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I. Read the text and do the assignments following it.
J.B. Priestley, critic, essayist, storyteller, broadcaster, novelist and playwright, has the rare distinction, for an Englishman, of being well known all over the world. He has the power to entertain and his plays in particular are the work of a man who provokes thought.
He was born in Bradford in 1894 and ever since his first appearance as an author in 1919, he has poured out a succession of books of very diverse kinds. At first it was as an essayist that he won recognition. Then, gradually, changing over to fiction, he achieved resounding success in 1929 with his long, episodic and robust novel "The Good Companions." It was what the schoolboys call "a smasher." It was twice the normal length; it had a Dickensian scope as well near-Dickensian vigour; it had a host of characters and a swirl of movement. "The Good Companions" was also a smasher in its success. It was filmed and dramatized as well as selling vastly in book form in many countries. The survey of Bruddersford, with which the book opens, is Priestley at his best and the unfolding panorama of small provincial towns with their mouldering theatres and concert halls, their drab hotels sustains the high level of social landscape.
The next novel "Angel Pavement"2 (1930) took its name from a typical side street, an alley which housed, among others none too prosperous, a firm of timber dealers, now in financial trouble. The atmosphere of gayety characteristic of the first novel is changed by sad humour. The ending of the book is bleak indeed, for all the employers of the broken tinber firm are left in the air, the cold economic air of the nineteen-thirties, when unemployment cruelly swept the world. The period of "Angel Pavement" was, for millions of people, grey with fear, fear of never getting a job, fear of losing the job, and fear of an existence without security and without hope.
The shorter novels are very numerous in most cases. Priestley drew on immediate scenes and happenings, the wartime "blackout," the coming of demobilization and release, and the readjustments to a new economy. One of the best of them is called "Bright Day" (1946). The description of Boxing Day at Mr. Ackworth's is wonderful comedy. Written with tenderness as well as gusto, it responds with friendliness to the cult of "good stuff in food and drink and musicmaking.
As a playwright Priestley occupied a prominent place in English literature in the thirties. He wrote more than 40 plays, the most significant of them are "Dangerous Corner"3 (1932), "Time and the Conways"4 (1937), "An Inspector Calls"5 (1946).
Some critics hold the view that Priestley is at his best in plays of this kind, realistic in style, cordial in their comedy, sympathetic in mood. But he himself became impatient with the humdrum and the natural. Realism in the arts has been dismissed. One of the earlier ventures in escape was the creation of "Johnson over Jordan" (1939). Expressionism, a foolish and unhelpful term, is a name applied to such a form of playwriting.
In the plays followed "They Came to a City" (1944) and "Home Is Tomorrow" (1949) Priestley brought news and views of the great world changes and fresh outlooks into the wartime and after-war entertainment.
Priestley's work, especially his dramatic work, has found much admiration outside Britain. He has certainly proved himself to be one of the most versatile, as well as one of the most vivid, of British authors. A man of such various gifts belongs to no "school." He creates, and recreates, in his own way. He is immensely himself.
1. "The Good Companions" – роман «Добрые товарищи»
2. "Angel Pavement" – роман «Улица ангела»
3. "Dangerous Corner" – «Опасный поворот»
4. "Time and the Conways" – «Время и семья Конвей»
5. "An Inspector Calls" – «Визит инспектора»
II. Give Russian equivalents to the following words and word combinations:
a broadcaster, to provoke thought, to achieve resounding success, a robust novel, to have a Dickensian scope and vigour, a swirl of movement, to be left in the air, to dismiss.
III. Explain in English and use in your sentences the following words and word combinations:
to entertain, to win recognition, to be "a smasher" in its success, prosperous, versatile, vivid.
IV. Discuss the following points concerning J.B. Priestley's creative work.
1. Prove that J.B. Priestley was a prolific writer.
2. What can you say about the author's first novel? and the second one?
3. What place in English literature does Priestley occupy as a playwright?
4. In what play did he dismiss realism?
5. Why is J.B. Priestley admired not only in Britain but outside it as well?
V. Give a literary translation of the following extract:
In one of the prefaces to his volumes of Collected Plays Priestley has distinguished between High, Light and Broad Comedy. High Comedy he regards as unpopular with British writers and public, but appealing with particular force to Latin and Central European audiences: our preference, especially among the wealthier playgoers, he allots to Light Comedy, since it provides admirable opportunities to skilled starperformers in this line and of these the British Theatre has been a growing reliance on the players with a "box-office name" and the combination of a slick example of Light Comedy with one or two of these "names" is so powerful that managers naturally prefer to put their money on this type of article.
"My own choice, he wrote, is Broad Comedy, which is stronger in situation than Light Comedy, and more frankly farcial and less intellectual than High Comedy. It is, I believe, peculiarly suitable to the English temperament, it is the field of comedy in which I have chosen to work."
(From "J.B. Priestley" by Ivor Brown)
VI. Read the article and make up a short summary of it. Discuss it with your groupmates.
There are many illusions about the theatre among people who have never worked in it. One is that what happens on the stage is improvised. Actually, in a serious production the smallest movement, the shortest speech, is carefully rehearsed.
Another illusion is that while acting might be very difficult to the ordinary man, it is very easy for a man born to be an actor. Ability to imitate a voice, a walk, a gesture, is often thought to be enough to make a man an actor. Though there have been great actors with little formal training, most actors nowadays were once students in drama schools.
There they learnt how to use their voice, how to speak clearly, how to control their breathing. They were taught good body movements; how to walk, to sit down and get up, to dance, to fence. In advanced schools they learnt to observe and interpret character.
Each great capital city has several dramatic schools, some attached to particular theatres, like the Comedie Francaise in Paris. London's largest dramatic school, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, is not attached to any dramatic company but to London University. Russia's Moscow Art Theatre runs its own state-supported school where students selected from all over the country study for four years. Here the more advanced instruction is based on methods devised by the co-founder of the Moscow Art Theatre, Konstantin Stanislavsky, himself a magnificent actor.
The Actors' Studio in New York, which teaches "The Method," has been much influenced by Stanislavsky. "The Method" teaches the actor to identify himself inwardly with the character he has to play; to work from this inner identification to outward signs of character tricks of voice, gait and gesture. What must be remembered is that acting, like everything belonging to the Theatre, has a double aspect: the actor must be the character he is playing and also himself.
(From "The Wonderful World of the Theatre" by J.B. Priestley)
VII. Render the text in English using the following key words and word combinations:
morals and mode of life, the plot of the novel, narration, cunning swindlers, to depict, to make an impression if, "parliamentary twins."
В романе «Эта старая страна» ("It's an Old Country," 1967) нравы и быт современной Англии показаны глазами главного героя, приехавшего из Австралии. Том Адамсон, преподаватель Сиднейского университета, едет в Англию, чтобы разыскать своего отца – Чарльза Адамсона, которого не видел тридцать три года. Действия, предпринятые для этого Томом Адамсоном, составляют сюжетную линию романа. Повествование строится в форме обозрения различных характеров. В основном это бизнесмены или ловкие мошенники, в сатирическом свете изображены парламентские деятели Дадли и Ноукс. Они все время спорят, так как представляют в парламенте разные партии. Но по существу между ними нет никакой разницы, и автор называет их «парламентскими двойниками».
Англия производит на Тома Адамсона впечатление «мрачного и холодного ада, в котором нет ни тепла, ни света, ни настоящих ценностей ума и сердца». По словам Тома, «Англия пытается двигаться вперед и одновременно стоять на месте, а это, разумеется, весьма трудно».
(Г.В. Аникин. «История английской литературы»)
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