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Record 4311

Reading Experience:

'Ewan McColl remembered his father, a Communist ironfounder, as someone who was always giving him secondhand books. He "belonged to the generation who believed that books were tools that could open a lock which would free people..." At age eight McColl received the works of Darwin. By fifteen he had read Gogol, Dostoevsky and the entire Human Comedy: "They were a refuge from the horrors of the life around us... Unemployment in the 1930s was unbelievable, you really felt you'd never escape... So books for me were a kind of fantasy life... For me to go at the age of fourteen, to drop into the library and discover a book like Kant's Critique of Pure Reason or The Mistaken Subtlety of the Four-Sided Figure... the titles alone produced a kind of happiness in me... When I discovered Gogol in that abominable translation of Constance Garnett with those light blue bindings... I can remember the marvellous sensation of sitting in the library and opening the volume and going into that world of Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin in The Overcoat or in The Nose, or The Madman's Diary. I thought I'd never read anything so marvellous, and through books I was living in many worlds simultaneously. I was living in St Petersburg and in Paris with Balzac... And I knew all the characters, Lucien de Rubempre and Rastignac as though they were my own friends".'
Century: 1900-1945
Date: unknown
Country: n/a
Time: n/a
Place: n/a
Type of Experience (Reader):
silent aloud unknown
solitary in company unknown
single serial unknown
Type of Experience (Listener):
solitary in company unknown
single serial unknown

Reader/Listener/Reading Group:

Reader:Ewan McColl
Age Child (0-17)
Gender Male
Date of Birth n/a
Socio-economic group: Unknown/NA
Occupation: n/a
Religion: n/a
Country of origin: n/a
Country of experience: n/a
Listeners present if any:
(e.g. family, servants, friends, workmates)
Additional comments: n/a


Text Being Read:

Author: Honore de Balzac
Title: The Human Comedy
Genre: Fiction
Form of Text: Print: Book
Publication details: n/a
Provenance: owned


Source Information:

Record ID: 4311  
Source - Print  
  Author: Jonathan Rose
  Editor: n/a
  Title: The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes
  Place of Publication: New Haven
  Date of Publication: 2001
  Vol: n/a
  Page: 316
  Additional comments: n/a

Citation: Jonathan Rose, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes (New Haven, 2001), p. 316,, accessed: 19 June 2024

Additional comments:

See Ewan McColl, 'Theatre of Action', pp208-10 - no further ref traceable



Reading Experience Database version 2.0.  Page updated: 27th Apr 2016  3:15pm (GMT)