News

Add to researchWhat Would Dickens Write Today?

AS Byatt, Claire Tomalin, David Nicholls, Toby Litt, Philip Hensher, Louise Doughty, John Burnside and Denise Mina discuss Dickens' legacy.

You can watch the discussion unfold from 26th January on British Council Germany's website and join the discussion on Twitter.

Follow the seminar live at http://www.bcstream.de/ and put your questions to the authors on Twitter at  #dickens2012 and @bc_germany.

The event will be chaired by UCL professor and Guardian writerJohn Mullan and will showcase UK contemporary writers AS ByattClaire Tomalin, David Nicholls, Toby Litt, Philip Hensher,Louise Doughty, John Burnside and Denise Mina.

In partnership with Bertelsmann AG the event will take place in Berlin from 26th – 28th January 2012.

The British Council in the UK is also hosting a range of global events where writers such as DJ TaylorRichard T Kelly and Zara Slattery will partake in Literature events and panels overseas in over 15 countries including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Russia and Pakistan.

In the early years of the twenty-first century, we still sometimes see the world as a ‘Dickensian’ place. On the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birth, we look at how his example and his creations live on. Dickens was one of the greatest of Victorians, but this seminar is about the Dickens who continues to be our contemporary. What do today’s writers still learn from him? What do readers of fiction expect because of him? What would he write – and what would he write about – if he were alive today? Dickens was a writer who broke the rules of tasteful composition. He revelled in caricature and hyperbole; he rifled the language for absurd idioms and resonant clichés; he loved the grotesque. Are his stylistic freedoms still available to writers today? He was also a satirist who was confident he knew the difference between good and evil. He was always ready to step into his novel to exhort or lecture his readers. Can contemporary novelists draw on the same moral fervour? He wrote novels that seemed to be about what was called ‘the condition of England’; he sometimes seemed to anatomise a whole nation. Do we still hope that novelists will take on such a task? Is it even possible to do so?

- Professor John Mullan