Classics: timeless and without boundaries

Sunday, February 21

By Paloma Doti

Why is a teenager from 1870 moved by the same book as one from 2021?

Frankenstein is not about a scientist creating a beast. It's about rejection and loneliness.
Jane Eyre is not about a mansion governess. It is a story of love and resilience.
Little Women is not about sisters living in times of civil war. It's about the fear of growing up, it's about being a woman. About death, love and rejection.
The little prince is not about a child traveling the universe. It's about ambition, vanity, power, and love.  About not forgetting how to be a child.

It seems that reading classics automatically turns you into an academic who sits on a sofa next to their large library while cleaning their misty intellectual glasses. That we can only call classics to those complex pieces that are never fully deciphered. That reading and understanding them makes us cultured.

 I disagree.

A classic has to be able to cross generations, to move people in  England in 1870 and in Argentina in 2021. It has to have a story that is simply the excuse to talk about the only thing in the world that we all share: being a human.
Now there are cell phones, televisions, computers, airplanes, boats, cars, refrigerators, stoves and air conditioners. We would believe that we are very far away from our ancestors, that we evolved. But even with so much technology, we continue to love, hate, grow and die, as we always did and as we always will. And those books that reflect this are the only ones that grandparents and grandchildren will be able to share.
For someone who rides an electric car in the 21st century and someone who rode a horse-drawn carriage in the 19th century to be moved by the same story, the message of the book has to be like a language that is spoken in all space and all time. It is timeless and has to be able to cross all borders.
When a book talks about a very particular event, a topic that is popular at the time it was written, it will never be able to become a classic. It could become very popular, recognized by the New York Times, but if it is a language that only people in a given space and time can understand, it will never be more than a best seller.

They have to be relatable, we all have to understand and sympathize with the characters. Feel them as a reflection. I see myself when I read that Jo March sees a blank page and doesn't know what to write. I see myself when Jane Eyre spends hours looking at the window and the landscapes. I see myself when Dr. Frankenstein doesn't know how to fix his big mistake. I see myself when The Little Prince is disappointed. We all see each other in them. Therefore, we all read them and are moved. That's why they´re called classics.

The conflicts and stories in the books are just excuses to talk about existing. And to understand them and be touched by them, we don't need intellectual glasses, or armchairs next to libraries: we just need to be human.


 

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