Was the Victorian era the best time in the terms of the novels written? The question, again and again, only comes back to ring our mind-phones regularly because whenever we read any novel, it’s our tendency (almost and mostly) to consider what we have been reading – to compare the current reading experience with some of the world’s best novels which we might have read during our academic days or just the leisure. Isn’t so the case with you, gentleman? And you, gentlewoman? (I hope gentlewomen do read my views.) Human nature, by all means, is nothing different from that price comparing website which tells us the best places to buy our essentials as well as the luxury items. We also tend to compare and analyse things irrespective of what we are doing and under whatsoever circumstances and about reading fiction, it just sits home perfectly! We always care to compare – was the read worth a read? Should I have read it? Was the book I read anything near that of that great one? And if you are an admirer of classics, the level of your satisfaction will seldom meet the satisfaction exactly!
The whole point of my caveat before starting this article is very simple – was the Victorian Age the best age in the terms of the prose fiction? We have the writers like Dickens whose canvas was as big as the world and he could make us meet the emotions we could not find even when travelling days and nights in the distant lands. We also have the authors like Thackeray who could show the vivid view of human nature and his Vanity Fair almost became a class in itself. And then we see someone like Charlotte Bronte opening up the seldom-explored dimensions into the realms of love which we could never and wouldn’t ever find in the modern fictions – and why? I will not venture into the why part of the question because that might take decades to find out of can be found out in just an hour; it depends on how we perceive things and by no means I am imputing the ‘lacking’ to every modern fiction writer. There might be better than before too (am I consoling myself?).
Can there be a second Hardy? Can there be someone who could offer us some more of those Hard Times? Fall back, my friends, is inevitable when we wish to read the fiction which could make our readings satisfied and our hearts could feel like ‘accomplished’. Maybe the time that the Victorian period witnessed was the best for literary productions. Maybe the literary awareness was the strongest or maybe because it was ‘just a new experience’ for the people who have begun reading fiction in those days – the golden days!
When I, on my personal capacity, am given a choice to choose between modern-day fiction and those of the Victorian era, without a doubt I will sit back and read the older ones. The humane they were and the values they reflected can seldom be seen in the fiction of the day, save some of the writers who really mean ‘literary business’ unlike the most who mean commercial literature! Let’s settle, however, because we hardly have a choice. How many times can we read the same Victorian classics even if they don’t bore us? We will have to find the respite among the cities of ruins today and hopefully, there shall be one of us all!
by Alok Mishra (posted in #Opinions, #Literature, #Fiction)
Alok Mishra is a book critic, poet and literary opinion maker.