Saturday, 13 October 2012

Z's favourite things - 2

Apart from Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton, the period in literature we were studying was the early 19th century.  In History we studied the whole of the 19th century, extended to include the French Revolution and the First World War.  So it tied up quite nicely and it was a natural follow-up when I picked up War and Peace.  Our copy had a pull-out list of the families who appeared in the book, which needed to be referred to frequently, to start with.  When I read it most recently I couldn't find my copy so bought a new paperback one.  I was very annoyed to find that it had been edited to give male and female characters the same surname - Rostov, for example rather than Rostova for the women.  I thought it quite rude to the Russians and patronising to the readers, that we would apparently be unable to comprehend the structure of Russian names.

I enjoyed the rhythm of the book and, because there was such a large cast of major characters, had to read it slower than usual - normally I used to read very quickly.  I deliberately slowed down my reading some years later when it was becoming too expensive.  When my children were young I used to walk the mile or so into Lowestoft and never failed to come back with a book or two a few times a week.  It was all I bought for myself, I couldn't afford clothes and mostly wore my mother's cast-offs.  When Weeza was in her teens, I wore her cast-offs.  I was unwise enough to work out a rough and ready budget once and was very pleased to see that the books balanced almost exactly, until I noticed that I'd allowed nothing for clothes.  Nor for holidays, but that was all right because we never took them, not for several years.

That was long in the future, of course.  I read War and Peace, that first time, over several weeks and immersed myself in the stories of Natasha and Pierre, of the Napoleonic invasion, of life and death and privation and riches.  I've come back to it several times since though there was a long gap, probably twenty years, before I read it most recently.

A year or so after reading the book for the first time, I got a Saturday job in Lowestoft Borough Library.  It was my dream job, really.  It must have been 1971.  1970 had been horrendous, starting in January with the death of my father, going on to the evaluation of all my parents' possessions so that my mother could pay Death Duties on everything, the collapse of a company (after the share values had been taken into account, unfortunately) that my father had a fair bit of money invested in because he was supporting a friend who worked there, which left my mother severely strapped for cash, then a serious accident to my sister who spent weeks in hospital as a result.  There's a lot about the year that I've forgotten, but there were a couple of upsides.  One was meeting the Sage - the Sprout as he then was - for the first time and the other was first tasting samphire.  

7 comments:

Liz said...

I must re-read War and Peace.

I feel deprived that I have never studied Shakespeare. When I did my CSE English Lit we had to study 20th century literature, most of which was pretty dire; eg, Kes, There is a Happy Land, Billy Liar. However, I did love To Kill a Mocking Bird.

Z said...

When I took English Lit O Level, the book was My Family and Other Animals - a book I knew well and enjoyed very much, but it was hardly great literature! At least we had a Shakespeare, Richard III.

georgie said...

The first grown up book I remember reading completely was at age 11, the Complete Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. Some books I've just not been able to get through despite numerous tries; Walden Pond, War and Peace, Don Quixote.

Z said...

Someone told me that Don Quixote was unreadable so I believed them and didn't start it! I did read Walden Pond in my younger days, but remember very little about it.

63mago said...

I can not remember what we had to read in school. Goethe, Kafka? Over the last years I started to read German literatur of the 17th century like Grimmelshausen, Beer, Harsd├Ârffer et al.; the Quixote depends very much on the translation, some years ago a new German one came out and it made realy a big difference; same with f.e. Tristram - a problem with all these word-players ...

Rog said...

In our school we did Beer in the 6th Form Mago.

*gets coat*

*legte Mantel auf*

*senken den Ton*

63mago said...

das Bier
des Bieres
dem Biere
das Bier

die Beer'
der Beer'
der Beer'
die Beer'

Prost Rog, altes Haus - sollst leben!

We learned Weizen with 14, but I always stayed with Pils.