Dickens in the maximum city

Attend a talk on Charles Dickens' fascination for his city, enrol in a writing competition that salutes the master's style or watch films based on his written works. The British Council has a treat for Dickens' fans to celebrate the bicentenary of one of modern literature's all time-greats

Most of us have grown up reading literary works of Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations and a lot more. Considered one of the greatest authors of all time, his literary style has influenced many authors over time.

Charles Dickens

Today, as we get ready to celebrate his bicentenary, The British Council has whipped up several activities as part of Dickens 2012 to recreate his magic and take valuable lessons from it.

After engaging with students in Kolkata and Chennai, British author and columnist Craig Taylor is in Mumbai to speak about Dickens at a talk titled A Tale Of Two Cities, to be held today.

He will be part of a discussion with Dr Mitra Parikh, Head, Department of English, SNDT University, as they explore a writer's relationship with his city. One factor that was integral to most of Dickens' novels was London as he sketched out its beautiful rivers, inns and outskirts.

"He wrote about its rivers and streets. It's a lesson for us," says Craig who participated in a discussion with teachers of Mumbai University yesterday on the craft of teaching Dickens to students. Speaking about the session he says, "It was great.

They were very well behaved and attentive," as he breaks out into a laugh. "On a serious note, I think young writers here do not need to travel very far. There is so much here in India that they can experience and write about," he adds.

Craig has just released his latest novel titled Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now - As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It and Long for It, where he has captured the voices of over 85 Londoners talking about their dreams, hopes and aspirations.

"I learnt this from Dickens... to put yourself out there and speak to people," he says adding, "the one thing that is different in my writing is that it is the people's voices. It is they who are talking, and not me as the author telling their stories."

What we can also learn from Dickens is that he gave voice to the voiceless, he feels. "He listened to the poor and often the side-lined and in India, there are so many people who need to be heard," he adds.

Apart from his talk, there will be screenings of four films; Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and Great Expectation, over the week at the ongoing Kala Ghoda Festival. Young writers between 16 and 21 years can also participate in a creative writing competition titled After Dickens.

After interacting with young writers Craig feels there is immense potential here. "Students realise that they are living in an extraordinary time. They told me that they would like to write about this time in a compelling way, which is fantastic. I hope to read some of their works in a few years."

ON Today, 8 pm at David Sassoon Library Gardens, Kala Ghoda. Film screenings will be held at the Museum Viewing Centre, Kala Ghoda from February 7 to February 10, 11 am.
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