Thursday, July 22, 2010

Testing words to their utmost power

"When you are writing laws you are testing words to find their utmost power. Like spells, they have to make things happen in the real world, and like spells, they only work if people believe in them." From Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, probably the best fictionalised life of Thomas Cromwell ever written. What skill is needed to avoid cliché when an artist resurrects such well known material and characters, as people did with stories and figures from the ancient classics and the Bible for thousands of years. Henry VIII, Wolsey, Cromwell, More, the Boleyn woman, Pope Clement, the whole cast, even the period, have become stock characters in so many plays, films, novels and 'serious history'. For language teachers this book is full of interest, given that most courtiers and merchants of that time were adept in four or five languages required for scholarship, diplomacy, trade, war, law and even marriage. See Washington Post Review