THE pain has entered a third century.
You may have seen that this week marked the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice.
Fans of Jane Austen’s book staged a 12-hour online readathon on Monday to mark the milestone – probably the closest thing I can imagine to torture that doesn’t involve a very angry man with a red-hot poker.
Like generations of schoolchildren, I had Pride and Prejudice inflicted on me as a teenager. That English literature GCSE was achieved in the face of staggering tedium.
I have tried to black out all traces of Pride and Prejudice, but I can never fully purge the memory of page after page of Austen’s dreary, upper-class navel-gazing.
Not that she was the only 19th Century author to torment my teenaged self with her tiresome tales of aristocratic angst. I was also forced to study Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, another book which I have tried to cleanse from my consciousness.
Before these two 19th Century deadweights were inflicted on me, I had enjoyed reading fiction – whether at school or at home.
Since Austen and Bronte did their work, I have barely picked up a novel, preferring to stick with non-fiction.
Life is short and too much of my short time on Earth has already been wasted reading about people who don’t exist and who, if they did exist, I would wish they didn’t.
Perhaps this aversion to fiction has limited my imagination. I might be a more well-adjusted person if I read novels.
But I can live with that in exchange for the knowledge that I will never again have to read about the courtship rituals of the self-obsessed rich.