2012. The year of Dickens. Or perhaps Strindberg. Possibly the year of many different people, famous or otherwise.
But what do we celebrate? Death? Birth? Or anything, as long as we can celebrate?
I always used to think it was one or the other, but could never decide which made the most sense. Birth is a more positive thing to remember, but when you’re born you have yet to become a great playwright or a president. At least the sad occasion of someone’s death happens when they’ve become that something for which we admire them.
This year we are remembering Charles Dickens’s birth date, 200 years ago. But we are also making a fuss over the fact that it’s 100 years since Strindberg died. Less fuss than over Dickens, at least in Britain, but even so.
I got so tired of the Dickens expectations before 2012 had even begun that I decided to ignore him. (Obviously not 100%, or I wouldn’t be writing this.) When I need to ‘do’ Dickens, it will be because I’m in a Dickensy mood, and not over some new peculiar Dickens related modern book.
The most interesting recent Dickens fact for me, was the connection between him and Sally Gardner, which I discovered when I interviewed her. And that’s good enough for me. I’ve read a few of his books. I may well read some more. But not now.
And Strindberg. Well. He was a miserable old thing, wasn’t he? Not even the television dramatisation of Hemsöborna did much for me. I enjoyed the early appearance by Sven Wollter, who went on to earn the epithet Most Beautiful Man in Sweden. But this was in the 1960s and the whole country watched. We had nothing better to do.
When I saw Miss Julie the first time I felt so depressed I could have joined them in doing away with myself. I’m sure it’s all very brilliant, but how depressing!
While in the middle of his translation course, Son has ended up translating another depressing Strindberg drama. Good for him. And rather him than me.
So, what else could we celebrate? I was a struck by the poor Queen having to celebrate her accession to the throne. Yes, it’s nice. Possibly. But not only was it because of the death of her father, but it meant the end to any normal family life she might have had.
Another slice of cake?
The translating Son also ended up with a piece on Raoul Wallenberg the other day. It’s 100 years since he was born. For Raoul Wallenberg we can’t ever do the death date thing, because we are not sure when ‘they finished him off.’ But at least the man’s been made an honorary citizen of the US, and has roads named after him.
However you celebrate, I personally want to draw the line at doing it prematurely. I think it’s next year that the University of St Andrews will be 600. They already have a shop selling stuff. Also read recently about some Scottish battle (I think), which we are talking about two years in advance.
I can only think that we are jinxing ourselves.