Classic Books

“ Omnia mutantur, nihil interit (everything changes, nothing perishes). ” Ovid, Metamorphoses.

“A classic stands the test of time. The work is usually considered to be a representation of the period in which it was written; and merits lasting recognition. In other words, if the book was published in the recent past, the work is not a classic.
A classic has a certain universal appeal. Great works of literature touch us to our very core partly because they integrate themes that are understood by people from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience. Themes of love, hate, death, life, and faith touch upon some of our most basic emotional responses.”

A classic has the ability to engage the reader as part of the narrative. I have to confess – and indeed it feels confessional to say so – that modern literature is frequently depressing since its focus is either on caustic satire or lamentable weakness and affairs about which few of us can be proud. The sequel to “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”  relates Tom’s experiences when he becomes a student at Oxford and struggles to balance the temptations of university life at the time with his innate sense of decency. Hughes preaches relentlessly at us, Tom develops Chartist leanings and old friends from Rugby turn up in unexpected places. It takes a more outward-looking view, no longer from a boy in the closed cocoon of his school, describing manners and customs long forgotten, but underlying motives about who we are as people and how we interact with each other is a universal theme, seen through the Victorian lens of a rigid class system. Perhaps we have lost sight a little of how heroism and unselfishness works, how faith ought to drive our actions and our contribution to the world means that we leave it a better place than we found it.

Retirement seems to have had the effect of developing a longer, broader view. It becomes easier to contextualise one’s being at this particular time within the perspective of a much longer timeframe. As we are more honest with ourselves, we see more clearly from whence we have come and how we have arrived at where we are, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. I can’t help wondering if this is what a spark of wisdom actually looks like. 
The world is made up of two kinds of people, first are those who love classics, the second are those who have not yet read a classic.  Oscar Wilde once wrote that ‘if one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all’. I’m looking forward to revisiting many of my old friends in their pages.

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