A Christmas Carol

By Charles Dickens

You know what? I’d never actually read this one before. Like everybody who’s ever been obliged to watch the telly on Christmas eve or Christmas day, I’ve seen the various televised plays, the movies and the Disney cartoon. But reading, that’s another matter. Funny really, how Disney persists in stealing really good stories, thereby pushing the original over the brink into oblivion. If someone did to Disney, what Disney did to Dickens, he’d be sued to an inch of his life.

  • Author: Charles Dickens
  • In: Christmas Books
  • Publisher: Collins Clear-Type Press
  • Published: Ca. 1900
  • Place: London & Glasgow
  • Pages: 486

I’m not sure when my copy of Christmas Books was published; it doesn’t contain an introduction, neither by Dickens himself, nor by a later editor. I guess about 1900, though, give or take twenty or thirty years either way. I’m reader who has a lot of books, not a bibliophile, I’m afraid.

Anyway, pleasant as it is to hold a book that’s bound so well that it’s still readable in bed after about a century, it’s not what I wanted to talk about.

I took this book from the shelves to see whether I could ad-lib a translation into Dutch to read out to my children. That doesn’t work, I’m afraid I have to admit. Dickens’ English is quite well-crafted, and it’s almost impossible to find the equivalent mot juste on the spur. Another thing is that it’s quite long; 96 pages in my edition.

But when I read out the first few pages to Irina, in English, I immediately knew that this is a book that works when read aloud. And that it isn’t at all a sweet little children’s tale. Good, ripe stuff.

It’s only when I read on, and arrived at the first ghost that I suddenly realized that there is very little actual conflict inside Scrooge’s mind. As soon as he’s seen a bit of his past, he’s already full of remorse. The present and the future seem quite superfluous — and I am hard put to believe that Scrooge didn’t know it was him, who was dead.

But this is mere quibbling, and we’re not supposed to quibble with old classics like these. Except that when my grandmother was very old, so old that most of the family never disagreed with her, she was relieved when Irina and I were prepared to actually discuss things with her, to treat her opinion as if it were valuable. So I’m going to treat this book as if its contents aren’t just quaint and archaic, but interesting and relevant. After all, it’s a book that through its watery adaptions has formed the conciousness of a lot of people in the western world.

“If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

A sentiment that still resounds strongly in our world, I’m afraid.

God bless us every one!

Rather less, especially if you put some more emphasis on the every.

On a final note — I was struck by the exclamations (‘hollo’) and so on — and immediately had to think of Tom Bombadil…