Why (l J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy The Lord of the Rings; fascinate) so many
readers for so long? Since the Sixties, i.e. soon after the books (2 first;
publish), literary critics (3 seek) the secret of its overwhelming popularity.
Most (4 now; believe) that they (5 find) it in its mixture of imagined and real
languages, myths and legends. Fantasy of this kind (6 still; seem) to appeal to
children and adults alike. For many years Tolkien (7 be) a little-known Oxford
academic, who from the 1940s to the late 50s (8 serve) as professor of
Anglo-Saxon language and literature. Yet, if he (9 still; be) alive today, he
(10 find) the acclaim and popular fame more embarrassing than welcome.
If we (11 consider) his early life, his biography (12 give) us some help
in understanding why as a middle-aged man he (13 write) the books the way he (14
do). Born in South Africa, he (15 grow) up quite a lonely child, and in his
early years he (16 already; begin) to invent an imaginary world for himself, a
world elf-like figures (17 inhabit), which (18 become) even better known
following the immense success of the recent film Version.
A mood of self-re-questioning (l spread) throughout British society over the
last twenty years. People (2 ask) themselves what it (3 mean) to be British. The
self-consciousness (4 not, arise) overnight; since the 1970s the Scots
particularly (5 felt) the need to distinguish themselves from the English. In
Britain's heyday, from 1860 to 1914, it (6 certainly, not, occur) to most people
to question the national identity that (7 instil) in them from infancy. If, for
example, in the 1880s, a Scottish merchant in Dundee who (8 make) handsome
profits from Bengal jute (9 ask) whether he (10 regard) himself as Scottish
rather than British, he (11 probably, reply) that he (12 not, understand) the
meaning of the question. At that time the British (13 complacently, assume) for
generations that everyone throughout the world (14 envy) them. In multicultural
Britain the Situation (15 gradually, change) for thirty years now. People in
Northern Ireland and Scotland were the first who (16 choose) to emphasize their
national, rather than their British identity. Since the early 90s even the
English (17 wake) up to their national identity; nowadays, at international
football and rugby matches the flag of St George (18 hold) aloft especially when
the English teamís opponents are the Scots.
Anthony Sampson, whose "Essential Anatomy of Britain" (l first; appear)
30 years ago, (2 intend) his book to be a vigorous defence of citizens' rights;
this the book in all later editions (3 remain) to this day. In the seventies he
(4 not; call) it the "Anatomy of Britain", anatomy being a medical
term, if he (5 not; regard) himself as a sociological doctor who (6 seek) to
cure his country's ills. Unlike many of his generation, he (7 be) a convinced
supporter of European Unity for many years when he (8 decide) to uncover and
describe the weaknesses of Britain's institutions. If we (9 ask) Mr Sampson
today whether Britain (10 become) a more democratic country, in his definition
of the word "democracy", what answer (11 we; receive)? He (12 probably;
approve) of what Tony Blair (13 try) to do since he (14 elect) in 1997. As Mr
Sampson (15 study) British political life for thirty years now, he (16 not;
expect) radical changes within the next few years. He (17 always; be) too much
of a realist to cherish such illusions about as traditional a country as Britain.
But the fact is that over the past thirty years the United Kingdom (18 gradually;
adjust) to a future role within Europe.
The University of Verona surely rues the day it (l ever, set) eyes on David
Petrie. Almost since he (2 first, go) to the university as a freelance English
language lecturer, Petrie (3 be) at odds with the authorities over the way they
treat foreign academics. He has taken them to the highest court in Europe -and
(4 soon, go back) there again - and currently has the small matter of 44 legal
actions outstanding against them. The cases (5 go) on for a decade and (6
probably, continue) for many years yet.
Petrie's an isolated case. His Committee for the Defence of Foreign Lecturers
has more than 400 members across Italy - more than a third of the foreign
academics working in Italian universities. And, as Italian dons themselves (7
scarcely, recognize) yet that there may be a problem with local employment
practices, they (8 be) in for a nasty surprise. Next month Petrie (9 head) for
the United States, where he aims to garner support for a boycott of Italians
taking up agreeable postings in the US until the dispute (10 resolve).
"One official with the Italian government (11 once, ask) me how old
I (12 be)," said Petrie. -"43." - "Well," she replied,
"I know my State. It's got rubber walls. You (13 be) an old man before you
"I am acutely aware that this (15 become) my mission: being a
lobbyist," says Petrie. "I doubt very much if I (16 see) the inside of
a classroom again. But if the university (17 not, pay) me less than my Italian
colleagues in the first place, 1(18 still, teach) at this university."