I am a snob. Well, we all are, I guess. We, the Soviet kids of 60s, 70s and 80s are the biggest snobs when it comes to books and reading.
We grew up in Literature. We were nurtured Samizdat. We breathed Esenin, Blok, Pushkin, Shakespeare in translation – we had to learn many poems and sonnets by heart and recite them in front of the whole class to be marked. Some of us still remember the whole poems or favourite bits. Moreover, we fell in love and confessed our love through Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Gumilev and Brusov. We thought ourselves to be the biggest and the bravest rebels because we read Bulgakov, Solzhenitsin, Rybakov, Aksenov and many more undesirables and unmentionables.
We pride ourselves on the quantity of books we read during summer holidays. High School years were marked by ‘prohibited’ literature, by foreign literature read in secret or WOW in original language.
Perestroika was marked by the flood of translations of pulp fiction and great writers as well. My parents and grandparents collected a huge library for me over the years. My grandfather was happy with me only when he saw me at home with a book in my hand.
We are snobs and we are proud of it.
Thus, it still irks me when, after living most of my life in Australia, I hear English-speaking people do not even know the names of the authors we’ve read when we were kids.
However, having a daughter at high school I sort of understand the reason. THEY DO NOT READ. They do not have to read. They have 2-3 texts to go through a year (where we had 20-30 texts). They are not given ‘summer book lists’ (we can’t make kids study on holidays)… What a poor bunch of future generations…
Do they have to? Do they have to read classics as we know it? Or shall the book lists be changed and modified to suit the times, the morals and the tastes? Shall we get a new classics list? May be.
May be allowing Hunger Games and Harry Potter is the right thing. As long as kids read. As long as they enjoy reading, may be we can give them something more to read later on…
But then again… Have you read Zola? What about novels by Mon Passant? How about George Sand and her novels for girls and women? I loved Mitchel and Twain, have you read any of their stuff? My mum loved Hemingway and London, O’Henry and Sagan. Have you heard of them?
This is my runt on book snobism. I keep reading. I keep asking my daughter to read the books I bought for her hoping to bring her up in similar traditions and values. I succeeded in a way. She loves books. She loves books and reading. However, she reads her books and stirs away from ‘mum told me to read’ lists… I keep trying