söndag 21 februari 2016

Om litteraturens betydelse och bibliotekens nödvändighet

Foto: Astrid Nydahl
Denna text, publicerad i Mail on Sunday idag, borde vara obligatorisk läsning för alla bibliotekarier, kulturredaktörer och politiker. Inte minst för de svenska kommunpolitiker som stryper och lägger ner sina bibliotek. Jag har tagit texten rakt av i sin helhet. Den är skriven av Prince Charles.

In an appeal for funds by the Friends of the National Libraries, the Prince traced his fascination with literature back to his early childhood, with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song Of Hiawatha a particular favourite.

Words navigate us through life like pathfinders. As Shakespeare says at one point, ‘I shall lose my life for want of language.’ I know what he means.

I have always loved the way you can twist or turn a word to shade it with a different meaning and I marvel at how great writers use so few words to evoke a feeling, a sense of place or the depths of a character. 

I can trace this fascination back to when my father would read to me as a child. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song Of Hiawatha was a particular favourite. 

I can remember the electrifying moment the first time I heard Longfellow’s words, which he uses like music in a mesmerising rhythm that runs throughout the epic poem.

‘Ye who love the haunts of Nature... Love the wind among the branches... and the rushing of great rivers Through their palisades of pine-trees.’ 

He takes you there immediately. You hear the breeze and feel the spray of the foaming rapids. I fell in love with words and writing from that moment.

To read great writers is to open a window on a world of experience and wisdom.

Shakespeare is perhaps the master, with his unending capacity to conjure complex characters or the visceral sense of riot and revolution, strife or love in words that illuminate brilliantly every facet of what it is to be human. His words can change lives. 

We absorb so much when we read good writing, not least how to use grammar properly. Used correctly, good grammar enables us to be sure of what the writer means. 

If we stop using commas, or even full stops, I do wonder how we can hope to make sense of the world. Grammar matters!

Neither Longfellow nor Shakespeare wrote for a select audience. Their work was for everyone, which is why I agreed to be patron of this important appeal for funds by the Friends of the National Libraries.

Our libraries play a crucial role in preserving the letters of writers. Collections include poems, scientific discoveries as they were scribbled down in notebooks, precious bindings and even battle plans. 

They keep our heritage alive by offering insight into the thinking of great writers whose work our libraries make available to everyone, now and in the future. 

So often presented in the guise of entertainment, their words offer us the insight and sensitivity to navigate the many challenges that life can throw at us. 

To let such access wither would indeed make the world an impoverished place. 

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