Modern English Literature
Modern English Literature
raised recently towards English language, the development of international
relations on different levels has reasoned the desire to learn as much as
possible about the country where this language originated as well as about its
The literature is
that magic key that opens the door of cognition of many sphere of human
knowledge. It helps us to learn some interesting facts about t history, to know
more about people's life in other countries. Sometimes, while reading a book,
we can analyse actions of its' characters and it helps us to draw some certain
conclusion. That’s why I find studying foreign literature is not only
interesting, but also very useful.
Literature of the 20th Century
The period between
1917 and 1930 was a time when the crisis of the bourgeois world reached its
highest point and revolutions took place in several countries: in Russia, in
Germany and in Hungary.
The writers of this
period tried to show how a new society might be built up. But many bourgeois writers
who were opposed to revolutions saw nothing but chaos and anarchy before them.
They explained this crisis as a failure of civilisation.
A symbolic method
of writing had already started early in the 20th century. It was in the
twenties, that there appeared writers who refused to acknowledge reality as
such. They thought reality to be superficial – it was only a world of
appearances. The cause of everything that happened,– that is what led to events
– was the irrational, the unconscious and the mystical in man. These writers
called the inner psychological process "the stream of consciousness"
and based a new literary technique upon it.
The most important
to use this new literary technique was James Joyce (1882-1941). He influenced
many writers on both sides of Atlantic.
James Joyce, a
native of Ireland, spent nearly all his life in voluntary exile. He could not
live in his own country for it was enslaved by England. This fact may partly
explain his pessimistic view on life, which is reflected in his work.
The portrayal of
the steam of consciousness as a literary technique is particularly evident in
his major novel Ulysses (1922). The task he set before himself was to present a
day in ordinary life, as a miniature picture of the whole of human history.
Among the writers
of short stories who used the realistic method were Katherine Mansfield and
Somerset Maugham. Though the works of these writers differ very much in their
artistic approach, their authors had one feature in common. To them the
stability of the existing social and political order seemed unquestionable.
The second period
in the development of English literature of the 20th century was the decade
between 1930 and World War II.
The world economic
crisis spread over the whole capitalist world in the beginning of the thirties.
The Hunger March of the employed in 1933 was the most memorable event in
Britain. The employed marched from Glasgow to London holding meetings in every
town they passed.
In Germany Hitler
came to power in 1933.
In 1936 the fascist
mutiny of general Franco led to the Civil War in Spain. The struggle of the
Spain people was supported by the democratic and anti-fascist forces all over
the world. An International Brigade was formed, which fought side by side with
the Spanish People's Army against the common enemy – fascism.
intellectuals and workers joined the ranks of the International Brigade. Every
one of them clearly realised that the struggle against fascism in Spain was at
the same time a struggle for the freedom of their own country.
The Second World
War broke out in 1939.
A new generation of
realist writers, among them Richard Aldington, J.B. Priestley, A.J. Cronin and
others appear on the literary scene.
An important event
in the literary life of the thirties was the formation of a group of Marxist
writers, poets and critics. Their leader was Ralph Fox (1900-1937). He came
from a bourgeois family, was educated in Oxford University, but later broke
away from his class. His ideas were formed by the Great October Socialist
Revolution. In 1925 he joined the Communist Party. Being a journalist,
historian and literary critic, Ralph Fox devoted all his activity to spreading
Marxism and fighting the enemies of the British working class. When the Civil War
in Spain broke out, Ralph Fox was one of the first to join the International
Brigade. He was killed in action in January 1937.
Ralph Fox's main
work is his book The novel and the people, published posthumously in 1937. The
aim of the author was to show the decline of bourgeois art, and the novel in
particular, together with the decline of the bourgeois in general. At the same
time Ralph Fox sought to point out the way literature should develop in the
Ralph Fox considers
that the novel reached its highest point in England in the 18th century. This
was a time when the bourgeoisie was a progressive class, therefore Fox
concludes that the optimistic view of the world expressed in the novels by
Fielding is the best manifestation of the epic quality of the novel. Man in the
novels of the Enlightenment is treated as a person who acts, who faces up to
Contrary to the
active hero of the 18th century novel, the hero in the modern novel is an
active figure, a passive creature. Fox speaks about 'death of hero'. He means
that contemporary literature is not occupied with heroic characters.
Psychological subjectivity, typical of Joyce and other authors, has nothing to
do with the wide epic scene of social life described by great classics.
Socialist Realism must put an end to this crisis of bourgeois literature, Fox
says. It should bring forward a new man, a man who knows the laws of history
and can become the master of his own life. Fox speaks of Georgi Dimitrov at the
Leipzig trial as an example of such a new hero. The future belongs to the
heroic element in life.
This feeling of
important change and the heroic spirit of the anti-fascist struggle found its
outlet in the first place in the development of poetry. The trio of poets,
Auden, Spender and Day Lewis, had in many ways inaugurated the new movement
which sought to fuse poetry and politics. They stood out as representative
figures, and on the whole they held this position till the year 1938. Then
began the rapidly extending crisis of the movement. This group, usually known
as the Oxford Poets, was very popular in its time. But the movement did not
last long. A Marxist critic, Christopher Caudwell, in his book Illusion or
Reality explains why the movement lost its popularity. "They often glorify
the revolution as a kind of giant explosion which will blow up everything they
feel to be hampering them. But they have no constructive theory – I mean as
artists: they may as economists accept the economic categories of Socialism,
but as artists they can not see the new forms and contents of an art which will
replace bourgeois art."
After World War II
there appeared young writers, who are ready to keep up the standard of
wholesome optimism, and mature writers, who have passed through a certain
In the fifties
there appears a very interesting trend in literature, the followers of which
were called "The Angry Young Man". The post-war changes had given a
chance to a large number of young from the more democratic layers of society to
receive higher education at universities. But on graduating, these students
found they had no prospects in life; unemployment had increased after the war.
works dealing with such characters, angry young men who were angry with
everything and everybody, as no one was interested to learn what their ideas on
life and society were. Outstanding writers of this trend were John Wain,
Kingsley Amis and the dramatist John Osborne.
The sixties saw a
new type of literature. The criticism was revealed in the "working-class
novel" as it was called. These novels deal with characters coming from the
working class. The best known writer of this trend is Alan Sillitoe. Much of
post-war English literature is in the form of novels, and up to the present the
novel remains the most popular literature genre in Britain. Contemporary
English novelists are represented by several different trends.
Since sixties the
literary life in Great Britain has developed greatly. The new time brings new
heroes, new experience in theatrical life and poetry, new forms and standards
in prosaic works. The specific feature of nowadays literature is the variety of
genres and styles, which inrich the world's literature. Alongside with the
realistic method the symbolic one takes place and develops further. On the one
hand, the themes in the modern literary works concern more global problems: the
Peace and the War, the environmental protection, the relations between the
mankind and Universe. But on the other hand, the duties and the obligations of
the individual man, the psychology of the human nature, the life's situations
and the ways of solving the problems, the power and money have always been in
the centre of public attention, that found its reflection in the newest English
The Angry Young Men
Who are these
widely discussed group known as the Angry Young Men? Although their name is not
quite correct – they are not angry in the strict sense of the word, they are
not all young and not all men – the members of this group have much in common.
Most of these were of lower middle- class backgrounds.
The four best known
are novelists Kingsley Amis, John Wain, John Braine and playwright John
Osborne. Although not all personally known to one another, they had in common
an outspoken irreverence for the British class system and the pretensions of
the aristocracy. Their heroes are usually young men from the so- called lower
or lower middle class structure of English society. They strongly disapprove of
the elitist universities, the Church of England, and the darkness of the
working class life. Though in most cases they criticise not the essential class
distinctions but the outwards signs of the Establishment such as the privileges
that the top of society has retained from the times of feudalism.
Outside England the
influence of the Angry Young Men has been felt mainly in plays by John Osborne.
As Osborne has said of himself, "I want to make people feel, to give them
a lesson of feeling, They can think afterwards".
As regards literary
techniques, the Angry Young Men are conservatives. They look upon Kafka, Joyce
and other modernist writers of the twenties as museum pieces. Their style is
close to the straightforward narrative of most of 19th - century fiction. The
Angry Young Men are not especially interested in the philosophical problems of
men's existence. "The great questions I ask to myself", Kingsley Amis
says, "are those like 'How am I going to pay the electric bill?' "
Modern English Writers
During the 1970's
and early 1980's, such writers as Greene, Lessing and Le Carre continued to
produce important novels. New writers also appeared. D. M. Thomas blended
fiction with actual events and famous people in The White Hotel (1981).
combined adventure and mystery in such novels as The French Lieutenant's Woman
(1969), Muriel Spark's novels, such as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) and
The Only Problem (1984), are often comic but with disturbing undertones.
Perhaps the three
leading English writers are graham Greene, Iris Murdoch and Agatha Christie,
that is read and loved not only in her native country.
Graham Greene is
one of the most outstanding novelists of modern English literature. He is
talented and sincere, but at the same time his world outlook is characterised
by sharp contradictions.
deal with real life burning problems. His observations are concentrated on the
actual details of poverty and misery. The author penetrates into weak spots in
the capitalist world, does not try to find out the reasons for the evil he
sees. Social conditions are shown only as a background to his novels. Neither
does he try to comprehend the causes of spiritual crises experienced by his
contemporaries. Decadent motives are to be found in his novels, though he does
not lead the reader away from reality into the world of dreams and fantasy, and
in most of novels he reveals the truth of life.
Life of Graham Greene
Graham Greene was
born in 1904. He was educated at an English School, the head-master of which
was his father. His childhood was not at all happy; he describes this period of
his life as "…something associated with violence, cruelty, evil across the
In 1922 Greene
became a student of Balliol College, Oxford. At the age of twenty-two he became
sub-editor on the staff of a newspaper The Nottingham Guardian. It was during
this period that his first novel, The Man Within, was written. From 1930 onwards
his work as a novelist has been steady and continuos. In 1940 he became
literary editor of the spectator and the year following entered the Foreign
Office. During World War II Greene spent some years in Africa. It had been his
cherished desire from childhood to see that continent.
In 1944 he wrote
for an anti-fascist journal which was illegally published in France.
critics class Greene among the 'modernists'. They substantiate their
classification by the fact that Greene's works, like those of modernists, are
marked by disillusion, scepticism and despair, and that the themes employed by
Greene and the modernists are much the same. These critics fail to understand
the real nature of Greene's pessimism, which rests upon a deeply-rooted
sympathy for mankind, a sympathy not to be found in the modernists.
Though Greene, like
the modernists, deals with the problem of crime, his approach to it is quite
different. Unlike the modernists, who are mostly interested in the description
of the crime itself, Greene investigates the motives behind the crime. He gives
a deep psychological analysis of his criminals by investigating the causes that
led to murder.
According to his
own words, Greene wants to make the reader sympathise with people who don't
seem to deserve sympathy. The author tries to prove that a criminal may possess
more human qualities, that is to say, may sometimes be better at the core, than
many a respectable gentleman. He doesn't, however, always succeed in giving a
truthful interpretation of the motives of the crime he deals with, though in
his later works his approach to the subject becomes more realistic. He shows
the corrupting influence of capitalist civilisation on human nature, and tries
to prove that many of the bad qualities in a person are the natural result of
cruel, inhuman conditions of life.
Though crime and
murder, the problem of 'the dark man', motivate many of Greene' s works, the
main theme of his novels is pity for man struggling in vain against all the evils
of life; his longing for sympathy, love and friendship; his striving for
happiness, which is inevitably doomed to failure.
In the thirties
Greene's protest against human suffering brought him to Catholicism, but he did
not become a true Catholic. His novels The Heart of the Matter, A Burn-Out
Case, The Comedians and many others reject the dogmas of Catholicism, and his
talented realistic descriptions are more convincing than his ideology and
In The Heart of the
Matter, a true Catholic, Scobie, commits suicide when he becomes aware of the
fact that the church cannot free people from suffering. For this idea the novel
was condemned by the Vatican.
Greene is known as
the author of two genres – psychological detective novels or 'entertainments',
and ' serious novels', as he called them. The main theme of both genres is much
the same (the problem of 'the dark man', deep concern for the fate of the
common people. But in the 'serious novels' the inner world of the characters is
more complex and the psychological analysis becomes deeper.
Iris Murdoc has
written novels, drama, phylosophical
criticism, critical theory, poetry, a short
story, a pamphlet, and a libretto or an opera based on her play The Servants and the Snow, but she is best knkown and the most successful
as a philosopher and a novelist.
Although she claimes not to be a
phylosophical novelist and does not want
to philosophy to intrude to openly into her novels, she is a Platonist whose
aesthetics and view of man and iextricable, and moral phylosophy, arsthetics,
and characterization are clearlyiterrelated in her novels.
Murdoch began to
write prose in 1953. She soon became very popular with the English resders. All
her novels Under the Net, The Flight from the Enchanter, The Sandcastle, The
Unicorn, The Red and the Green, The Time of Angels, An Accidental Man, The
Black Prince, and many others are characterized by the deep interest im
phylosophycal problems and in the inner world of man. Iris Murdoch shows the
loneliness and sufferings of the human being in the hostile world.
The complicity of
Iris Murdoch, was
born in Dublin in 1919. She attended school in Bristol and studied philosophy
at Cambridge, the two oldest universities in England. The for many years
Murdoch was teaching philosophy at Oxford.
Early influences on
her work include French writers and philosophers including Simone de Beauvoir,
Simone Well, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Raymond Queneau, as well as Samuel Beckett.
Her first novel Under the Net, a picaresque tale set in London and Paris, has
extensive existential derivations, including the title, and she has said that
this work was influenced by Beckett's Murthy and Queneau's Pierrot. However the
novels soon move away from existentialism, for she does not believe that
existentialism it regards man's inner life.
intelligent, and well written, the novels of Iris Murdoch nevertheless lack
clear definition. Hers seems to be a talent for humour, but she appears unable
to sustain it for more than a scene or a temporary interchange. Her first
novel, Under the Net (1954), fits into the humorous pattern set by Kingsley
Amis in Lucky Jim (1954) and John Wain in Hurry on Down (1953). Her Jack
Donaghue of this novel is akin to Amis's Jim Dixon and Wain's Charles Lumley,
in that he maintains his own kind of somewhat dubious integrity and tries to
make his way without forsaking his dignity, and increasingly difficult
accomplishment in a world which offers devilish rewards for loss of integrity
Jake is angry
middle-aged man who mocks society and its respectability. He moves playfully
around law and order; he does small things on the sly- swims in the Thames at
night, steals the performing dog, sneaks in and out of locked apartments,
steals food. He is a puerile existence in which he remains "pure"
even while carrying on his adolescent activities.
The dangers of this
type of hero, indeed of this kind of novel, are apparent, for when the humour
begins to run low, the entire piece becomes childish. In Lucky Jim, we saw that
as the humorous invention lost vigor, the novel became enfeebled because it had
nothing else to draw upon. In her first novel as well as in The Flight from the
Enchanter (1956) and The Bell (1958), Miss Murdoch unfortunately was enable to
sustain the humour, and the novels frequently decline into triviality.
Another danger that
Miss Murdoch has not avoided is that of creating characters who are suitable
only for the comic situations but for little else. When they must rise to a
more serious response, their triteness precludes real change. This fault is
especially true of the characters in The Flight from the Enchanter, a curious
mixture of the frivolous and serious. The characters are keyed low for the
comic passages but too low to permit any rise when the situation evidently
demands it. The comic novel usually is receptive to a certain scattering of the
seed, while a serious novel calls for intensity of characterisation and almost
an entirely different tone. In her four novels Miss Murdoch falls between both
camps; the result is that her novels fail to coalesce as either one or the
The woman who has
become one of the most popular and prolific of all English detective novelists,
Agatha Christie (1891-1976), largely, it would seem, by virtue of the skilfully
engineered complexity of her plots.
Once, after reading
in a magazine that she was that she was
'the world's most mysterious woman' ,
Agatha Christie complained to her agent: " What do they suggest I am! A
Bank Robber or a Bank Robber's wife? I am an ordinary successful hard-working
author – like any other author." Her success was not exactly ordinary. She
produced nearly 90 novels and collections of stories in a lifetime that spanned
85 years. One of her plays, The Mousetrap, opened in London in 1952 and is
The Life and Creative Activity
She refined and
left a lasting imprint on the detective formula. An "Agatha Christie"
became a shorthand description for an unadomed display of crime unmasked by
perceptive and relentless logic. She dared readers to outwit her, and few
resisted the challenge. Shortly after her death in 1976, one estimate put the
world-wide sale of her books at 40 million copies. Given such glittering
evidence and the clues provided by her fiction, a mystique was bound to develop
around the one whodunit: Agatha the enchantress, the proper Englishman with a
power to murder and create. When she insisted that the truth was far less
exotic, armchair sleuths who had been trained by her books recognised a false
lead when they saw one.
She was right, of
course, as this biography, Agatha Christie, the first written with the
blessings of Christie's heirs and estate, conclusively proves. Author Janet
Morgan does a through job of getting the facts in the Christie case straight
and on the record. But the story, even when demystified, seems almost as
unbelievable as the guessing games it prompted.
Her childhood could
have been written by Jane Austen. Agatha miller, beloved by her parents and an
older sister and brother, grew up in an English seaside village surrounded by
Edwardian privileges and leisure. Her American father lived off a trust fund
that dwindled steadily, and his death when Agatha was eleven left family
finances more unsteady. Still, breeding and manners meant as much as money, and
the young woman, largely educated at home, moved in a circle of eligible
bachelors. She turned down three proposals and took a flier instead. After a
stormy courtship, she married Archie Christie, a dashing aviator with few
expectations of living through World War I.
While he fought,
his new bride stayed at home working in a hospital. Her sister suggested that
Agatha who was both exhausted and bored during her free time, try to write the
sort of detective novel they both enjoyed reading. She did, but by the time The
Mysterious Affair at Styles appeared in print, the war was over and Agatha had
a daughter and a husband, grounded at last, who seemed chiefly interested in
making money and playing golf.
The year 1926
changed her prospects and her life. For one thing, she published The Murder of
Roger Ackroyd, which caused a stir because it broke the rules of detective
fiction: the narrator did it. Something more shocking followed. In December
Agatha left her husband and child and disappeared for ten days, setting off a
nation-wide search and a carnival of speculation. Morgan's recreation of this
drama is meticulous, but it lacks, perhaps unavoidably, the tight resolution
that Christie gave her invented plots.
Grieving over the
death of her mother and staggering under the burden of sorting out the state,
the heroine learns from her husband that he is in love with another woman. She
drives off one night, her abandoned car is discovered the next morning.
Questions multiply. Is he seeking publicity, has she joined her lover, is she
embarrassing her husband, or has she been murdered?
When she is
discovered at a Yorkshire hotel, registered under the last name of the woman,
Archie now wants to marry, Agatha Christie has nothing to say. Her biographer
gives all the available details but suspends judgement: " There are
moments in people's lives on which it is unwise, as well as impertinent, for an
outsider to speculate, since it is impossible to be certain about what actually
took place or how the participants felt about it."
Neither Miss Marple
nor Hercule Poirot would accept such an alibi, but truth is messier than the
fiction. Whatever may have happened to Christie in 1926, she recovered
admirably. Two years after the divorce, while visiting friends on expedition in
Iraq, she met Max Mallowan, an archaeologist nearly 14 years her junior.
Eventually he proposed, fretting at the same time that she might find his line
of work boring. She reassured him: " I adore corpses and stiffs."
They lived happily ever after.
Morgan is candut
about the weakness in her subject's work. Chrisries stories were ingenious but
her writing is pedestrian. She intentionally offered stereotypes instead of
rounded characters and grew annoyed when Poirot, her Belgian detective, began
to assume a life of his own in the popular imagination. She once privately
described him as 'an egocentric creep'. She constructed puzzles, not
literature; she devoted what energies she could spare from a busy life to craft
rather than art. To list real liabilities in this manner is, ultimately, to beg
a question: why among so talented competitors in a small field, did Agatha
triumph? Responsible biography can suggest but never prave the probable
verdict: she was the best at what she chose to do.
Agatha Christie is
one of the best known and most widely-read writers of all times. Her books have
delighted readers over for more than half a century. She is the most
widely-translated British author in the world in addition to her great success
as a best-selling novelist, Agatha Christie also wrote the longest-running play
in the history of modern theatre. The mousetrap and originally written as a
radio play, It opened in London in 1952 and is still running today. She is also
well-known for a number of other plays and dramatisation of her novels and
short stories, and has written two books of poetry, six novels of romance under
the pseudonym Marry Westmacott.
best-known works are: The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The ABC Murders, Crooked
House, Murder in the Calais Coach, The Seven Dials Mystery and others.
novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is considered to be one of her best works.
This novel brought the author success and fame thanks to its most original
concept, non-traditional for detective novels. Roger Ackroyd, a rich and
respected man, was going to marry Mrs. Ferrars, a widow. But a short time
before their marriage Mrs. Ferrars committed suicide living a letter with Dr.
Sheppard, the local doctor, but the conversation did not take place. Soon after
coming back home Dr. Sheppard was informed by a telephone call that Roger
Ackroyd had been found murdered. The whole story is narrated by Dr. Sheppard.
Joanne Kathleen Rowling
One of the most
successful modern English writers is J.K.
Rowling. She is known all over the
world. Her books about Harry Potter,
which are read by children of different
countries and of different ages, have
become the bestsellers.
“Harry Potter and
the Philosopher’s Stone” is my favourite
modern book. But most of my friends
dislike it and the whole series. I
wondered why? Then I noticed: those, who
read the Russian version of the book,
dislike it; those, who read it in English, like it very much. So, what’s the
difference? I read the English version and decided to look through the Russian
one. I discovered in it that there is only a paraphrase of events, The charm of
the original book is missing. So the Russian version is only a ghost of the
J.K. Rowling has
written a good book for children. I don’t think she expected it to become
something great or important. She simply collected together all the attributes
of a good book for kids, all the features, which modern children like. The
characters are taken from the real life. These are people whom the writer
remembers from her childhood.
Joanne was born in
Chipping Sodbury General Hospital, which she thought was appropriate for
someone, who collects funny names. Her sister, Di, was born just under two
years later, and she was the person, whom Joanne told her first stories. The
very first one was about a rabbit called Rabbit (Joanne was only six than).
Rabbit got the measles and was visited by his friends, including a giant bee
called Miss Bee. And ever since Rabbit and Miss Bee, Joanne has wanted to
become a writer, though she rarely told anyone so. She was afraid people would
tell her she didn’t have a hope. The family changed their place of living
twice, while Joanne was growing up. The first move was from Yate (just outside
Bristol). A gang of children including Joanne and her sister used to play
together up and down their street in Winterbourne. Two of the gang members were
a brother and a sister whose surname was Potter. Joanne always liked this name.
When she was nine,
the family moved to Tutshill near Chepstow in the Forest of Dean. Living in a
place like this, in the countryside, has always been her parents’ dream, both
being Londoners. Joanne and her sister spent most of the time watching
unsupervised across fields and along the river Wye. The only fly in the
ointment was the fact that the girl hated her new school. It was a very small,
very old-fashioned place where the roll-top desks still had ink-wells. Joanne
was quiet, freckly, short-sighted and rubbish at sports (once she broke her arm
playing netball). Her favourite subject by far was English, but she quite liked
languages too. Joanne used to tell her equally quiet and studious friends long
serial stories at lunch- times. They usually involved them as all doing heroic
and daring deeds they certainly wouldn’t have done in real life they were all
Joanne K. Rowling
wrote a lot in her teens, but she never showed any of it to her friends, except
for funny stories that again featured them all in thinly disguised characters.
After the school Joanne went straight to Exeter University, where she studied
French. This was a big mistake, as she had listened too hard to her parents,
who thought languages would lead to a great career as a bilingual secretary.
But the one thing Joanne liked about her job is that she was able to type up
stories on the computer when no-one was looking. She was never paying much
attention in meetings because she was usually scribbling bits of her latest
stories in the margins of the pad, or choosing excellent names for characters.
When Joanne was
twenty six she gave up on offices completely and went abroad to teach English
as a Foreign Language. “My students used to make jokes about my name; it was
like being back to Winterbourne, except that the Poruguese children said
‘Rolling Stone’ instead of rolling pin”, - says Joanne. She loved teaching
English and as she worked afternoons and evenings, she had mornings free for
writing. This was particularly good news as Miss Rowling started her third
novel. The new book was about a boy who found out he was a wizard and was sent
off to Wizard school. When Joanne came back from Portugal half a suitcase was
full of papers covered with stories about Harry Potter. She came to live in
Edinburgh with a very small daughter a set herself a headline: “I would finish
the Harry Potter novel before starting work as a French teacher, and try to get
it published”. It was finished the year after finishing a book before a
publisher bought it. ”The moment when I found out that Harry would be published
was one of the best in my life”, - says the author. By this time she was
working as a French teacher. A few months later ‘Harry’ was taken for
publication in Britain, an American publisher bought the rights for enough
money to unable Joanne to give up teaching and write full time – her life’s
A single mother
living in Edinburgh, Scotland, Rowling became an international literary
sensation in 1999, when the first three instalments of her Harry Potter
children’s book series took over the top three slots in the New York Times
best-seller list after achieving similar success in her native United Kingdom.
The phenomenal response to Rowling’s books culminated in July 2000, when the
fourth volume in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, became the
fastest-selling book in history. Rowling now one of Britain’s richest women,
plans a total of seven books, each chronicling a year in the life of Harry
Potter, a young wizard, and this motley band of cohorts at the Hogwarts School
of Witchcraft and Wizardy.
J. K. Rowling's
Harry Potter novels begin when the orphaned British 10-year-old discovers he
has a magical heritage and enters Hogwarts School to learn how to be a wizard.
With each book, Harry and his classmates age a year, and with each year the
record-breaking success of the series grows. In September 1999, Harry Potter
even made the cover of Time magazine, which called the phenomenon "one of
the most bizarre and surreal in the annals of publishing." When the movie
of Rowling's first book opened in the fall of 2001, it took in a then
record-shattering $90.3 million in its first weekend.
Bernstein said in The New York Times, the Harry Potter stories are fairly
conventional, and "not nearly as brilliant or literary as, say, The Hobbit
or the Alice in Wonderland books." The explanation for their popularity,
he suggests, can be found in Bruno Bettelheim's classic study of children's
literature, The Uses of Enchantment. The essence of Bettelheim's theory is that
children live with greater terrors than most adults can understand, and that
the classic fairy tales help express that terror while showing a way to a
better future. In effect, J. K. Rowling's novels fill a basic need for children
everywhere and for the child in every adult.
That seems quite
sound. But there is also the fact that Rowling has a degree of whimsicality not
to be found in Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, or her other antecedents. She is much
closer to L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz series in that regard. And she has a
sense of humor tuned to her era. Thus, Harry's school supplies include
"one plain pointed hat (black) for day wear." Mail at the school is
delivered by owls of different sizes, including "tiny scops owls (‘Local
Deliveries Only')." And exams at Hogwarts include practical tests, like
making a pineapple tap-dance across a desk and turning a mouse into a snuffbox,
"with points given for how pretty the snuffbox was, but taken away if it
As if the books
weren't enough, the success of the first two Harry Potter movies has created an
instant and undoubtedly quite durable "franchise." One can only hope
that the sly wit, the charm, and the childlike wonder of Rowling's books won't
get lost to the evils of commercialism. On the other hand, with Coca-Cola alone
paying $150 million for the exclusive global marketing rights to the first
movie, one might as well go wish upon a star. As Business Week put it, it's
"Harry Potter and the Tower of Profits."
TO HARRY POTTER NOVELS
Almost as soon as
Barry Cunningham met J. K. Rowling in 1996, the first-time author was talking
about what she wanted to do next. And next and next. Cunningham, editorial
director at Bloomsbury Children's Books in London, had recently agreed to publish
Rowling's initial effort, an overlong children's novel about an aspiring
wizard. "At our first meeting," he recalls, "before we finished
the first course in the restaurant, we had one of those conversations that you
remember years later."
"How do you
feel about sequels?" Rowling asked Cunningham.
"When a first
novelist says that to an editor," he says now, "you're always
out that the first book hadn't even been published yet, but Rowling replied
that she had seven books in mind. "She was obviously bursting to say
it," he says. "And what convinced me that we were on the right track
is that she knew what Harry was going to do every successive year of his life
until he left school."
That intricacy is
at the heart of what has turned into the biggest book story bridging the
millennia. Rowling's wizard Harry Potter and his elaborately complete world
have become, in three short years, ubiquitous, breaking through every
In the London
Underground recent Saturday afternoon, a small boy exclaimed to his brother,
"Look, it's Harry Potter," upon spying a reader (me) several decades
his senior reading one of the books. We spent the next five minutes discussing
the relative merits of the series' first and second books. Later, I tried to
recall the last time I'd had a literary exchange with strangers on the tube,
let alone junior strangers. The answer was never.
has turned nonreaders into Harry addicts, and Potter books have taken the top
three spots in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today adult
bestseller lists. Forbes magazine's Celebrity 100 list places Joanne Kathleen
Rowling (35 this July) as the 24th-highest celebrity earner in the world,
wedged between Michael Jordan and Cher at $40 million earned in the past year.
Around the world, her books have sold 30 million copies and have been
translated into 35 languages. Sophisticated French students and Japanese women
alike can't get enough of the budding wizard, who wasn't even on the scene
until 1997. And in a world where one might say the highest form of flattery is
a lawsuit, Rowling has earned that, too.
achievement is not to overdraw or overdescribe the characters," says
Stephen Fry, the actor-writer-comedian and all-around Renaissance man who won
the task of reading the first book when the British version went to audio. Fry
was meticulous in familiarizing himself with the text. "I have to confess
that I first read it to prepare for reading it aloud," he says. "So I
started off paying attention to how the characters would sound. By about page
three, I had forgotten all that and was having too much fun reading."
children's author and chairman of the Scottish Arts Council's children's book
awards, believes that the series could have been written at any time in the
past 60 years, with its timeless themes of magic and good versus evil. In
addition, there is its always-popular anti-adult stance, pitting the Hogwarts
children against the unimaginative adult world outside. "She has done what
Roald Dahl does," says Jauncey. Like the author of Fantastic Mr. Fox and
James and the Giant Peach, Rowling never betrays any sense of being an adult
writing down to children. "She steps into the children's shoes as she
writes," he says. But most of all, "the story just bursts onto the
page with sheer, raw imaginative power."
That's what comes
up again and again. "So imaginative." "Original."
"Surprising." "Made me laugh out loud." Even Kevin Casey,
the lawyer handling a recent suit filed against Rowling, which claims she's not
so original after all, says his family loves the books. "Have you read
them?" he asks. "They're great."
three books tell the story of ten-year-old orphan Harry Potter, who lives with
his dull, smug Muggle (nonmagical) relatives, the Dursleys, until he is
informed he is a wizard and is whisked off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and
Wizardry. Harry becomes a year older in each successive book and endures all
manner of adventures alongside his chums, bookish Hermione Granger and plucky
Ron Weasley, while they all learn magic. Reader after reader acknowledges that
the series, deceptively simple in summary, offers a density of detail and
characterization --- along with the complex balance of good and evil and
darkness and wit, and the pace of the plots -- that makes it thoroughly
addictive. Gavin Wallace, acting literature officer for the Scottish Arts
Council, recalls the launch event for book one's Braille edition.
"[Rowling] talked to all the kids," he says, and made an empathetic
connection with them. "I think she really understands how their
As tends to be the case
with overnight successes, Rowling's own story has its fair share of hardship
and hard work. Without her determination and penchant for unusual names -- such
as "Hogwarts" and "Muggles" -- she might well still be
temping in an office or teaching French, still scribbling down stories but
reading them to an audience of just two: her daughter, Jessica, and her sister,
Di. Rowling's talent and luck, along with the encouragement and imagination of
a dedicated cluster of people in London and Edinburgh, Scotland, allowed Harry
Potter to end up charming the world into getting out its collective torch and
reading under the bedsheets (as Harry himself is wont to do).
an agent for heavyweight writers such as Simon Singh, (Fermat's Enigma) and Janet
Gleeson (The Arcanum), was the first person outside Rowling's circle of friends
and family to spot her potential, even though he'd never been involved with
children's fiction before. Rowling, typically, tried Little because she liked
his name, sending him the first few chapters of Harry Potter and the
Philosopher's Stone in 1995. The typewritten pages found themselves perched on
top of the pile of dozens of unsolicited manuscripts Little received most
He read her
submission quickly and took only three days to take her on as a client; she was
so thrilled, she read his reply eight times. Little had spoken to the new
Bloomsbury Children's Book department at the 1995 Frankfurt Book Fair and knew
they were looking for something special. "And Harry Potter was
different," he says. Different and long. Most children's books are less
than 40,000 words long; Philosopher's Stone was at least 65,000.
editorial director starting the Bloomsbury children's list, saw the manuscript
when it arrived from Little in June 1996. "There it was," he says,
"a complete world with everything worked out and everything working, a
world you could enter into as a child and lose yourself within."
Cunningham needed Rowling and Harry to cast their spell over his colleagues. So
he handed over the manuscript to Rosamund de la Hey, children's marketing
She, too, was
gripped. "It made me laugh out loud and stay up all night reading
it," she says. The next day she and a colleague spent all afternoon making
copies of the manuscript, stuffing them with Smarties candies and tying a
ribbon around each one. These packages were delivered to the company directors
whose support would be needed to buy the book. They adored it, and Cunningham
bought it the following day.
An impediment to
Rowling's sequel strategy was that, despite signing with Bloomsbury, she
literally had no money. Fortunately, in early 1997 she received an £8,000
($13,000) grant from the Scottish Arts Council, which considers children's
fiction as important as adult literature. (Rowling's application was graded
with exceptionally high marks, according to Wallace: A, A, A-, B+, A-).
editorial discussions were proceeding about the first book: Should it be so
long, and should it be illustrated throughout? The length of the book was
reduced only slightly, finally, but Cunningham initially considered sticking
with the convention of providing illustration.
felt from the beginning -- and I certainly agreed after I'd chatted to her --
that everybody wanted to have their own Harry in their mind," he says.
Similarly, they talked about the cover. Neither wanted an adult fantasy image,
so they chose a fun children's cover. Interestingly, every country has its own
look for Harry Potter. Rowling's favorite covers come from the Netherlands,
where you don't actually see Harry's face. In Britain, an additional
"adult version" was released to assuage the concerns of the series'
self-conscious older readers.
It was when the
American audience embraced Harry Potter that the entire phenomenon went over
the top. In the first weekend of British publication last summer, for instance,
20,000 copies of book three, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,
reportedly were imported to the States via the Internet; and in its first two
weeks of official U.S. publication in fall 1999, it sold half a million copies.
Overall U.S. sales for Rowling's books are now approaching 20 million -- total.
Everyone, Little says, was shocked by the speed and scale of the books' success.
"I thought it would be big, but not that big," he says now. "I
mean, there's never been anything bigger than this."
MY ATTITUDE TO
HARRY POTER NOVELS
Harry Potter is now
the most famous boy in the world. Children of all the countries admire him and
hos adventures. It seems almost impossible to imagine a world without the Harry
Potter novels. Not only did these books -- which chronicle the education of boy
wizard Harry Potter -- become a worldwide phenomenon, they encouraged kids (and
adults) in the video age to drop everything in favor of an unlikely object of
obsession: books. While the fun of fantasy might be its otherworldliness, its
power lies is the truths it reveals about the real world. So the magical world
of Harry Potter, a world of flying cars and dragons, unicorns and magic
potions, invisibility cloaks and evil powers, becomes real as readers discover
truths about bravery, loyalty, choice, and the power of love. We believe in
Harry because of his human qualities, especially his human frailties.
While reading the
stories I found some realy wize quotetions.
"The truth. It
is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great
caution." (The Sorcerer's Stone)
been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us
some protection forever." (The Sorcerer's Stone)
"It takes a
great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up
to our friends." (The Sorcerer's Stone)
"It is our
choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
(The Chamber of Secrets)
"You can exist
without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working.
But you'll have no sense of self anymore, no memory, no ... anything. There's
no chance at all of recovery. You'll just—exist. As an empty shell." (The
Prisoner of Azkaban)
"You think the
dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don't recall them more
clearly than ever in times of great trouble?....You know, Harry, in a way, you did
see your father last night....You found him inside yourself." (The
Prisoner of Azkaban)
is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be
recovery." (The Goblet of Fire, page 680)
"You place too
much importance...on the so-called purity of blood! You fail to recognize that
it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!" (The
Goblet of Fire, page 708)
So as you see the books are realy worthy of
reading. They would interest not only children, but also adults. Furthermore
they are easy to read and to my mind in the nearest future The Harry Potter
novels will even included in the list of literature in schools.
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Volosova, A. Doroshevich “English Literature” Moscow “Prosveshchenye” 1975
2. The Brief
Encyclopaedia of English Literature “Alterexpress”
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