…it would definitely be Charles Dicken’s 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities, particularly the opening line (re very long sentence) as it creates awareness and explores the societal conditions that lead to collapse, havoc and people fighting against forces bigger than themselves. He writes:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
In no attempt to recap the past year’s events, it was evidently a turbulent time that forced us to adapt to the sudden changes leaving us with no chance to step back and take it all in. Dickens was aware that we all tend to claim that our current epoch is riddled with duality, the most difficult, the most uncertain, the most unprecedented. However, his novel points out that the Victorians nor we are the first to think that way.
The phrase “the period was so far like the present period” maintains this mindset very well in that every new generation thinks their struggles are uniquely tricky. 2020 is a good example. It is an unprecedented time, and we even acknowledge the fact that there have long been pandemics and political turmoil and there will still be after us, however, to read about them is very different as to living through them, it is unsettling and overwhelming leading us to proclaim “it was the worst of times”.
Let us know in the comments below which book you’d choose!