"Tarzan of the Apes" by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1912)

Just when I felt that my daily life became unbearable routine, a strange health scare shook me up a bit and during my several days of recovery the only literature I could think of as comforting was something easy - I browsed my e-book library in search of some familiar title from children's books and decided to find a escape in "Tarzan". Which turned out a brilliant, great escapism.

Edgar Rice Burroughs - who by the way, was born on the same day as me - was struggling writer who tried his luck in pulp fiction of the time and struck the gold with this story. For some reason, it really found enormous audience around the world because it was so exciting - not entirely original, mind you, because "The Jungle Book" touched very much similar subject some two decades earlier - and everybody loved adventures of a noble savage who was such a superman, strong, muscled, agile, handsome and good-hearted at the same time. It was a excellent choice for me, because I got completely lost in the book and forgot about my health troubles but it was also interesting because now I was reading it from a different perspective of middle-aged person familiar with the story. This time naturally, I noticed nuances that were beyond me previously - Burroughs might have been pulp fiction writer but he consciously used very elegant, classy style (therefore he was actually very much above the rest of competition), some of his sentences and ideas are a bit rusty and creaky now (inheritance of class for one, Tarzan is noble and wonderful because he has aristocratic blood in his veins), there is a certain xenophobia between the lines and native Africans are without exception all savage cannibals. None of this in any way spoiled the pleasure and excitement in reading a thrilling story, because it is truly very enjoyable romp, but this time I was aware of it, while as a kid I couldn't tell these things.

Interesting thing is how our perception of Tarzan had changed with time, apparently he (or this particular story, because there is a whole saga later) became such a well-known public persona that later translations (movie, radio, comics and such) very much erased parts of original story and focused on the frame: baby boy raised by ape mother, later Jane and fights with wild animals. Author's original musings about aristocratic blood making his hero so noble, racial issues and all between-the-lines, now suspiciously old fashioned statements were slowly corrected and whitewashed. If you know Tarzan only from the Disney reincarnation, original novel comes as a great surprise. I enjoyed it very, very much and even went on with a sequel that I'm reading right now at the moment, but apparently this is the most popular part of the story.

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