The Harry Potter phenomenon! | By Khalid Saleem

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The Harry Potter phenomenon!


THE Pandemic appears to have turned the world order upside down. Nothing appears the same any more. Just goes to prove that Nature was always a step ahead. Man, with his wherewithal, once again appears to have lost out.

The situation in this blessed land being what it is, there has been a lot of thinking about what is needed to bring the Ship of State to an even keel.

Having tried all known systems of government and having successively handed over the wheel of the ship of state to ‘saviors’ of a variety of ilks and genres without much success, the thinkers of the country are at their wits end.

It would appear now that the one entity needed to set things right may well be a Harry Potter armed with his magic wand.

A word in explanation may be in order! The way Ms. Rowling caught the fancy of young and old with her bizarre but very readable narrative of the adventures of that lovable young wizard, Harry Potter, is a tribute to both her imagination and her understanding of human nature.

The way the younger generation hankered after her books is nothing short of phenomenal.

Until Ms. Rowling’s books took the ‘literary’ world by storm, it was generally feared that the art of book reading, especially among the youth, had met an untimely demise.

At this stage, it may be of some interest to cite a report from Frankfurt, circa 2002-2003, that the world’s largest Book Fair in that city had formally “thanked Harry Potter for helping to rear a new generation of eager young readers around the globe”.

The organizers of the said Book Fair cited the popularity of Potter’s gripping exploits as “living proof that the book is not dead yet in the age of electronic media”.

One must not, however, discount the possibility that the Harry Potter mania is just an outstanding exception.

On the other hand, it could also be seen as the exception that proves the rule and, in deed, a phenomenon that could well snowball into something bigger; one that the future generation could latch on to!

Be that as it may, the fact remains that book reading – as an art – appears to have lost out to the demon of Information Technology. Apparently no one is inclined to read a good book anymore.

There are those who make do with the hotchpotch dished out by the electronic media; others prefer to wait for the film version or the television series.

One wonders if the reader remembers the time when, after having read the book, one viewed the film or television version with serious misgivings. Recent advances made by computer technology have made matters worse.

The practice of leisurely reading has gone out the window, so to speak (the Harry Potter phenomenon notwithstanding). One ruefully recalls the days when one used to save to buy a good book.

Then, one read it at leisure; savored it and, if it lived up to its promise, read it a second or even a third time. But, sadly, all this was before life was overtaken by the Information Technology revolution.

No one appeared to have either the time or the inclination to acquire a book (much less to go through it) any more. The practice is that the ‘substance’ of the book be ingested through the shortcut of the computer.

There is little or no time to savor the book, not to talk of going through it for the second or third reading. People grasp the substance of the book but cannot enjoy its flavor. Now the good news: thanks to the Harry Potter phenomenon, all may not be lost yet

If the younger generation was out there in droves queuing up to buy the latest Harry Potter tome, it stands to reason that they intended to read it, all five/six hundred odd pages of it. The art of reading may yet be resuscitated.

Having settled this issue, one should perhaps move on to another little mystery of life. Why did the Harry Potter books garner so much popularity in the first place? After all, no one in his or her right mind would classify the Rowling tomes as being among the greats of even contemporary literature.

To find the rationale, one must make an effort to discern the mental attitude of the Western multitude – and their Eastern neophytes – that represent the bedrock of the book-buying crowd.

What makes them plump for literature of the type that Ms Rowling dishes out in the hundreds of pages of her wizardry-filled narratives?
It is possible to give the answer in one word: ESCAPISM.

Surprisingly, a good section of people in the so-called developed world are looking for a vehicle to escape the realities of life.

The designated ‘spin-doctors’ are out to filter their daily intake of reality in such a way that they see life only through rose-colored glasses.

They are conditioned to dwell only on ‘our way of life’, ‘our view of human rights’ and, in general ‘our civilization’. Nothing else appears to matter.

In this make believe scenario, books like the Harry Potter series provide the common man the perfect escape route away from the mundane realities of the real world.

There is little harm in going for this type of literature as a basis for entertainment. Life being the serious business that it is, a small dose of escapism, as a means of relieving tension, may be just what the doctor ordered.

The time to agonize comes when perfectly sane persons start to exhibit the regrettable tendency to confuse real life with the fairy tale.

The world is, hopefully, not blundering towards such a calamitous denouement, as civilization as we know it continues its bumbling march onward (?). So far as the scenario in our region goes, escapism already appears to be taking over from reality!

— The writer is a former Ambassador and former Assistant Secretary General of OIC.