2014年9月15日 星期一

Agatha Christie

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa ChristieDBE (née Miller; 15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976) was an English crime novelistshort story writer, and playwright. She also wrote six romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but she is best known for the 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections she wrote under her own name, most of which revolve around the investigations of such characters as Hercule PoirotMiss Jane Marple and Tommy and Tuppence. She also wrote the world's longest-running play, The Mousetrap.[1]


The lure of the past came up to grab me. To see a dagger slowly appearing, with its gold glint, through the sand was romantic. The carefulness of lifting pots and objects from the soil filled me with a longing to be an archaeologist myself.
– Christie, An Autobiography (1984), p. 389[90]
Many years ago, when I was once saying sadly to Max it was a pity I couldn't have taken up archaeology when I was a girl, so as to be more knowledgeable on the subject, he said, "Don't you realize that at this moment you know more about prehistoric pottery than any woman in England?"
– Christie, An Autobiography (1984), p. 546[91]
Christie had a lifelong interest in archaeology. On a trip to the excavation site at Ur in 1930, she met her future husband, Sir Max Mallowan, a distinguished archaeologist, but her fame as an author far surpassed his fame in archaeology.[92] Prior to meeting Mallowan, Christie had not had any extensive brushes with archaeology, but once the two married they made sure to only go to sites where they could work together.
While accompanying Mallowan on countless archaeological trips (spending up to 3–4 months at a time in Syria and Iraq at excavation sites at UrNinevahTell Arpachiyah,Chagar BazarTell Brak, and Nimrud), Christie not only wrote novels and short stories, but also contributed work to the archaeological sites, more specifically to the archaeological restoration and labelling of ancient exhibits which includes tasks such as cleaning and conserving delicate ivory pieces, reconstructing pottery, developing photos from early excavations which later led to taking photographs of the site and its findings, and taking field notes.[93]
So as to not influence the funding of the archaeological excavations, Christie would always pay for her own board and lodging and her travel expenses, and supported excavations as an anonymous sponsor.[94]
During their time in the Middle East, there was also a large amount of time spent travelling to and from Mallowan's sites. Their extensive travelling had a strong influence on her writing, which is often reflected as some type of transportation playing a part in her murderer's schemes. The large amount of travel was reused in novels such as The Murder on the Orient Express, as well as suggesting the idea of archaeology as an adventure itself.[95]
After the Second World War, she chronicled her time in Syria with fondness in "Come Tell Me How You Live". Anecdotes, memories, funny episodes, are strung in a rough timeline, with more emphasis on eccentric characters, lovely scenery, than factual accuracy.[96]
From 8 November 2001 to 24 March 2002, The British Museum had an exhibit named Agatha Christie and Archaeology: Mystery in Mesopotamia, which presented the secret life of Agatha Christie and the influences of archaeology in her life and works.[97]


'Many years ago, when I was once saying sadly to Max it was a pity I couldn't have taken up archaeology when I was a girl, so as to be more knowledgeable on the subject, he said, 'Don't you realize that at this moment you know more about prehistoric pottery than any woman in England?'
A. Christie, An Autobiography (1981), p. 546
The exhibition Agatha Christie and Archaeology: Mystery in Mesopotamia (8 November 2001- 24 March 2002) presented a fascinating look at the secret life of one of the world's most popular writers.
Agatha Christie (1890-1976) originally became interested in archaeology on a visit to the site of Ur (in modern Iraq) in 1928. It was at Ur that she met her future husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan, and became involved in excavation of the sites in Iraq and Syria that were to make his name.
Agatha was greatly devoted to her husband and his career, accompanying him on digs and fulfilling the role of junior assistant: cleaning and repairing objects, matching pottery fragments and cataloguing finds. She became very expert, and was much respected by Max's colleagues for her painstaking and skilled work. She also found time to write, and some of her best known books are based on her life in the Middle East: Murder on the Orient ExpressDeath on the NileAppointment with Death and most particularly, Murder in Mesopotamia.
This tour looks at some of the objects from each of the sites that Agatha worked on, and some of the photographs that she made there, a unique record that captures the mood of the digs.

Dagger and sheath

Dagger and sheath from Ur, copy of an original in the Iraq Museum, Baghdad
'The lure of the past came up to grab me. To see a dagger slowly appearing, with its gold glint, through the sand was romantic. The carefulness of lifting pots and objects from the soil filled me with a longing to be an archaeologist myself.'
A. Christie, An Autobiography (London, 1981), p. 389
Agatha's first marriage, to Archibald Christie, ended in divorce in 1928. In the autumn of that year she booked a ticket on the Orient Express. From Baghdad she travelled on to Ur, to Leonard Woolley's excavations, widely published in England at that time. Visitors to Woolley's dig were discouraged, but Agatha was warmly received, the formidable Katharine Woolley being an admirer of her books. Agatha was entranced by the beauty of the desert and the life of the camp and took up Katharine's invitation to return early in 1930.
Katharine instructed Max Mallowan, one of Woolley's team, who had been absent the year before, to escort Agatha on a tour of local sights on the way back to Baghdad, and, when she had to return home urgently to her daughter Rosalind, who was ill, Max travelled with her to England. They kept in touch, Max came to stay in Devon, and in May 1930, he asked Agatha to marry him. After a month, she said yes.


How WW1 shaped Agatha Christie – and Poirot

After 39 years, Hercule Poirot is back in a new novel. Here Kate Weinberg looks at how the First World War shaped his creator

 Agatha Christie wrote most of her novels at her London home in Kensington
A writer’s life: Agatha Christie wrote most of her novels at her London home in Kensington Photo: Popperfoto/Getty Images
The elegant drawing rooms and grand country houses of Agatha Christie’s novels might seem a world away from the mud and horror of the trenches, but they are closer than you might think.
For Agatha Christie, both as a person and as a novelist, was forged in the fires of the First World War.
Sophie Hannah, inset, the bestselling novelist who has picked up the baton and is launching the first new Poirot novel in 39 years at the Agatha Christie Festival in Torquay today, agrees.
“People of that era were asking themselves how the war was possible,” she says. “I think that while Christie’s novels provided some brilliant light relief, she was also trying to help them understand it.
“She was trying to say this person has been driven over the edge by this thing, that person by that. This is how an individual was driven to kill.
Christie's time as a nurse and dispenser in the First World War without doubt informed her choice of poison as the predominant murder weapon in her novels (AGATHA CHRISTIE ARCHIVE)
“Just as a wrong idea can seize a person, it can also seize a group of people, which is often worse as the feelings grow and they can push responsibility to the others. It does make things like war make a bit more sense and become more explicable.”
That’s not to say that she understood the destruction.
“Christie was very much in favour of moderation and keeping your powder dry,” says Hannah. “Both she and Poirot believe that every human life is valuable and precious.”
Given Christie’s own experiences in the war, that’s not surprising. In October 1914, she became one of the 90,000 Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses that enlisted to help in the war.
In a makeshift hospital in Torquay town hall, she washed and cared for seriously wounded patients, attended in the operating theatre during operations and even helped clean up after amputations. “I would wash [away] all the blood,” she later wrote, “and stick [the limb] in the furnace myself.”
Christie’s tone is British stiff-upper lip as she recounts some advice from another nurse: “Everything in life one gets used to and if you can last it out, you’ll have no trouble.” But it is striking that although she went on to become “The Queen of Crime”, there is almost no blood, and certainly no gore, in her books.
Instead she prefers the clean method of poisoning, again, no doubt, influenced by her experiences in the war. After serving as a nurse, she qualified as a dispenser, who mixes the tonics and medicines for prescription. It clearly made a mark: out of the 66 full-length detective novels she wrote, more than half feature poisoning.
But the war did much more than provide her with a cabinet of poisons for a career in crime writing. The war years also unlock the story of Christie herself, the private woman whose life became something of a mystery itself.
When the war broke out in 1914, Agatha Miller was a pretty girl engaged to a young man called Archie Christie. He had just been accepted by the RAF and was going to France as a flying officer.
On Christmas Eve 1914 they were married in Archie’s parish church, in their street clothes, while Archie was on leave from the front.
In the passionate love letters Archie wrote to Christie during the war he told her, “I love you much too much – more than ever now – to take any risks. Death only means to me being separated from you.”
During the war, Archie was promoted several times, becoming a Colonel, and in 1918 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and in 1919 Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG).
But as Christie’s novels later attested, a happy ending was hard to find.
A few short years after the war, Archie revealed to her that he had fallen in love with Nancy Neele, one of their friends. It broke Christie’s heart, precipitated her mysterious 11-day disappearance, and as her daughter Rosalind remarked, “she never got over losing him”.
In fact, according to Christie’s only grandchild, Mathew Prichard, she almost never spoke of Archie again.
She was so careful to avoid the subject that Mathew grew up believing her second husband, Max Mallowan, to be his grandfather.
Prichard says: “She avoided the subject of the [First World] war altogether, because that was when my grandfather was alive.”
The centenary of the First World War has prompted a great deal of reflection on, even celebration of, the literature of the times.
But, strangely, the First World War is largely overlooked in the consideration of Christie.
Perhaps this is because her response to the severed limbs and human horror was, like so much else in her life, to disguise it: in her books, death is not violent but artful, it happens not in the trenches but in vicarages, victims are beautiful and well-dressed, corpses are rarely seen and never lingered upon.
After four years in which the world had seen murder turned into an industry, she made it into a work of art.
The Agatha Christie Festival 2014 is being held at Torre Abbey, Torquay, Devon, Sept 14-21
Bestselling author Sophie Hannah will appear alongside Agatha Christie’s grandson to talk about her just launched The Monogram Murders, the first Hercule Poirot continuation novel that has been approved by the Agatha Christie estate (tonight, 7pm-9pm).
The Potent Plant Tour (daily, 11am-noon) – Head gardener at Torre Abbey Ali Marshall will give a walk and talk on some of the poisonous plants that were used in Christie’s novels.
International Panel Event with John Curran and Ragnar Johansson – (Tues, noon-2pm) including Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Johansson as they discuss the enduring appeal of the world’s most widely translated author.
Agatha Christie at the BBC (Thurs, 7pm-9pm, Mathew Prichard, Agatha Christie’s grandson, will be speaking to Ben Stephenson, controller of drama commissioning at the BBC, about forthcoming new dramas.
A Garden Party to Die For – (Thurs, 2pm-4.30pm) A Thirties-themed tea including music, servants, tea and cake served on the lawn of Torre Abbey.
Fringe Events include the “In Costume” Agatha Christie Luncheon (Tues, 12.30pm-3pm)