The literature of poverty

Given the lack of street lights and the high crime rate in Monrovia, I don’t feel safe walking after dark. After the sun sets, I usually whole up in my guest house and scour the internet for good reads; I’ve recently become hooked on the online archives of Lapham’s Quarterly. It seems a bit incongruous to be reading essays on the website of a high-brow “magazine of history and ideas” while in a country where most people cannot read and even fewer have internet access. Tonight, it felt even more unnatural when I clicked on a piece about Charles Dickens, whose work seemed to me more fitted to the Gothic buildings of Yale than the streets of somewhere like Monrovia. But George Packer’s piece Dickens in Lagos proved my assumption wrong. Packer relates the 19th century poverty of Dickens’ world to the slums of developing countries today, with a convincing comparison that never would have occurred to me. It reminded me of the world I see on a daily basis in Liberia, and it’s worth a look.

Happy reading!


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