Tuesday, March 13, 2012

[Review] A Christmas Carol

I think you would agree with me, that Christmas is the most festive days in a year—whether you celebrate it or not. Christmas is identical with sparkling of lights, thus representing a season full of laughter and joy. It’s hard to not being happy during Christmas, why, with all the cakes, ornaments, gifts…and holiday of course! But, it does not work out the same for a sour and stingy man named Scrooge. Well, sometimes name does speak of everything about a man, right?

Scrooge dedicates his life solely for his business. He doesn’t care about Christmas; he even hates Christmas because it is a time when he cannot make much money. So, on that day before Christmas he rejected his nephew’s invitation for a family Christmas dinner, then rejected a man who asked for donation and sent him away. He also scowled at his clerk who asked for a half day off, and instead asked him to come earlier on Christmas day! What a miserly man...scrooge!

But on that eve of Christmas, Scrooge got a surprise. His late business partner who has passed away seven years ago—Marley, ‘came’ visiting Scrooge at his apartment. When approaching his room, Scrooge saw a shadowy image of Marley’s face on his door knocker… It’s a phantom! Marley’s ghost! At first Scrooge got scared, and all he would have said is: “Humbug!”, meaning ‘nonsense’, which seems being one of Scrooge’s favorite word! However, it did not take too long before the phantom made Scrooge believe in it. But why did Marley haunt his ex-partner?

the illustration of Marley's ghost and Scrooge

Apparently, Marley wanted to tell his friend that he regretted what he had not done during his short life, years ago. Marley did not realize then, that the most important thing in life was not business and wealth, and that he had misused his opportunity of life given to him. Now it is too late for him to reconcile them, not when he is only a ghost. So, Marley came to tell Scrooge that, in order to give him a second chance of life, Three Spirits would haunt him starting from the next night when the bell tolled One. It will be followed by the second and third visits the following consecutive nights at the same hour. And then...Marley's ghost faded...

In no time Scrooge fell a sleep, only to woke up abruptly when the bell tolled. Oops, it’s one o’clock already! And there it came, the first ghost who called itself The Ghost of Christmas Past. As promised by Marley, this ghost was followed by two more, The Ghost of Christmas Present and…. (can you guess from the pattern?)...The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come! Each of them took Scrooge to different time sets of his life.

First, The Ghost of Christmas Past took Scrooge to his past life, three past Christmases. From these scenes, you will have clues to what might have changed Scrooge from once a lovable boy to the bitter man he is now. I think sometimes we ought also to review our own life like Scrooge did. That way we can see how far we have transformed from the kind and lovable child we used to be, to what we are at present. Then we will know what was going wrong with our life, so that we will be able to resolve it.

The second turn, The Ghost of Christmas Present took Scrooge to the lives of people surround him. First they visited Bob Cratchit's (the clerk) poor house. On that Christmas, Bob's son--Tiny Tim, was cripple and ill, and he might not be able to see the next Christmas, because his father cannot afford to buy the required medicament from his little salary. Nevertheless, they all live happily, love each other, and especially that night, they had a merry Christmas with what they can afford. The ghost also took Scrooge to his nephew Fred's Christmas party. The party Scrooge had rejected the invitation earlier that day. The party which turned out to be very entertaining, that Scrooge himself enjoyed the games and the singing. Of course, out of the sights of the others!

The most terrifying part of this book is, perhaps, the visit of The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Taking the form of a black hooded spirit, The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come showed Scrooge things that were going to happen in the future. Things that scared Scrooge enough to promise that he will change his life. What scenes had Scrooge seen this time? And did those Three Spirits succeeded in convincing Scrooge to resolve his life? And how will he do that? Will he still get a chance to have a very merry Christmas?

This story is really simple. Dickens wants to remind us about love, passion, warmth, and kindness that are the true value of Christmas. But above that, Dickens also wants to show us that Christmas is not just about prosperity (expensive gifts, luxury hotels, fine foods), but more on the charity, acceptance and forgiveness. On the other hand, a party will bring joy only when you enjoy it among your loved ones. The atmosphere of British traditional Christmas in 19h century has been beautifully described with all the details in this book. This book is also included in the 50 Books That Changed The World (by Andrew Taylor), for creating the basic of Christmas tradition that is continuing until now.

So in conclusion, there's nothing wrong with being a serious and responsible adult. But, don't be too carried away--like Scrooge, that you forget the love and tenderness in you. It’s OK to be childish sometimes! Especially on a special day like Christmas....

Four stars for Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.


This time I read an e-book version (no translation is available yet). I like it, but unfortunately it doesn't come with an attractive cover (the one I put here is the color version). I searched through Goodreads and found two lovely covers that I think would be most suitable for this book. Here they are..

Hopefully one of our publishers will publish the translated version of this book in one of these covers!

Finally, have a merry Christmas for you who celebrate it, and a happy new and prosperous year of 2012!

Title: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Publisher: Sony Connect Inc.
e-book source: The Pennsylvania State University, 1998
Published: 2007
e-pages: 100

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dickens' Love Life

Love Life here is reviewing Charles Dickens’ love story with women other than his wife (Catherine), while the Marriage will tell you all about his marriage with Catherine.

Maria Beadnell

Dickens's first love occurred when he was 17 years old with a girl named Maria Beadnell. Maria is the daughter of a wealthy banker. She was two years older than Dickens. Their romance was not sanctioned by her parents because at the time Dickens was "nobody", and did not have any connections with wealthy families. Dickens secretly showered her with flowery love letters, though she never quite returned Dickens’ feeling.

Maria Beadnell

In 1832 her parents sent her to Paris, and after returning a few months later, Dickens broke their relationship after realizing that the effort to make her love him was fruitless. The unrequited love is apparently incised a very deep wound in Dickens’ heart, that when he wrote David Copperfield, Dickens put Maria into the character of Dora.

In 1855 when Dickens and his wife Catherine realized that their marriage was cooling down, suddenly came a letter from Maria who had now become Mrs. Winter. Dickens then told her to read a specific section in David Copperfield. Young David is said to be in love with the character of Dora which had been widely criticized as "unrealistic", but is ridiculed by Dickens because he obviously knew the truth ...

After exchanging several letters, the two decided to meet. But Maria has been now totally changed; she was no longer the beautiful slim Maria who had made Dickens crazy in love. Dickens’ impression towards Mary was revealed in a quote in Little Dorrit. Maria used to be "better" in everything than Dickens. She was richer, higher in social class, and her life was more sparkling. Then in 1855, the situation was reversed. The young man who had been insulted and rejected by her father, and who had been seduced and then rejected by Maria has become much richer and more famous than the father and Maria’s husband. And now it’s Dickens’ turn to reject Maria, and Maria was the one who suffered the harassment.

Mary Hogarth

Mary is the younger sister of Catherine--Dickens’ wife. Mary was 4 years younger than Catherine, and 7 years younger of Dickens. Immediately after Dickens and Catherine had married in 1836, Mary who was 17 years old came to live with the young couple. One Saturday night on May 6, 1837 Dickens, Catherine and Mary has just returned from the theater to watch opera written by Dickens. Then, not long after Mary came into her room, they heard a strange sound. Dickens and Catherine rushed in and found Mary was seriously ill. Doctor was called immediately, but the next afternoon Mary died of a heart attack in Dickens’ arms.

Mary Hogarth

Surprisingly, for many years later Dickens kept insisting to be buried in the same grave with Mary when he died. Besides, Dickens always wore Mary’s ring on his little finger all his life. Those were two strange things which were assumed as a sign of "love affair" between Dickens and Mary. Mary's death greatly affected Dickens, he grieved deeply for her. Later in his novels, Dickens wrote quite often of young women of around 17-year of ages. It is most likely that this is a manifestation of Dickens’ memories towards Mary.

One of those 17-year-old characters was Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop. When it comes to Dickens to "kill" Little Nell, the wound at his heart from the death of Mary Hogarth bleed again. Dickens wrote to his illustrator: "I am breaking my heart over this story." and "I am.....nearly dead with work - and grief for the lost of my child."

Georgina Hogarth

Several years after Mary’s death, Georgina Hogarth—Catherine’s sister who was 12 years younger—filled Mary’s place at the Dickens’ residence. Georgina closely befriended Dickens, and many believed that they were lovers. The issue of "love affair" continued to resonate until today. It was clearly that Georgina loved Dickens. Dickens himself admired Georgina’s ability to manage household affairs and took care of Dickens’ children, not like Catherine who was kept busying herself with pregnancy, childbirth and post-birth trauma. This fact only worsened the Hogarth sisters’ relationship.

Georgina Hogarth

Later, when Dickens had separated from Catherine, Georgina stayed with Dickens and helped him raising the children. When the Hogarth family accused Georgina as Dickens’ mistress, Dickens was so angry that he arranged for Georgina to undergo a virginity test, in which she was eventually declared a virgin. This had been a humiliating experience for Georgina that she could never forgive her family. Georgina may have lost their parents and siblings, but she got the love and respect from Dickens and his children. In Dickens eyes, Georgina was "the best and truest friend [a] man ever had".

Dickens' Family

Dickens was the second of eight children.

Augustus Dickens

"Moses" (Augustus’ nickname) was 15 years younger than Dickens, and he grew up idolizing his eldest brother. During his adolescence and youth, Moses became errand boy for his father for things that are not really concerned with the business. Dickens was very concerned about Moses’ future, that he found a place to live and a good job for Moses so that he could finish school. But unfortunately, Moses decided to resign from the job and began to help his father (again).

Augustus Dickens' cemetery

Dickens' Writing Career

Of course Dickens did not enjoy his job as a clerk. In 1829 he studied shorthand and worked as a freelance court reporter. His experience in covering court cases for the paper gave him inspiration for one of his books: The Bleak House. Additionally Dickens became sensitive to social issues and injustices.

In about 1832 Dickens began to write his first work of fiction, a series of short stories titled: A Dinner At Poplar Walk. It began when Dickens hesitantly dropped his writing to the office mailbox of Monthly Magazine. Without his knowledge, the editor liked the story, and when opening the next issue of the magazine, Dickens was very excited to find his writings there in print ...

The editors commissioned Dickens to write eight stories of "sketches of everyday life". Critics judged Dickens as "He has infinite skill in giving importance to the commonplace scenes of everyday occurrence”; a skill that has appeared at the time, and which later catapulted the name of Dickens. Dickens then met the subeditor of Morning Chronicles, and in 1834 he moved to work at it as a young journalist. This was where Dickens was assigned to concentrate on writing sketches of daily lives of Londoners, which Dickens wrote under the pseudonym "Boz". Having appeared in various magazines, a publisher named John Macrone proposed the idea to record these works, then became "Sketches by Boz" as Charles Dickens's first novel published.

Sketches by Boz when first published

Dickens's Child Labouring

In 1824 John Dickens’(Charles Dickens's father) financial condition was very severe, so like it or not Dickens was forced to start working shortly after the age of 12 years. One of his cousins who works at the Warren Blacking Factory helped Dickens to be accepted there. Shortly after Dickens began to work his father and all the family (except Fanny) had to enter the Marshalsea debtor's prison Prison in Southwark because John Dickens could not pay his debts. The system at that time required that people detained in the debtor's Prison must pay the imprisonment cost, in exchange for safety the prison could offer from the pursuit of angry creditors. That means that it was Charles Dickens who must pay for this family.

Dickens had to work 10 hours a day, six days a week, wrapping the blacking bottles and put labels on it. While working, two friends who sat next to Dickens were Poll Green and Bob Fagin. Since Dickens’ family residence was far from the prison, Dickens parents arranged for him to move to a new residence in Lant Street, Southwark. Lant Street was later used as the residence Bob Sawyer, the character from The Pickwick Papers.

illustration of Charles Dickens slept from exhaustion on his working table near the window

Later as an adult, his experience working in the blacking factory will continue to haunt Dickens. No wonder the child labouring theme appears in many of his novels, especially David Copperfield. Even the "blacking bottles" will often appear in various parts of the book, though not too obvious.

Although in May 1824 John was released from prison, and Dickens’s mother knew how much his son must have suffered, yet Mrs. Dickens told him to keep working hard on the table near the window in the blacking factory, in order to generate income for the family.

Dickens suffered from his job, and later he expressed his disappointment at his mother in his unfinished autobiography.

"I do not write resentfully or angrily: for I know all these things have worked together to make me what I am: but I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget, I never can forget, that my mother was warm for my being sent back."

Dickens had confessed to his friend, John Forster, about his disappointment that he had to work at a young age so that he must leave school. John Forster later published it in "Life of Charles Dickens' around the year of 1872-1874. This is the confession:

"It is wonderful to me how I could have been so easily cast away at such an age. It is wonderful to me, that, even after my descent into the poor little drudge I had been since we came to London, no one had compassion enough on me--a child of singular abilities, quick, eager, delicate, and soon hurt, bodily or mentally--to suggest that something might have been spared, as certainly it might have been, to place me at any common school. Our friends, I take it, were tired out. No one made any sign. My father and mother were quite satisfied. They could hardly have been more so, if I had been twenty years of age, distinguished at a grammar-school, and going to Cambridge."

Fortunately for Dickens, after that he could return to school at Wellington House Academy, although - again - before he graduated, Dickens had to drop out (again) at age 15 because his family - yet again – suffered from another financial crisis. This time he got out of school forever.

In 1827 Charles Dickens began to work as a legal clerk at a law firm.

Dickens' Education

From his childhood Dickens was educated by his mother in reading, writing and Latin. However, at the age of six years - along with Fanny - Dickens went to a sort of private school called the "Dame School". At that time there were many of these small schools run by several women; they did not have a background in education, but can read and write. They drew very little tuition, and taught their students up to age 14 years.

In 1821 when Dickens was 9 years old, he and Fanny went back to school run by a nice man named William Gilles. At that time Dickens began writing his first tragic play titled "Miznar, The Sultan of India". Unfortunately, though Dickens is liked the school very much, he had to drop out because her father began to heavily drown into debt as he could not manage his finances. Dickens was sad and angry when he was forced to leave school and his friends.

Later, after not having to work again, Dickens went to another school at Wellington House Academy, although before he could finish it, his family financial difficulties came back again, that he had to drop out once more.

Wellington House Academy, taken from here.

Dickens' Early Years

In 1809 John Dickens and Elizabeth Barrow arrived in Portsmouth, Hampshire, soon after they married. John Dickens was in the Navy Pay Office staff at that time. They lived at 387 Mile End Terrace. Elizabeth gave birth to their first daughter who was named Frances (Fanny) Elizabeth Barrow in 1810. Two years later a son was born and named Charles John Huffam Dickens, on February 7, 1812. After Charles, there were still six more children, but for Charles, Fanny was always his closest sibling.

The house at  387 Mile End Terrace, Portsmouth, taken from here

After moving to London in 1815, John was transferred by the Navy Pay Office to Kent, in the city’s Chatham Dockyard. Charles Dickens loved the Kent countryside atmosphere, which would later inspire a lot of landscapes in his novels.

Dickens' home in Kent which now become a museum, taken from here

Sunday, March 11, 2012

[The Writing of] Sketches by Boz

Sketches by Boz awalnya adalah serial fiksi-sketsa mengenai kehidupan sehari-hari warga London yang diterbitkan di harian Morning Chronicles. Suatu hari seorang penerbit bernama John Macrone berinisiatif untuk menerbitkannya sebagai novel. Edisi pertama buku ini yang terbit Februari 1836 menggunakan ilustrasi garapan George Cruikshank. Empatbelas bulan kemudian Chapman & Hall membeli copyright Sketches by Boz dari Macrone senilai GBP 2.000,- lalu menerbitkannya sebagai kisah bersambung yang terbit tiap bulan.

cover asli Sketches by Boz yg terbit 1836

Awalnya sulit bagi pembaca modern jaman itu untuk menikmati dan menghargai nilai-nilai penting dalam Sketches by Boz. Saat itu adalah akhir era Georgian, mulai memasuki era Victorian, di mana orang biasa membaca horor gothic, percintaan ala bangsawan dan polemik politik. Kisah keseharian orang-orang kelas menengah London jarang dibicarakan. Alih-alih kisah aristokrasi di mansion-mansion, Sketches by Boz bercerita tentang orang-orang biasa yang melakukan hal-hal biasa, dengan humor-humor mengenai kesalahpahaman kecil dalam hidup sehari-hari--seperti "The Bloomsbury Christening", namun ada juga yang serius seperti "The Drunkard's Death".

Boz adalah nama samaran/nama pena yang dipakai Dickens waktu awal menulis serial ini. Nama itu berasal dari adik laki-laki bungsunya, Augustus Dickens, yang biasa dipanggil Moses oleh keluarganya. Namun mereka melafalkan "Moses" dengan suara sengau sehingga terdengar sebagai "Boses", yang lalu menjadi "Boz" di tangan Dickens.

Meet Mrs & Mr. Tibbs from Sketches by Boz

One of the short stories in Sketches By Boz is "Boarding House" which tells about Mrs. Tibbs, a dominant wife, and Mr. Tibbs, her poor husband ... This is one funny quote that describes them both:

George Cruikshank's illustration

"Mrs. Tibbs was, beyond all dispute, the most tidy, fidgety, thrifty little personage that ever inhaled the smoke of London; and the house of Mrs. Tibbs was, decidedly the neatest in all Great Coram-street... Mr. Tibbs was by no means a large man. He had, moreover, very short legs, but, by way of indemnification, his face was peculiarly long. He was to his wife what the 0 is in 90 - he was of some importance WITH her--he was nothing without her."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Switching Character of Flora in Little Dorrit

An excerpt from Little Dorrit about how Flora’s character changed. This refers to Dickens’ own feelings toward the woman who became his first love in real life: Maria Beadnell (Dickens embodied the young  Maria Beadnell in Dora). What was once Dickens adored so much in Mary, later changed when they met again as adults.

"Flora, always tall, had grown to be very broad too and short of breath; but that was not much. Flora, whom he had left a lily, had become a peony; ut that was not much. Flora, who had seemed enchanting in all she said and thought, was diffuse and silly. That was much. Flora, who had been spoiled and artless long ago, was determined to be spoiled and artless now. That was a fatal blow."

For Dickens, "Maria's flirtatious manner in young age became silly and irritating in middle aged..."

Mr. Micawber's Advice in David Copperfield

An excerpt from David Copperfield about the unfortunate Mr. Micawber, who was entangled in debt. Mr. Micawber’s character was inspired by Charles Dickens’ father who was also heavily in debt and was jailed for it.

Mr. Micawber

"My other piece of advice, Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber, "you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and--and in short you are for ever floored. As I am!"

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ditemukan: Film Tertua Adaptasi Buku Dickens

Seorang periset film sedang mencari-cari di antara arsip film-film lama di British Film Institute, ketika matanya tertumbuk pada sebuah judul: "The Death of Poor Joe" yang dibuat tahun 1901. Benaknya langsung menghubungkan judul itu dengan salah satu karakter di buku Charles Dickens yang berjudul Bleak House. Mungkinkah?...

ilustrasi Jo si tukang sapu

Ternyata instingnya tidak salah. Film berdurasi satu menit itu ternyata memang film tertua yang masih ada yang mengangkat salah satu tokoh ciptaan Dickens di Bleak House, yaitu Jo. Film yang masih dalam keadaan baik itu diproduksi oleh G.A. Smith, seorang pioner perfilman di Inggris. Diperkirakan film itu dibuat pada Maret 1901 dengan mengambil Brighton sebagai settingnya.

salah satu cover buku Bleak House

Inilah sekilas sinopsis film tersebut, seperti dikutip dari Reuters:

It depicts Dickens' Jo, a poor street sweeper in Bleak House, at night against a churchyard wall freezing in the winter snow with his broom.

A watchman comes along and catches Jo just as he falls to the ground dying. The watchman tries to help but it is too late, and Jo puts his hands together in prayer, taking the lamp for heavenly light as he dies.

Selain terinspirasi dari buku Dickens, kemungkinan film itu juga diinspirasi oleh kisah Gadis Korek Api, dongeng karya Hans Christian Andersen. Istri G.A. Smith, Laura Bayley, memerankan tokoh Jo dalam film itu.

Sumber: thejakartaglobe.com

Pengaruh Dickens di Dunia Fashion

Di peringatan 200 tahun Charles Dickens, nampaknya semua orang ingin menghadirkan nuansa "Dickens" ke dalam hal-hal yang bahkan tak ada hubungannya dengan buku. Contohnya: dunia fashion. Di peragaan busana Musim Gugur 2012 di berbagai pusat fashion dunia mencoba mengambil gaya busana jaman Victorian yang dikenakan tokoh-tokoh wanita di novel Dickens, untuk diadaptasikan ke dalam gaun masa kini. Terhitung Marc Jacobs, Vivienne Westwoods dan Giles Deacon melakukan hal tersebut.

Marc Jacobs menampilkan koleksi busana dengan ciri khas era Victoria dengan bahan brokat dan kulit, lalu model cropped pants dan mantel (sentuhan maskulin ala Dickens), juga sepatu berujung kotak dengan gesper logam besar. Peragaan ini bahkan memakai iringan theme song Oliver Twist sebagai musik latarnya.

Giles Deacon memadukan tuxedo bergaya maskulin dengan gaun malam feminin dalam peragaan busananya. Ada nuansa warna palet dan bentuk berstruktur yang--menurutnya--mungkin bakal diambil dan dipakai Miss Havisham (tokoh Great Expectations) bila ia hadir di sini. Barangkali 1 di antara gaun di bawah ini pas dengan selera Miss Havisham?....

Di novel-novelnya Dickens selalu menjabarkan dengan detil pakaian yang dikenakan tokoh-tokohnya. Fashion style ala Dickens menurut thedailybeast.com adalah yang fitted pants, ruffles, dan jahitan rapi ala tailor yang mencerminkan gaya pakaian pria jamannya yang ingin tampil rapi.

Apakah anda terinspirasi juga untuk meniru gaya dandan ala Dickens?

Sumber: thedailybeast.com

Thursday, March 8, 2012

[Review] Kisah Dua Kota (A Tale of Two Cities)

London dan Paris; dua kota yang bergolak menjelang revolusi Prancis. Konon di Prancis, kaum bangsawan memerintah dengan sewenang-wenang dan menyengsarakan rakyat. Kesejahteraan kaum bangsawan diletakkan diatas segalanya, sementara rakyat kecil dianggap tidak lebih daripada anjing. Rakyat harus membayar pajak dengan jumlah yang menggigit, sementara kaum bangsawan terus berfoya-foya dan menggemukkan badan. Kejahatan merajalela, tiada hari tanpa pelaksanaan hukuman mati, tidak peduli kecil atau besar kejahatan yang dilakukan orang yang akan dieksekusi. Begitulah situasinya, sampai di suatu titik, rakyat Prancis bangkit dan melakukan perlawanan. Situasi berputar balik, kali ini kaum bangsawanlah yang ditangkapi, diadili, dan dibunuh.

Di tengah-tengah gejolak yang terjadi, Mr. Jarvis Lorry, seorang bankir di Tellson’s Bank, London, ditemui oleh seorang gadis muda berparas cantik berkebangsaan Prancis bernama Lucie, mengenai keberadaan ayah yang disangkanya telah mati. Dr. Manette, ayah si gadis, ternyata masih hidup di Prancis. Ia dijebloskan ke penjara Bastille tanpa pernah tahu bahwa ia memiliki keturunan. Setelah bertahun-tahun menjalani hukuman di Bastille, yang menguras kewarasan sang dokter, ia tinggal di rumah mantan pelayannya yang bernama Defarge. Mr. Lorry dan Mlle Manette menjemput sang dokter dari tempat itu, pindah ke Inggris, dimana mereka berusaha memulihkan keadaan fisik dan psikis sang dokter.

Lima tahun kemudian, Dr. Manette dan putrinya terlibat dalam persidangan seorang keturunan Prancis yang bernama Charles Darnay, sebagai saksi. Darnay didakwa sebagai mata-mata Prancis yang menjalankan suatu rencana untuk melumpuhkan Inggris. Di persidangan itu mereka bertemu dengan pengacara yang bernama Mr. Stryver, dan rekannya yang eksentrik, Sydney Carton, yang secara mengherankan memiliki kemiripan fisik dengan Charles Darnay. Darnay akhirnya diputuskan tidak bersalah oleh pengadilan. Beberapa tahun kemudian Darnay menikahi Lucie, dan ketiga orang keturunan Prancis itu, Darnay, Lucie, dan sang dokter, hidup di Inggris dengan cukup bahagia.

Namun suatu hal yang belum diketahui Lucie, bahwa nama asli suaminya bukan Charles Darnay. Darnay sebenarnya adalah salah satu keturunan bangsawan Prancis, keponakan dari Marquis Evrémonde. Ketika Gabelle, pengurus kediaman Evrémonde dipenjarakan, ia menulis surat kepada tuannya, Darnay, minta diselamatkan. Maka Darnay, dengan mengabaikan bahaya yang mengancam dirinya sendiri, pergi ke Prancis. Disana ia ditangkap karena jati dirinya yang seorang bangsawan. Darnay sempat dibebaskan, karena Dr. Manette dan Lucie pergi ke Prancis, dan Dr. Manette memanfaatkan pengaruh yang dimilikinya sehingga menantunya itu bisa bebas. Namun malam harinya Darnay ditangkap lagi, dengan tuduhan yang berasal dari Defarge dan istrinya, serta Dr. Manette! Dalam persidangan, Defarge membacakan sebuah surat yang ditulis Dr. Manette, yang mengungkapkan alasan mengapa ia dijebloskan ke Bastille. Suatu peristiwa buruk yang terjadi di masa lalu mengaitkan Dr. Manette dengan keluarga bangsawan Evrémonde, dimana sekarang seorang keturunan Evrémonde menjadi menantunya. Sementara itu, Darnay akan dieksekusi oleh La Guillotine, si wanita tajam, dalam waktu dua puluh empat jam. Dr. Manette, Lucie, Mr. Lorry, dan Sydney Carton berada di tengah-tengah situasi tak menentu itu. Bagaimanakah badai kehidupan ini akan berakhir?

”Saat itu adalah waktu terbaik, sekaligus waktu terburuk.
Masa kebijaksanaan, sekaligus masa kebodohan.
Zaman iman, sekaligus zaman keraguan.
Musim Terang, sekaligus musim Kegelapan.
Musim semi pengharapan, sekaligus musim dingin keputusasaan.
Kita memiliki semuanya di hadapan kita, sekaligus tidak memiliki semuanya.
Kita semua langsung pergi ke Surga, sekaligus langsung pergi ke jalan lainnya.
Pendeknya, zaman itu begitu persis dengan zaman sekarang.”
Kalimat di atas adalah kalimat pembuka yang terkenal dari Kisah Dua Kota. Novel ini terbagi menjadi 3 buku, Buku I: Kembali ke Kehidupan, Buku II: Benang Emas, dan Buku III: Badai Kehidupan. Kisah Dua Kota adalah terjemahan dari karya fenomenal Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. Novel klasik dengan plot yang kompleks ini ditulis Dickens dengan menggunakan kontradiksi, mempertentangkan situasi yang terjadi di dua negara pada masa itu, Inggris yang taat hukum dan Prancis yang feodal. Kontradiksi juga bisa ditemukan dalam karakter-karakter di dalam cerita, misalnya Darnay, si bangsawan yang emigran karena menolak feodalisme, berpenampilan necis dan rapi, merupakan ”lawan” dari karakter Sydney Carton, si pengacara slengean yang tidak memiliki fokus dalam hidupnya untuk mencapai apapun. Karakter Miss Pross, pelayan Lucie yang secara fisik tangguh namun sangat setia, bertolak belakang dengan Madame Defarge yang pendendam dan haus darah.

Dalam banyak bagian juga Dickens menggunakan simbol-simbol yang kadang sulit dipahami, misalnya di awal cerita pada Buku I: Kembali ke Kehidupan, Mr. Lorry akan menjemput ”seseorang yang telah dikubur hidup-hidup selama delapan belas tahun”. Maksudnya adalah Mr. Lorry akan menjemput Dr. Manette, yang telah menjalani sekian tahun hukuman di Bastille sehingga kehilangan akal sehatnya. Ia sama saja seperti orang yang sudah mati. Kemudian Madame Defarge yang merajut tanpa henti. Ia sebenarnya sedang mendaftar nama-nama mereka yang akan dijatuhi hukuman mati. Kegiatan merajut ini juga menyimbolkan ”serigala berbulu domba”, rakyat kecil Prancis yang kelihatan tidak berbahaya, merajut dalam diam, namun di tangan mereka juga aristokrasi akan tumbang.

Terjemahan A Tale of Two Cities yang diterbitkan Elex Media Komputindo dengan judul ”Kisah Dua Kota” ini sama sekali tidak mengecewakan, baik dalam bentuk fisik maupun substansi buku. Terjemahan yang digarap oleh Peusy Sharmaya menurut saya sangat bagus, jenis kertas dan font yang digunakan sangat nyaman untuk dibaca. Meskipun rasanya lebih nyaman membaca "Mr.", "Monsieur", "Mademoiselle" ketimbang "Tuan" dan "Nona". Dan semoga juga jilidan bukunya awet, mengingat bukunya cukup tebal. Saya tidak menyesal membeli buku ini walaupun harganya relatif mahal ;)

Secara keseluruhan, Kisah Dua Kota layak diganjar 5 bintang. Faktor yang terbesar adalah penulisan Dickens yang brilian. Ia mampu membangun cerita dengan plot yang padat dan kompleks, kadang-kadang sengaja menyimpan beberapa elemen untuk akhir cerita, sehingga pembaca tidak akan berhenti penasaran seperti apakah nanti endingnya. Gaya penulisannya puitis namun dengan aura yang suram dan tragis, sangat khas Dickens. Namun, bagi pembaca yang tidak suka narasi yang panjang-panjang, kemungkinan akan sulit menikmati karya Dickens ini. Ada yang menyebutkan A Tale of Two Cities sebagai karya Dickens yang tidak memiliki karakter yang se-memorable Scrooge di A Christmas Carol, Miss Havisham di Great Expectations, atau Fagin di Oliver Twist. Saya secara pribadi tidak setuju, setelah membaca buku ini sampai akhir dan mengalami “gema” di akhir cerita yang disebabkan tokoh yang bernama Sydney Carton. Bagi saya, A Tale of Two Cities akan selalu menjadi salah satu karya sastra yang akan terus saya kenang.

Detail buku:
576 halaman, diterbitkan Oktober 2010 oleh Elex Media Komputindo

Posting asli di Surgabukuku

Sunday, March 4, 2012

David Copperfield: Dickens Childhood Labouring

Dickens tells the bitter moments when he had to work at 12 years old in the novel David Copperfield. This quote describes the experience of David Copperfield—the figure reflects Dickens's own experience while working on blacking House owned by Jonathan Warren Warren:

ilustrasi bangunan Warren Blacking Factory

"I became, at ten years old, a little labouring hind in the service of Murdstone and Grinby. Murdstone and Grinby's warehouse was at the waterside. It was down in Blackfriars. Modern improvements have altered the place; but it was the last house at the bottom of a narrow street, curving down the hill to the river, with some stairs at the end, where people took boat.

It was a crazy old house with a wharf of its own, abutting on the water when the tide was in, and on the mud when the tide was out, and literally overrun with rats. Its panelled rooms, discoloured with the dirt and smoke of a hundred years, I dare say; its decaying floors and staircases; the squeaking and scuffling of the old grey rats down in the cellars; and the dirt and rottennes of the place; are things, not of many years ago, in my mind, but of the present instant. They are all before me, just as they were in the evil hour when I went among them for the first time, with my trembling hand in Mr. Quinions."

[Review] Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist sudah diterjemahkan ke dalam Bahasa Indonesia oleh Penerbit Bentang Pustaka.


Oliver menggigil ketakutan. Keringat dingin terus mengucur di tubuh kurusnya. Rasa lapar yang menggigit kini nyaris tak terasa. Orang berkerumun dengan tatapan penuh benci. Dia tidak mencopet. Tetapi, adakah yang akan memercayai omongan bocah miskin seperti dirinya?

Jika semua bukti bisa menjeratnya, Oliver akan dikirim kerja paksa tanpa dibayar dan makanan layak. Betapa malang nasib bocah yatim piatu itu. Sepertinya tak ada yang menganggapnya pantas berbahagia. Haruskah dia terus-menerus berada di jalanan dan menjadi sampah yang tidak diinginkan siapa pun?

Oliver Twist adalah salah satu karya besar Charles Dickens. Ditulis sebagai bentuk keprihatinan Dickens terhadap nasib anak-anak di Inggris pada masa itu yang terpaksa harus turun ke jalan karena kemiskinan. Kini, sebagian besar anak-anak di berbagai belahan dunia ketiga terancam mengalami hal serupa, tak terkecuali Indonesia.

Tokoh-tokoh dalam novel ini sangat mudah ditemui dalam keseharian kita: pribadi-pribadi yang munafik, rakus, kejam dan gila harta, meskipun ada juga sebagian orang yang masih tetap bersedia mendengarkan nuraninya. Novel ini sungguh layak dibaca karena mengusik hakikat kemanusiaan dalam diri kita.



Label “bocah malang” mungkin paling pas disematkan pada tokoh anak yatim piatu di Inggris yang hidup pada abad 19 rekaan Charles Dickens ini: Oliver Twist. Bagaimana tidak, begitu lahir dari hubungan orang tua yang tidak jelas (baca: di luar nikah), ia langsung menjadi yatim piatu. Ayahnya sudah lama pergi entah kemana, sedang ibunya yang ringkih meninggal tak lama setelah ia lahir. Nasib anak yatim piatu yang tak memiliki akar sejarah yang jelas amatlah menyedihkan pada jaman itu. Mereka berada di bawah pengawasan semacam Dinas Sosial yang dikelola oleh pemerintah, dan ditempatkan di Rumah Sosial yang dikelola warga dan ditunjang oleh pemerintah. Jangan berpikir bahwa mereka bisa hidup enak di sana. Kebanyakan rumah sosial itu justru tidak sosial sama sekali, mereka malah mengambil keuntungan dengan menyunat anggaran untuk makanan dan kebutuhan anak-anak itu dari anggaran sebenarnya yang sudah sangat kecil dari pemerintah. Alhasil, anak-anak itu menderita kurang gizi parah, belum lagi perlakuan tidak manusiawi seperti tempat tidur kumuh dan sempit, bekerja berat dan siksaan fisik menjadikan hidup anak-anak yatim itu semakin suram. Read more

Quotes from A Tale of Two Cities

Quotes yang diambil dari buku A Tale of Two Cities. Akan terus di-update seiring berjalannya waktu.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
We had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
We were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . ."
(merupakan opening quotes yang sangat terkenal dari A Tale of Two Cities)

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

(ending yang cantik, diambil dari perkataan Sidney Carton)

I Am A Dickensian!

Selamat datang di blog terbaruku yang kudedikasikan untuk penulis klasik dunia Charles Dickens. Blog ini kubuat pada saat perayaan 200 tahun Dickens tahun 2012. Setelah membaca 3 karya Dickens, dan menemukan banyak hal menarik di seputar kehidupan Dickens, dan melihat bagaimana Dickens telah membawa pengaruh besar bagi dunia, maka perlahan tapi pasti aku pun sepertinya mulai terkena virus cinta pada segala sesuatu yang berbau Dickens. Yap, aku pun sekarang berani mengakui bahwa I am a Dickensian (istilah penggemar berat Dickens).

Di blog ini kalian akan menemukan banyak pernak-pernik di seputar Charles Dickens--karyanya, hidup pribadinya, keluarganya, perkawinannya, dan pengaruhnya bagi dunia.