Charlotte Reads Classics

Slowly, slowly, she sipped a sentence.

Tag: George Eliot

The World Was Reduced to the Surface of Her Skin

Art is an old language with a great many artificial affected styles, and sometimes the chief pleasure one gets out of knowing them is the mere sense of knowing. I enjoy the art of all sorts here immensely; but I suppose if I could pick my enjoyment to pieces I should find it made up of many different threads.

I love this quite from Dorothea Brooke in Middlemarch and it is particularly handy when I want to write about an author with a very specific style. This is a writer who is so refreshingly original that it is a pleasure to read his books solely for the pleasure of knowing them.

There is no way you could read Gabriel Garcia Marquez and mistake his writing for anyone else. One Hundred Years of Solitude is set in the fictional village of Macondo, in a typical (if there can be such a thing) Latin American country. The things Macondo faces are things that Marquez would have experienced during his childhood in Columbia: civil war, fruit plantations, small villages transitioning into modernity. Whilst the story is of its place, there are plenty of universal themes here; life, love, sadness, loneliness, tradition and family.

Marquez once said that “[a]fter the death of my grandfather, nothing really happened to me any more”. This happened when he was eight. In many ways people read his signature style of magical realism as the world seen through the eyes of a child. This novel is certainly full of that sort of imaginative power.

At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.

Firstly, Marquez is king of beautiful sentences. Just read it! The village is founded by the family and has a real Garden of Eden sort of vibe. The Bible here is the magical element mixed with the reality of evolution (‘prehistoric eggs’). This immediately sets the tone for the kind of storytelling that follows. This is a story of a town who suffers from insomnia, of alchemy, gypsies and revolution. Family history becomes myth and legend, and the imagery is outstanding.

The only problem I had whilst reading One Hundred Years of Solitude was that I found it hard to keep all the characters straight – there are about twenty-five Aurelianos! However, even this has a poetic explanation: Time in this novel is not linear and generations of family history is told as though it was happening all at once. Plenty of characters live until well over a hundred, and even the dead don’t always keep quiet.

People say Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ writing is like a carnival and I would agree. It is colourful, always moving, vibrant, strange and foreign. A wonderful combination.

The Lives of Readers

Scenes which make vital changes in our neighbours’ lot are but the background of our own, yet, like a particular aspect of the fields and trees, they become associated for us with the epochs of our own history, and make a part of that unity which lies in the selection of our keenest consciousness.

 

I came across this, my favourite Middlemarch quotes, and wanted to share it with you today. I think it can say a lot about not just our individual lives, but about our experiences as readers.

Just a little post, as there is cinnamon and orange baking away in the oven. Hope everyone’s Christmas plans are going smoothly.

 

Slow Paths, Scenic Route

With just one day off before Christmas Day, things are getting pretty manic. I am still reading Middlemarch, albeit incredibly slowly, but I am enjoying savouring these small dips in and out of the tangled lives of this provincial town. A great touch has been reading Lydgate’s visits to various important members of the community whilst on my own daily journeys. These are quiet moments, away from  busy modern life, a lifeline to a bit of peace.

Not that the lives of the characters in Middlemarch were necessarily peaceful, of course. I had planned to write a beginner’s guide to the reform bill of 1832, although finding the time has been impossible. Ever so briefly, the bill was the turning point in gaining equality in politics and had been a long time coming – ever since the French Revolution. Here are some things that happened because of it:

  • People able to vote almost doubled
  • Power of voting given to those lower in social/economic classes (but still only the rich middle classes)
  • Members of Parliament were redistributed to correspond to the population

Reading very briefly into this means I’ll be keeping an eye out for the rising middle classes in Middlemarch. And hopefully the political part will make more sense. I really enjoyed all your comments about the male/female narrator and George Eliot, they are certainly fuel for thought.

Up tomorrow – a new discovery I’ve very high hopes for…

Hear of Things So High and Strange

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Mrs James Guthrie by Frederic Lord Leighton

There is nothing quite like rediscovering an old favourite. Middlemarch is a book I remember being bowled over by. I was expecting a dry, complicated read (as a teenager I was probably put off by the politics) but was captivated by the world and relationships Eliot created. Now, eight years later, I am returning to see how things have changed.

I finished the first book yesterday evening and am happy to report that though I may be different, Dorothea is as readable as ever. The first book is mainly about the sisters, although other characters are introduced towards the end. Thinking about Eliot writing as a man, I enjoyed finding her both cutting of silly women but supportive of the capabilities of others in turn. I think her world view is very sensible and think she’d probably be quite an inspiring woman to have met in the 1870s.

Seeing as the book covers all aspects of life before the First Reform Bill of 1832, it occurs to me that this is a historical event that I should read up on. Something for tomorrow’s post, perhaps.

Good Morning, Middlemarch

 

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I feed too much on the inward sources; I live too much with the dead. My mind is something like the ghost of an ancient, wandering about the world and trying mentally to construct it as it used to be, in spite of ruin and confusing changes.

 

I started reading Middlemarch this morning and adored this quotation from the truly terrible catch that is Mr. Casaubon. I thought it was particularly amusing in light of yesterday’s post…