January 18, 2013

The Classics Club: Meme #4

In November, The Classics Club asked us whether and what classic piece of literature most intimidates us, and why. I wish, I could say I've never been intimidated by any classics, or any books for that matter. But to be honest, there are indeed books that frighten me.

Why? It's because I am afraid that I'll have to go through pain. I don't mean some imaginary pain, but true physical pain. I'm either too sensitive or my imagination is too vivid, or both. Whatever the reason, when I'm reading a book and a character is suffering (I mean severely suffering), I'm feeling his or her pains in my body.
A particular page of a sensitive author may well have revived a prostrate soul: and I who read the page, I who am touched by it . . . by feeling similar emotions I enter into some sort of communion with those whose fate I so deeply grieve. (Germaine de Staël, The Influence of Literature upon Society
For example, I've recently read Michelle Moran's Madame Tussaud and it was a very difficult and disturbing reading for me precisely because I was feeling constant pain. Do not misunderstand me. I truly liked Moran's writing style and I heartily recommend her book. But, her vivid description of the events of the French Revolution triggered my empathy for the innocent people and what they had been through which in turn was causing me instant pain.

So, poorly written books cannot frighten me; in worst-case scenario, I can simply abandon them. By contrast, well-written books with a lot of suffering can cause me sleepless nights and heartaches, especially if I can't get those vivid pictures out of my head. This is the reason why I'm particularly afraid of reading Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, which is number 27 on my Classics Club list.


And, what about you? Does your body aches sometimes, when you're reading tragic stories? Do you have restless nights?

4 comments:

  1. Les Mis bleeds your heart. I mean, not only the size of it, but also the story. If you can't bear sad stories, don't even try Les Mis. Every volume contains all sorts of emotion. But it's worth the pain! Les Mis is a book you can't stop talking about, it makes you look at the world differently. If you don't believe in humanity anymore, Les Mis can change your mind or make you even more desperate. It's just beautiful.

    "Does your body aches sometimes, when you're reading tragic stories? Do you have restless nights?" Always.

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    1. Dear Listra! Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog. You write: "Les Mis bleeds your heart." Yeah, that's what I'm expecting that will happen. Nevertheless, I want to read it. Several years ago I saw the musical on stage and I've wanted to read this book since then. Hence, it seemed logical to put this work on my Classics Club list. Now, I only have to find the courage to read it. I envy you for having already finished it!

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  2. Yes and yes, Eszter. I'm reading Les Mis later this year -- I know it's going to be heart breaking but it seems that kind of story has a way of keeping my heart soft and receptive.

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    1. Oh, I'm so glad I'm not alone... It's always good to know that there are many kindred spirits around the world... And, I think you're so right. I too believe that by reading such novels, readers become more sensitive, compassionate, and humane.

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