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The Jane Austen Telefilm Club

Luistxo Fernandez 2013/05/23 19:58
The Jane Austen Telefilm Club

TV adaptations of Jane Austen novels

Having never read Tolstoi or Dostoyevsky, I decided that at least, I had to knew more about their works, so I wrote a movie watchlist and proceeded. I wrote about in Basque, deciding, at the end, that I prefer Lev to Fiodor.

So, the next step: become an expert in Jane Austen. Without reading her books, that is. It's a sin, I know, particularly unexcusable considering that the translator of Pride and Prejudice into Basque is a friend of mine, Ana I. Morales. I wonder what she would say about this pretence of mine about getting literary-savvy just watching telefilms.

Anyway, I did it, and this is my account. (Disclaimer: I'm adding Amazon links to films and novels, BTW, I'm experimenting with the affiliate program of Amazon, and if any purchase is made, I guess I get a couple of cents: this is not a commercial endeavour, I just want to get insights of the system)

The first two novels of Austen, Sense and Sensibility (1995) and Pride and Prejudice (2005), I assume that these are the best known of them all. They also have the most famous film adaptations of lately.

 

Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 movie adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility

 

I found them two very similar but, perhaps, there were less interesting male characters in Sense than in Pride. Maybe Jane Austen learnt in the meantime something more about them? or at least perfectioned her management of male characters? Example of that is Mr. Darcy, probably the most interesting gentleman of all described by Austen. But also the clergyman of Pride, described in his littlenes in such a malicious way.

After those two, I proceeded to download some TV adaptations that I found in BitTorrent.

Mansfield Park (2007, ITV production) was the least interesting of them, in my personal view. One detail of it (also noticeable in some of the other works), how Jane Austen stresses the perfidy of the non-monogamous. In that regard, Austen is as much a conformist and a moralist as the establisment of her time.

In Emma (2009, BBC), the female central character (as always, we suspect some part of Jane is auto-fictionally present in it) shows some flaws that we don't see in other novels: some unwise and somehow mean moves when trying to advice her "lower class" friend Harriet towards a "proper" marriage. Anyway, there's a happy ending at the end, and the classes marry among themselves, lower and upper, each one in their hierarchical position.

Posthumously published Northanger Abbey (2007, ITV) is, apparently, the 1st work Jane Austen wrote, although she didn't see it printed while she was alive. It's meta-literary tone is its most interesting asset, but the abrupt ending is a little bit dissapointing. That happens in most all Austen's stories as well: whatever long it takes to reach a certain point, then it all resolves in a sudden scene, a marriage proposal, and some explanations so all thrills and enigmas are shortly explained in retrospect, and that's it.

Then we have Persuasion (2007, BBC), which looks a little bit as if Jane was pitying herself as her age advances and she doesn't marry. Well, the character in the novel does marry with the right and righteous man, a naval officer, but we know Jane didn't marry.

After watching all these dramas, I did finish my journey with another movie: a modern melodramatic film, The Jane Austen Book Club (2007). It's just a light flick, and the references to Jane Austen don't match that well in the movie, although we get some good lines: "Austen's novels always end when they marry, we know nothing of the aftermath". Yep, that's true.

Anyway, one thing that is shared between this 21st century film and Austen's novels: monogamous marriage is the right thing to aspire for. Frankly, I'm not totally for that, myself being a divorced man of 46 years of age, although I do understand one of the key elements of the Austen novels: the anxiety of the young when trying to find a longtime partner, the aspiration to build your own family, the doubts around one's sentiments, the need for securuty, the limited "set of matches" that one might get during a certain period of years before one loses the chances... I did share some of those anxieties myself and, all in all, I do sympathize in a certain way with the struggles of Jane's fictional women.

Big men of American History

Luistxo Fernandez 2013/05/01 20:55
A couple of books about American history that I have recently read.

The Generals, by Thomas E. Ricks: American Military Command From World War II to Today. A very interesting read. I feel myself very very far from military ideals, and therefore I cannot sympathise with the subjects of the book, be they depicted in a negative or a positive light. Yet, it is an instructive history book, from a particular point of view, that lets us understand better things about the recent world history.

 

This is a very pro-American and pro-military book, of course, but it doesn't lack criticism about Vietnam or Iraq. I found it quite balanced. In one point, I found it partial, though: in the Vietnam chapters some pages are devoted to the Hue massacre by communist vietnamese forces. Well, that hapenned far from the US general's command, so I don't understand quite the point, particularly if, in the case of the Korea war, nothing is commented about the Bodo league massacres, crimes commited by the allies of the US military, under their noses so to speak. But well, it's worth reading.

The book ends before the latest events relating the highest US military posts: General David Petraeus's marital scandal. So, the author's opinion about that affair in his blog can be like an epilogue to the book.

The other book: Thomas Jefferson - The Art of Power. A biography by Jon Meacham about one of the founding fathers of the United States.

 

I haven't found this book (and the subject) as interesting as a Benjamin Franklin biography that I also read recently. Jefferson doesn't seem to me such a great man as Franklin. And the way he made a teenage slave a concubine, well, looks much like institutiozanalized rape. Franklin was also a slave owner, but there was nothing in his life like that.

***

Well, from now on, I will write more about books and cultural items that I have read/watched in English. I maintained for some months a Tumblr to cover that, but I decided to end it after 15 months of reviews. Now it is the turn of The English Cemetery again.

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LUISTXO FERNANDEZ

Luistxo works in CodeSyntax, tweets as @Luistxo and tries to manage the automated newssite Niagarank. This Cemetery is part of a distributed multilingual blog (?!). These are the Basque and Spanish versions:

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My cultural consumption in English: 2012/13 | Television | Movies | Books

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