2 Aug 2014

Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

First edition, July 1890
Oscar Wilde's only novel has by now become a very mainstream book. People on the Internet have quoted it so mercilessly, that there's hardly anything left from it at this point. Most know what the story is about; nearly all have seen the relatively recent film adaptaion starring Ben Barns (it's horrible, by the way); an everyone, I'm sure of it, once toiled at "art for art's sake"-essay for an English class at school. Portrait of Dorian Gray is one of those must reads that really is one. And it's not for all the topics that Wilde raises in this work and that excite our soul, open our eyes and give us so much food for thought. It's for the language that Dorian Gray is written in - utter, an indisputable masterpiece.

Only when reading this novel, I indeed felt grateful for knowing English. Chained to pages, I read slowly, languidly, imagining characters' voices in my head, putting the book aside once in a while in order to ponder over the wisdoms and theories of Lord Henry - a "collector" of beaufy and innocence that he perceives as merely a glass of wine needed to be drunk. I was, on the other hand, taking little sips, leisurely enjoying the story that was so entailing and so horrifying at the same time. Watching somebody slowly die is a hypnotizing thing indeed, especially if it happens as horridly beautiful as in the case of Dorian. After all, who's to say that his life wasn't beautiful? He surrounded it with art, and he embodied it. His life was a destructive whirlwind of pleasures but, as masterfully shown by Wilde, satisfying them causes more hunger than satiation. Greed for beauty and greed for aesthetic satisfaction does not praise but, rather, belittles the man. And there's no better way to illustrate this than in Wilde's perfect, magical language which by itself is real art. It's so witty, isn't it? I mean, to say "All art is quite useless" but in the most artistic way possible.

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