Friday, April 23, 2010

The Riddle of the Sands - Forgotten Classics

For the British, one of the shocks of the Great War was that they suddenly were pitted against Germany. The Germans and before them the Prussians had always been seen in a rather friendly light. The French had always been the enemy. When in 1871, after the Franco-Prussian war, Germany came into existence and developed into a great power, some saw the coming confrontation, but largely it had to take until 1914, until the Germans could really be broadly perceived as the real enemies. A 1871 invasion novel - The Battle of Dorking - which envisioned a German invasion of Britain was quickly forgotten.

Yet, by the early twentieth century the tide began to turn and a 1903 novel which describes how two English sailing tourists stumble upon a German invasion fleet not only marked a changing attitude, it even is acclaimed to have alerted the English to what was threatening them. This book, The Riddle of the Sands, featured as the conversation subject in an old issue of BBC's In Our Time (In Our Time on The Riddle of the Sands. Only available in stream). Melvyn Bragg and his guests hardly touch upon the novel and mainly speak of British attitudes towards Germany and vice versa.

If you want to hear the novel being read and find out a bit more, listen to Forgotten Classics. Host Julie gives a magnificent reading of the book (chapters 1-2, 3-5 and the just released 6-7) in which she captures the two main characters Carruthers and Davies each with their peculiarities. I was particularly delighted by the story as I have sailed the Frisian Islands some twenty years ago, as Carruthers and Davies do. That and the thought of the book's historical significance makes it a true delight.

More Forgotten Classics:
The message of Uncle Tom's Cabin,
Cooking with Forgotten Classics,
Forgotten Classics - podcast review.

More In Our Time:
Frankfurt School,
The history of the Royal Society,
The weekly treat,
New season of In Our Time,
St. Thomas Aquinas.