A Little on Literature
What is Literature? As a first discussion point on the BEA agenda I felt rather daunted in answering this question. Literature can mean so many things to so many people. In its strictest sense (and thanks to Google for providing this definition), Literature is defined as “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.” Yes, that is exactly what it is, right?
I heartily agree that literature should be considered superior work, but who is to be the judge? For one person the works of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy constitute real literature, whereas someone else will firmly argue that Harry Potter will have lasting artistic merit. I believe that both points of view are correct.
In my opinion, Literature is anything that speaks to your soul. It is prose that moves you – anything that evokes a deep emotional response. It is language that surprises and astounds you. It is characters that are believable and relevant. It is when you read a sentence and have to catch your breath because its beauty is overwhelming.
What distinguishes literature from popular fiction? Popular fiction is enjoyed by a large number of readers for a limited time. I believe that true literature should stand the test of time. In 100 years, will people still be awed by the writings of Ian McEwan (Yes!) of J.K. Rowling (I believe so) and Stephanie Meyer (probably not)?
Literature is our window to the human experience. It connects us to each other and to a shared history. Most importantly – it challenges you. True literature can expose prejudices; create ideas; change minds. It is a really powerful tool if you think about it. And as such has been banned and censored throughout our history. Yet it always survives.
So who deserves the title of a literary author? Which works of fiction deserve to remain with us forever? This is obviously a completely subjective question, but I felt that ‘literary connection’ with the following books and authors (to name a few):
- Margaret Atwood: Anything she writes is great, but I loved The Blind Assassin and The Handmaid’s Tale.
- Salman Rushdie – Midnight’s Children – probably my favourite novel of all time.
- Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – The structure of this novel alone warrants special mention
- Ian McEwan’s Atonement – the conclusion was shocking and breathtaking
- Gabrielle Garcia Marquez – especially One Hundred Years of Solitude – I love magical-realism
- Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding – I know this may surprise you, but I consider this a work of genius.
Classics, of course, fall into the ‘Literature’ classification already. They have already proved their longevity. Austen, Dickens, Bronte, Hemingway and Orwell – truly masterful works of fiction that are still relevant and thought-provoking to this day.
Anyway, I am getting carried away. I am a romantic at heart, and there is hardly anything I adore more then a great literary novel. Forgive my romantic musings, look away from this screen and go find a book to read that will truly move you.
What are your favourite literary reads?
The Armchair BEA logo in this post was designed by Amber from Shelfnotes.com.