Joyless education

“I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me… I am verily persuaded that I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that, in which the reader is likely to see me.”

– From ‘The life and opinions of Tristram Shandy’ by Laurence Sterne

Tristram shandy was published in 1759 and the quote above is from the beginning of the book. Somewhere in the initial chapters, Tristram Shandy speaking as the narrator talks about the rules of writing set by a famous Roman poet and makes it clear that this book is not going to follow any rules. He makes good on his promise and the book has:
– Chapters that go missing and reappear somewhere later
– A blank page where the narrator asks us the readers to draw the woman of our dreams
– A black page to mourn the passing of a friend
– A marbled page from which the readers are supposed to derive some complicated meaning
– Many squiggles and ‘*’ that represent parts of the story
– Fake and real Latin pages and their fake and real translations

The blurb on the back cover says:
“No one description will fit this strange, eccentric, endlessly complex masterpiece. It is a novel about writing a novel in which the invented world is as much infused with wit and genius as the theme of inventing it. It is a joyful celebration of the infinite possibilities of the art of fiction, and a wry demonstration of its limitations.”

It is the funniest book that I have ever read!

I wanted to talk about this book on the blog to make a point about our education system. Many years ago I was talking about ‘Tristram Shandy’ among a group of friends and acquaintances and a girl who had a masters degree in English said that the book seemed familiar. We talked some more about it and it turned out that she had studied the book and passed an exam on it during her BA or MA. She did not remember any of the details and till she heard me talking about it she had not realized, and nobody had told her, that it was a funny book.

I am just wondering how many other joyous and fun things we make drab and lifeless as we go through the grind of school and college education…

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