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Entertainment Literature

AGATHA CHRISTIE: THE QUEEN OF CRIME AND MYSTERY

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

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Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in the year, 1890 in Torquay, England. The popularity of detective fiction reached its height during the First World War (the 1920s) and Christie’s crafted characters, crimes, and the detectives that solved them found a name for themselves. The period from the 1920s to 1930s came to be known as the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

It is a rare known fact that Christie wrote her debut novel to win a bet against her sister, Marge, who believed she won’t be able to write a detective novel. Throughout her lifetime, she has written 66 novels and 14 short stories and continues to bear the tag of a bestseller.

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Her debut novel, The Mysterious Affairs at Styles birthed the legendary literary character, Hercule Poirot, a short Belgian man with a stiff moustache and a neat sense of dressing. Some of Poirot’s best cases are The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, ABC Murders, Death on The Nile, and Murder on the Orient Express. Poirot’s last case, 'Curtain' was published posthumously.

Miss Marple, an elderly spinster is another renowned creation of Christie. We first meet her in a short story named, The Tuesday Night Club which went on to be published in one of the many stories in 'The Thirteen Problems'.

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Agatha Christie always studied people around her for inspiration which helped her build memorable characters and their behaviour. To avoid writer’s block she preferred working on more than one story at a time. She liked paying attention to detail and describes in dialogues the plotline to hold the intrigue of her readers and keep them hooked until the very end. She would then reveal the killer and how the murder was carried out. Christie would drop subtle hints and clues to make the reader wear the shoes of an investigator and slightly mislead them into suspecting innocent characters but refrained from giving away too many clues.

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She seamlessly wrote her hints to divert her readers to the various characters to establish an end that would surprise and excite them. Her autobiography is a reflection of her life and her journey as a writer.

Her thinking process and intricate plot details give us a view into her brilliant mind and why she is often referred to as the ‘Queen of Crime’.

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Entertainment Freestyle Literature

TINTIN: A COMIC FOR ALL AGE GROUPS

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

We are all familiar with the young blonde journalist Tintin and his companion, a fox-terrier named Snowy.

The genius mind of the Belgian Cartoonist, Georges Remi gave birth to the very renowned Tintin and his adventures. It is common knowledge that Remi wrote under the alias, Herge that he simply attained by reversing the initials of his name; R.G, which when pronounced in French becomes Herge.

The adventures of Tintin is a series of 24 bande dessinée. The French term, Bande dessinée refers to a succession of images. In simple terms, it is a story told through pictures. They are also known as the Franco-Belgian Comics created for the readers in Belgium and France. Apart from Tintin, other known examples of BD (acronym) are Asterix by Goscinny and Uderzo, The Smurfs by Peyo, and many more.

In 1925, Herge worked for a newspaper called Le XXeSiecle and three years later he was tasked with creating a supplement for children, Le Petit Vingtieme, for which he became the editor. Tintin’s first adventure, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets was published in this newspaper. Herge’s drawing style gained popularity for which he can be attributed as the pioneer of what is known as Ligne Claire style or clear line when translated. His drawing evolved through the years and became a subject of visual spectacle in the 1930s.
The stories in all of Tintin’s adventures hold deep connotations of issues faced by the world, grounded in satire and masked under humor and color. For example, King Ottokar’s Sceptreis, said to reference World War II, The Calculus Affair deals with underlying themes of Cold War while The Blue Lotus focuses on Tintin busting a drug racket in China.
The intriguing theme and the storyline is targeted towards an audience falling under all age groups. Herge, himself believed that Tintin is for ‘children aged between 7 and 77’. Alongside the story and the graphic narrative, there is always an edge of realism. The characters are drawn with details and have distinct personalities, from Captain Haddock’s affinity for whiskey to Cuthbert Calculus’ bouts of being half-deaf, Tintin is decorated with comic relief to engage its readers.

We must note that Tintin is not a superhero and is very much like us commoners which eventually appeals to the underdog in all of us. The stories are set in exotic locations, where Tintin sets to achieve his goal of overcoming situations that often find him on the brink of death. 

Nevertheless, the stories never fail to provide the readers with the victory of virtue over vice and a touch of simplistic poetic justice at the very end.

Categories
Lifestyle Literature

The Universal Appeal of Tragic Romances that Happy Endings Fail to Provide

Romance is that one genre in Literature mostly associated with the liking of women. Very popular globally yet is undermined as it is usually regarded as ‘feminine’ because the authorship of such books is usually attributed to the female population.

The Mills and Boon publishing house based in the United States and the Harlequin Publishers in the United Kingdom is renowned for producing over 700 romance novels every year! It is said that all these novels follow a generic formula. The predictable nature of the plotline will reassure the readers of a happily ever after.  A story centered around the female and her venture in discovering love, overcoming problems with the male lead who is extraordinarily carved, setting unrealistic expectations in real life. The books that end in a union or holy matrimony are the ones that sell the most. Be it a story revolving around a prince and a damsel in distress or two ordinary people finding love, romance is nothing but a happy escape for the reader from their daily routine.

Nonetheless, these books often hold up the stereotype of romance written by women for women. On a larger demographic, the stories often spoken about by people are tragic love stories. What is the secret formula that is significantly absent in happy endings and romantic comedies?

This brings us to the so-called ‘appeal’ factor of tragedy. We can wisely use the term catharsis in this regard. The feelings evoked in a reader or a viewer is of pity and fear as they place themselves in the story. When love is tested in bounds and measures the characters fight against all odds to be together, ready to sacrifice their lives to unite in the afterlife.

We can die by it, if not live by love.”-The Canonization, John Donne.

Love is portrayed as painful and unattainable. This aspect of unrequited love is the ultimate love potion gulped down by the reader and is referred to as ‘unconditional’. The epitome of this trope can be rightfully given to Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, as the lovers unite in death. Likewise, star-crossed lovers in India are Heer and Ranjha, or Shahjahan and Mumtaz, where Mumtaz died of childbirth, and Shahjahan built The Taj Mahal in her memory. 

Modern-day love stories like A Walk To Remember by Nicholas Sparks and The Fault in Our Stars By John Green are aligned in similar paths and can be called tear-jerkers. The inexplicable pining for a lost lover or a meaningful separation strikes a chord in the hearts of the audience. Readers and spectators take home a longing, a yearning for a beautiful union of the lover even though the sad ending is why they remember every remnant of that story. Indeed, everything tragic always leaves a mark, as the word ‘tragedy’ itself is directly associated with loss. 

Even though tragedy wears the crown for the universal attraction, this ‘appeal’ is limited to books and movies. In real life, all of us want a happy ending and a love without complications. In conclusion, tragedy is a tool to spice up the daily monotone, an unreasonable parameter for love to be tested, over and over again.

By Adrija Saha

Categories
Greek Literature Literature

Greek Mythology – Fuel to Ignite Imaginations

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Greek mythology was originally told by Ancient Greeks as a part of Greek folklore. It began in the Bronze Age. Around 700 BC, the poet Hesiod’s Theogony offered the first written origin story of Greek mythology. These stories generally revolve around the origin and the nature of the world, the lives of the deities, heroes, mythological creatures, and the significance of the ancient Greek’s cultures, rituals, and religion. These mythical stories were initially propagated in an oral-poetic tradition.

Greek Mythology was mainly used to explain the environment in which mankind lived and the natural phenomena that they witnessed. It also advised on the best ways to lead a happy life. And finally, myths were used to re-tell historical events so that people could go back to their ancestors, the wars they fought, and the places they explored.

The main themes dominating the Greek mythology are the Wars – an inevitable part of existence; love – as examples of loyalty, trust, and eternal love; heroes – depicting marvelous achievements of virtue, strength, and honor; underworld – an expression of cultures of death; and the Mortality and Fate – representing visions of right and wrong behavior along with the repercussions.

Hesiod’s Theogony tells the story of the universe’s journey from nothingness, to a detailed and elaborate family tree of elements, Gods and Goddesses, who evolved and descended from Gaia (Earth), Ouranos (Sky), Pontos (Sea), and Tartaros (the Underworld). Later Greek writers have used this information and elaborated upon these sources in their works.

At the heart of Greek mythology is the pantheon of deities who were said to live on Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. From there, they ruled every aspect of human life. The Gods and Goddesses looked like normal men and women but could morph themselves into animals and other things, meaning they could perform metamorphosis. The 12 main Olympians are:

  • Zeus (the king of all gods, the god of weather);
  • Hera (queen of all gods and goddess of marriage);
  • Aphrodite (goddess of beauty and love); 
  • Apollo (god of prophecy, and knowledge); 
  • Ares (god of war); 
  • Artemis (goddess of hunting); 
  • Athena (Goddess of wisdom); 
  • Demeter (goddess of agriculture); 
  • Dionysus (god of pleasure, and festivity); 
  • Hephaestus (god of fire); 
  • Hermes (god of hospitality. Zeus’s manager); and
  • Poseidon (god of the sea).

Now let’s have a quick run-through of some of the most well-known Greek Mythological stories and the suggested books. 

  1. Story of Hercules – an adventurer who performed 12 impossible labors for King Eurystheus; 
  2. Pandora – the first woman whose curiosity brought a curse and evil upon mankind; 
  3. Pygmalion – a king who fell in love with an ivory statue; 
  4. Arachne – weaver who was turned into a spider for her arrogance; 
  5. Trojan Prince Ganymede who became the cup-bearer for the gods; 
  6. Narcissus – a young man who fell in love with his reflection; 
  7. Midas – the king with a boon of turning everything he touches to gold;
  8. The tale of the winged horse Pegasus;
  9. The cursed Prometheus whose liver is eaten every day for stealing fire from the Gods;
  10. The kidnap of Persephone by Hades;
  11. The Fall of Icarus, the man with wings of wax;
  12. The story of Achilles of Homer’s Iliad.
  13. Horse-man Centaur, the Lion-woman Sphinx, the Bird-woman Harpies, the One-eyed giant Cyclops, and many more.

There are many other interesting stories in Greek mythology that bring the imagination of a child to play. Mentioning them all would be one hard nut to crack. I hope this information has motivated you to delve deeper into Greek mythology. Go ahead and read the above-mentioned stories and let us know which mythological story is your favorite.

Categories
Greek Literature Literature

Delving into Greek Literature

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Greek literature extends from the 1st Millennium BC to the present day. After the conquest of Alexander the Great, Greek became the common language of the eastern Mediterranean lands and then of the Byzantine Empire. At present, it is chiefly confined to Greece and Cyprus. Greek Literature can be divided into three time periods – Ancient Greek Literature (800BC-350AD), Byzantine Literature (290AD-1453AD), and Modern Greek Literature (1453AD-Present).

Ancient Greek Literature – Ancient Greek Literature alludes to the literature written in ancient Greek dialect. The Greek language arose from the proto-Indo-European language; roughly only 2/3rd of its words are derived from various phonetic reconstructions. By the 5th century BC, Athens fully adopted the Phoenician derived alphabets that primarily arose from the Greek-Ionia or present-day Turkey.

  1. Pre-classical Period (800BC – 500BC) – The earliest of Greek Literature was completely oral while the ancient Greek Literature was oral to some degree. The poems that were composed in the pre-classical period were meant to be sung or recited. Writing them down for literary purposes began a little before the 7th century BC. Most of the poems focused on myths and legends that were partly folktale and partly religion. The significant figures of this period are Homer and Hesiod.
  2. Classical Period (500BC – 323BC) – Western literature became more prominent through its genres – lyrical poetry, Pastorals, Odes, Elegies, Epigrams, along with dramatic presentations of Comedy and Tragedy. Even Philosophical dialects, histories, and rhetorical treatises arose in this period. The two celebrated lyrical poets of this period are Sappho and Pindar. Throughout this period there were hundreds of tragedies that were written as well as performed, but only a limited number of plays survived. Especially the ones authored by SophoclesAeschylus, and Euripides. The writing of comedy also commenced in this period, as a ritual, in honor of Dionysus (the God of theater in ancient Greek religion). The earliest written plays were full of obscenity, abuse, and insult. Hence, the only surviving plays are of Aristophanes which are a treasure trove of comic presentation. The greatest achievement of the 4th century BC was in the field of philosophy. Greek philosophy flourished during the classical period. And the most prominent contributors to this field are SocratesPlato, and Aristotle.
  3. Hellenistic Period (323BC – 31BC) – By 338 BC, the important Greek cities were captured by Philip II of Macedon. Philip II’s son Alexander expanded his father’s territory of conquest greatly. This period is defined as the timeline between the death of Alexander the Great and the rise of the Roman Domination. And after the 3rd century BC, the Greek colony of Alexandria in northern Egypt became the center of Greek culture. The most valuable contribution done in the Hellenistic period was the translation of the Old Testament into Greek, by Septuagint. On the other hand, Greek poetry flourished with works of Theocritus (creator of pastoral poetry), Callimachus, and Apollonius of Rhodes. And Menander came up with his New Comedy, which changed the course of drama representation.
  4. Roman Age (31BC – 284AD) – A large section of Greek literature from this period was histories. The Roman Period contributed largely to the subjects of poetry, comedy, history, and tragedy. The important historians of this period were Timaeus, Diodorus, Siculus, Plutarch, Appian of Alexandria, and Arrian. Significant contributions were also made in the field of astronomy and geography by Eratosthenes. The physician Galen pioneered developments in scientific disciplines including anatomy, neurology, pharmacology, pathology, and physiology. Other than this the New Testament, the Gospels, and the Epistles of Saint Paul are also a product of this period. This period marks the end of Ancient Greek Literature. 

Byzantine Literature – Written in Atticizing, Medieval, and Early Modern Greek. It is a combination of the Greek and the Christian civilizations based on the foundation of the Roman political system. It comprises of four main cultural elements: Greek, Christian, Roman, and Oriental. The literature of this period was mainly written in the Atticizing style (a particular region of Athens in Greece). Some were written in Latin and the ones from Latin Empire were written in French. Apart from all these Chronicles, Encyclopedias flourished in this period. 

Modern Greek Literature – The literature of this period is written in standard Modern Greek language. It witnessed the revival of Greek and Roman studies; and the development of Renaissance humanism and science. The Cretan Renaissance poem Erotokritos is a prominent work of this period. It is a romantic verse written by Vitsentzos Kornaros around the 1600s. Modern Greek Literature was mainly influenced by Diafotismos, a movement that translated and borrowed the ideas of the European Enlightenment into the Greek world. Adamantios Korais and Rigas Feraios are two important figures of this movement. At present, Modern Greek Literature is a part of the Global Literary Community. And Greek authors like George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.