#newworldnovel is a feature in which we get people to tell us which book they’d choose if they had to leave earth today and go to a brand new world empty of all our literature. Would they choose something to comfort themselves or would they choose something to help whatever may live or come to live in this new world?
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Caroll
As an English Literature student, asking me which one book I would take with me to a new world is, quite possibly, one of the cruelest things you could do. No sooner does my bookworm brain decide upon one book, than it makes me think of another, and another; and very soon, I’m embroiled in a vast web of favourite books, and I’ve bored everyone to death explaining why they really really have to read them.
Despite this, I immediately knew that I would choose a book from my childhood to take with me to this new world. The childhood imagination has the potential to be so vivid, so real, so limitless. As we grow older, and become teenagers and then – god forbid – real adults, our capacity for imagination tends to slowly flicker and dim, leaving us in almost imperceptible dribs and drabs of our former childhood selves.
It’s only when I look back, and recall baffling my mum by frantically searching through the washing basket because I was quite sure that Pippin from Come Outside was really my dog who I had to find, that I recognise differences in the way we read and process stories as adults. We are superior, in a way: we know what is possible, and what is impossible. For a good story, we learn to willingly suspend disbelief – whereas when we are children, there is often no, or at least, little disbelief to suspend. When we are children, the world is more fluid. It is a smorgasbord of stories and possibilities and unknowns. It’s an altogether more magical way of seeing and experiencing the world. That’s why, for my #newworldnovel, I had to choose something which transports me back, as far as is possible, to my childlike way of reading and immersing myself in stories.
I had to choose: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
There must be a reason why, 150 years after its publication, the world is still obsessed with Alice. For me the story’s whimsical and nonsensical nature remains unrivalled in literature today; I can’t think of any other book which advocates thinking about and looking at the world differently, in the same way that Alice does.
Alice teaches us that I am mad, you are mad, and that the world around us can be mad too, if only we look at it in the right way. When she falls down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland, Alice quickly learns to accept those things around her which would have been unimaginable in the staid Victorian reality from which she came. On a personal level, reading this book reminds me that moving forward, I do not have to take old limitations with me. On a bigger level, what better message is there to take with me to a new world, than that the status quo from the old one does not have to come with me?
After all, as Lewis Carroll’s good friend C.S Lewis, once said: ‘A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.’ But a children’s story which can take us back to a time where we believed the world was a place of infinite possibility? The very best.
Sarah is a second year English Literature student at the University of Edinburgh. She spends a lot of time trying to act like a really intellectual student of literature but in reality is a true believer that between them, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift encapsulate the entire spectrum of human experience and emotion.
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