Along came Benedict… and inspired my reading
A lot. I used to read a lot. As soon as I had learned to read fluently, my mum got me a library card and from that moment on, I became a regular visitor to the local library. I always lugged around piles of books and would spend my afternoons or any time available really reading, drifting off into different times and ages, exotic (at the time) countries, fictional realms. My reading was a wild mix back then, from childrens’ books to crime stories to love stories to classic antiquity tales.
I moved from primary school to grammar school and that’s when things started to get a bit weird. Oh yes, we did read at school, of course we did. Only, I mostly did not like what we were made to read!
I’m living in Germany, thus, I attended German schools, and I tend to think there’s quite a difference between, say, Germany and the UK as far as cultural education goes. I’m under the impression that all things cultural are playing a more important role in the British society than they are here. There’s no fixed canon of books that must be included in the syllabus here, but of course there are recommendations made by the respective ministry of culture of the federal state you’re in. Which is fine. If only the teachers we had back then would in any way at all have been motivated to spark a flame of passion for reading literature in us! Instead – at least that was my impression (and not only mine, as I know from various discussions with peers) – they managed to thoroughly quench any interest and spoil reading for me for quite some time. We read a lot over the years, both, in German and in English (and a bit in French too), great books and plays amongst it, like Macbeth, Nathan the Wise, 1984, Brave New World, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, A Streetcar named Desire, Death of a Salesman, Sansibar, Berlin Alexanderplatz, to name but a few. We read Kafka, Grass and Böll, Golding, Steinbeck and Hemingway – Goethe and Schiller, quite surprisingly, not so much!
Only, whatever interest and pleasant anticipation there was starting on a new book for school, it always ended with disillusion, despair and incomprehension. That sounds harsh, I know – but it was the way I felt. I ended up detesting every book, every play we had to read for school.
Don’t get me wrong, I still kept on reading, out of school, but mostly, well, let’s say, less intellectual, more trivial oeuvres. I don’t regret it. What I DO regret though is that all of that time I missed out on such an amazing wealth of beautiful, interesting, heartbreaking, joyous, inspirational books and plays being out there. Certainly my fault in the end, and not my teachers’, but it’s the way it is.
*cut to a few years ago*
Then, I discovered BBC Sherlock – first on German tv, meaning the dubbed version – then, the original version. And guess what? Along came Benedict Cumberbatch.
I was instantly hooked by his talent, his acting (and yes, his looks) and was curious to find out more about him and his back catalogue as an actor, so I started to do some research, watching interviews of all kinds, listening to him talk about his craft, his parents, his school and his teachers, the plays he had done, the books he loved, the roles he dreamt of playing, while at the same time saying he didn’t have a bucket list, but wanted to keep things mixed up, in order to „keep myself amused and others confused“. A concept I like(d)! I was fascinated, to say the least. Hamlet had been announced at that time already, and I didn’t have a ticket, much to my chagrin. Long story short, I ended up getting tickets still, and saw Benedict and the cast live on stage three times (plus the NT Live performance at the cinema). And I actually did read Hamlet before! And I liked it! I understood it! I was stunned! Why in the world was I now able to understand a play like that?Embed from Getty Images
Meanwhile I had begun to read novels that some of the films Benedict was in were based on, but also books that he had mentioned having read and/or liking in interviews, and I was loving it/them! I watched plays with him like Frankenstein, After the Dance, Hedda Gabler and The Turning Point. I re-read books like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I read books that were announced to be adapted for screen with Benedict starring in them like Rogue Male, The Child in Time, The Melrose series, and How to Stop Time.
Benedict – unknowingly – became my personal guide in all things literature. Listening to him talk about the books and plays, what attracted him to a character, what he thought about them, about the author, about the style, what he saw in a book or a play, I developed a different approach to books and plays (and movies) myself. I’ve travelled to London many times since Hamlet, saw various plays live on stage, and I loved them all – even the more „modern“ ones.
Benedict managed single-handedly what my teachers had failed to, he rekindled my flame of passion for reading anew!
This year I participated in an online course offered by the University of Edinburgh entitled „How to read a novel“, which further deepened my understanding of how to tackle a (modern) novel, of how fascinating that is, even though I still would not have picked any one of the four books the course was based on for my reading list. I loved being able to discuss my experience with a global community of other book lovers. Next on the list is a course on animation films, hopefully followed by one on filmmaking in general, focussing more on the business/production side, as I want to learn more about that.
Finally, a little while back, I went online with The Cumberlibrary, which was a big step for me.
And so, the pile of books waiting to be read and plays to see is ever growing, sometimes I feel I won’t ever be able to catch up. But I don’t mind, that’s alright.
I will forever be grateful to Benedict Cumberbatch for having opened my eyes to the books and plays, and my soul to all that lies within them. I’m hoping for a long journey together with him and fellow fans and friends, from project to project, always keeping ourselves amused and others confused, if I may borrow his words.
I’m learning something new every single day, branching out into new territory, finding new fields of interest, so much fun! Last, but not least, I’m very casually improving my English too. 🙂