Pip has just left Miss Havisham's for the first time, and what he said about Estella's contempt for him being infectious, and the very beginnings of his self-hatred is upsetting. I'm quite surprised at how's it's affected me, but I'm rather teary. It's.... not an easy read. But I'll stay with it. It is so good, just a little too true to life.

  5. Lovely post. I'm reading Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities in 2012 too and I can't wait to get my hands on them. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts about it :)

  6. o: Thank you! You know what they say: life writes the best stories :)
    I have not tried The Pickwick Papers yet, but since it is Dicken's first novel I can imagine that it is not quite his best.
    I am glad that you are reading Great Expectations and, believe it or not, these were exactly my thoughts when I read it. It is a fantastic book, but it is a book like life itself: Beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking.

    Caro: A heartfelt Thank you to you too, and it seems like we'll have loads to discuss this year :)

  7. Thank you for your kind comments on my blog! I am currently enjoying reading Great Expectations and I hope to read much more Dickens this year.

  8. This is a beautiful post! I, too, associate Dickens with cold weather and gloomy weather (perfect for reading large tomes). In fact last night was thick with fog and I thought it looked very "Edwin Droodish" outside.

  9. This was a touching post. I know what you mean, regarding the church. Especially as it is covered in snow. I like Dickens a lot, but I'll admit that I have never read "Great Expectations". I read the review you wrote about it, but I'll direct the question now directly to you: Do you think I shall read it?

  10. Lovely, Cassandra. Yes, it's really remarkable how intensely Dickens has permeated the culture. The whole idea of Christmas as we conceive of it today is in fact a Dickensian invention.

    1. Thank you! Just what I'm always saying: Dickens is so damn cool! ;)
      My sister keeps joking that I will find a way to marry him, I only have to invent time travel before.