Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It is the sort of detail

that can hardly be noted without plunging into sentimentality, at least in fiction, and yet it seems to me quite persuasively true. From John Henley's profile of Henning Mankell for the Guardian:
Besides the theatre, Mankell does a lot of charity work in Africa, including a project called Memory Books, which helps parents dying of Aids to record something of themselves in a book, to be passed to their children when they go. "I was in a small village outside Kampala, Uganda, years ago now," Mankell says. "It had only very young and very old. Everyone in between had died. There was a small girl who showed me a folded scrap of paper in her hand, and in it was pressed a dead blue butterfly. She said her mother had loved blue butterflies. That was one of the most important books I've ever read."
(It might be that the italics on the words most important are also an attempt to counter readerly cynicism and the threat of the sentimental?)

1 comment:

  1. Yes it is an interesting effect. I like the idea that italics help avoid sentimentality. "Understated pathos" is often the closer-to-kitsch of the two options and one is better off erring in the other direction. In this case, presumably Mankell would have said it with italics -- though the choice to report them was Henley's.