Enid Blyton was born on this day in 1897. Happy birthday Enid!
I’ve become increasingly fascinated by Blyton the more I’ve worked on the second chapter of my thesis. I’m considering the changing relationship of children’s literature with landscape; the Arcadian idyll of the Victorian period shifting through to the movements of the post-war period where boundaries were able to be transgressed and challenged … and Enid forms a big part of this discussion.
The more I’ve worked on Malory Towers and St Clare’s, the more I’ve become convinced that Blyton’s texts work in a unique liminality; they talk back to the patriarchal dominance of the age but also, quite subversively, present alternative modes of female existence. Choice, really. And that’s quite the thing to find in an author who is, so often, read as a bastion of gendered problematics. I’m not denying the existence of these problematics but rather asking us to read beyond them in a way…
So happy birthday Enid and, in a slightly Pythonesque manner, here’s a list of facts and other things …
- Enid Blyton is the fourth most translated author in the world. The three authors above her? Agatha Christie, Jules Verne and William Shakespeare. (Unesco, 2015).
- Enid Blyton had 762 books published. Just. Let. That. Sink. In.
- I suspect popular children’s fiction would be in a very different state today were it not for Blyton. You know those Daisy Meadows books? And similar? Consider what they’d be without the nature of Blyton and the way she showed the voracious appetites of what readers could be….
- She gave us the Malory Towers swimming pool. Still possibly the best swimming pool in the entirety of children’s fiction. And yes, this is niche, but I’m willing to argue at length about this.
- The house she once lived in is fabulously surreal.
- She wrote the weirdest, cagiest, and possibly best author autobiography I’ve ever read.
- She gave us Anne; one of the most complex and misunderstood female characters ever.
- She practically defined the idea of ferociously readable writing. Yes, this may have come at the expense of a myriad of other factors, but the woman could write. I don’t think I know of a more determined writer.
- She wrote some of the most definitive school stories out there. The St Clare’s and Malory Towers books are woefully undercritiqued and yet, there they are, immensely and perpetually popular and also subtly promoting a whole host of diverse representations of girlhood.
- Ginger beer. Never had some. Not sure I want to, because I think it might ruin the mystique…
So here’s to you Enid, and your crazy, readable ways. You’re not the most run of the mill person, nor are you infallible, and I’m fairly sure I will never write a sentence about you that doesn’t involve the word ‘complicated’, but I am very sure that you are unique. Happy birthday!
UNESCO (2015) Index Translationum : Top 50 Most Translated Authors http://www.unesco.org/xtrans/bsstatexp.aspx?crit1L=5&nTyp=min&topN=50 [accessed 06/07/2015]
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