The Lady Who Killed More People than You Could Imagine

125 éve született a krimikirálynő, Agatha Christie! 

Agatha Christie – The Lady Who Killed More People than You Could Imagine

She wrote 80 detective novels, six romances (under a pseudonym), 13 plays, and 154 short stories. All of her books are still in print, selling around 500,000 copies a year, and she’s the eighth most borrowed author from British libraries. With more than 2 billion of her books around the world, she is one of the most published authors in history outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible. She holds three Guinness World Records, a wax figure commemorates her at Madame Tussaud’s, has a rose named after her, and every year England celebrates her birthday with a special Agatha Christie Week in September. Agatha Christie, The Queen of Crime or The Queen of Mystery was born 125 years ago.

Her life is as interesting as her writing career. She was born Agatha May Clarissa Miller in Devon, England in 1890, the youngest of three children in a conservative, well-to-do family. As a child she never attended school. She was home-schooled and started creating games to keep herself occupied at a very young age.

At the age of 24, she married Archie Christie, a World War I fighter pilot. That’s where her name comes from. During the war, she worked as a nurse. She came up with the idea of writing a detective novel while working in a hospital. The ”Mysterious Affair at Styles” gave the world Hercule Poirot, a retired Belgian police officer, a meticulous, tidy always neat and orderly little man with a waxed moustache.

Christie wrote more than 30 novels featuring Poirot. Among the most popular were “Murder on the Orient Express” (1934), and “Death on the Nile” (1937).

In 1926, her husband asked for a divorce because he had fallen in love with another woman.  What happened after that could have been an exciting scene from an Agatha Christie novel. On December 3, 1926, Agatha kissed her daughter goodnight, then promptly got in her car and left. Her abandoned vehicle was found a few miles away, but the writer herself had completely vanished. Lakes were dredged, 15,000 volunteers combed the area. All of England was involved in the case of the famous missing writer. She was found three weeks later in a small hotel registered under the name of her husband’s mistress explaining to police that she had lost her memory. Whether it was true or not nobody knew.

In 1930 she got married to Max Mallowan, a young archaeologist who she met on a trip to Mesopotamia. Her second marriage was a happy one. Christie loved to accompany her husband on digs and serve as his assistant, cleaning objects, matching shards of pottery, and helping to catalogue items. She once remarked to Mallowan that she wished she had taken up archaeology as a girl so she would have been more knowledgeable on the subject as an adult.

Another of Christie’s most well-known and beloved characters was introduced in “Murder at the Vicarage in 1930. Miss Jane Marple, an elderly spinster, solved all kinds of mysteries with intense concentration and intuition. Miss Marple lived her entire life in the fictional village of St. Mary’s Mead, a prototypical English village whose chief occupation was gossip. She never had any formal training as a detective and relied primarily on her keen intelligence, powers of observation, and knowledge of the human nature. She never married and was a sweet, frail-looking sort of person from a by-gone era. She did typical maiden auntie things, like knitting. The character was based, in part, on Agatha Christie’s step-grandmother and “some of my step-grandmother’s Ealing cronies – old ladies whom I have met in so many villages where I have gone to stay as a girl” – as she herself stated.

In ”They Do It With Mirrors”, one character accurately summed up Miss Marple’s ability to get to the bottom of some rather grisly crimes: “Because you’ve got a nose for that sort of thing. You always had. You’ve always been a sweet innocent looking creature, Jane, and all the time underneath nothing has ever surprised you, you always believe the worst.”

One of Agatha Christie’s Guinness World Records is connected to Miss Marple and her adventures. The Complete Miss Marple is the thickest book of the world. The massive volume is a collection of 12 novels and 20 short stories. It is 4032 page long, its spine is 322 mm and it weighs 8.02 kilograms. It is bound inmaroon leather with gilt writing on the cover. Reading at a pace of 30 pages an hour, it would take around 134 hours to finish the book. As for more numbers about the book: Miss Marple solves 43 murders: 12 poisonings, six strangulations, two drownings, two stabbings, two people pushed to their deaths, one rather grisly burning, one blow to the head, and one arrow through the heart. In all, 68 crimes are committed, including the murders. There are 11 philandering spouses, 21 romances, 22 false accusations, and a whopping 59 red herrings.  And, as solid evidence of either Miss Marple’s ability to keep a cool head in all this or the English obsession with tea, characters drink 143 cups of tea.  

One of the other two Guinness Records is for best-selling author, and another for her play, The Mousetrap, which is the world’s longest running play celebrating its 63rd year with over 25,000 performances. It opened in 1952 at the Ambassador Theatre and holds the record for the longest unbroken run in a London theatre.

Agatha Christie was a very productive writer. When asked about how she was able to create so many books, she once called herself “a sausage machine, a perfect sausage machine.” For many years she was on a tight schedule of two books per year, including one that was always released right before the holiday season, which was marketed as “Christie for Christmas.”

“People often ask me what made me take up writing … I found myself making up stories and acting the different parts. There’s nothing like boredom to make you write. So by the time I was 16 or 17, I’d written quite a number of short stories and one long, dreary novel. By the time I was 21, I finished the first book of mine ever to be published.” – she said.

As for the plots she liked to dream up ideas for them while soaking in her large Victorian bath, munching on apples. She even had a ledge installed over the tub to hold paper, pencils, and apples.  She stopped the habit when she became dissatisfied with the baths available to her. “Nowadays they don’t build baths like that. I’ve rather given up the practice.”

She liked doing extraordinary things. She and her first husband Archie were some of the first British people to ever try surfing. They first met surfing in Hawaii in 1922. “I learned to become expert, or at any rate expert from the European point of view – the moment of complete triumph on the day that I kept my balance and came right into shore standing upright on my board!” she wrote about surfing in her autobiography.

Agatha Christie spent most of her life in Devon, England. Her holiday home – called Greenways – inspired several of her novels. She was a keen gardener winning numerous blue ribbons in contests for her beautiful flower garden.

In 1971 Christie was made a dame. She died on January 12, 1976.

Several of her works were made into successful feature films, the most notable being ”Murder on the Orient Express” (1974) and ”Death on the Nile” (1978). Her work has been translated into more than a hundred languages. In short, she is the single most popular mystery writer of all time.

Vocabulary

romance

szerelmes regény

pseudonym

álnév

in print,

nyomtatásban

to outsell

nagyobb számban eladni

wax figure

viaszfigura

to commemorate

emléket állítani valakinek

well-to-do

gazdag, tehetős

to keep herself occupied

hogy elfoglalja magát

retired

nyugalmazott

meticulous

aprólékos, pedáns

promptly

azonnal, késlekedés nélkül

abandoned

elhagyatott

to vanish

eltűnni

to dredge

kotorni, átkutatni

to comb

átfésülni

mistress

szerető

archaeologist

régész

dig

ásatás

shard

cserépdarab, szilánk

pottery

agyag/cserépedény

knowledgeable

jól informált

vicarage

paplak, parókia

intuition

beleérzés, intuíció

fictional

elképzelt, képzeletbeli

chief occupation

fő elfoglaltság

gossip

pletyka

keen

éles

observation

megfigyelés

frail-looking

törékeny

by-gone era

letűnt kor

maiden auntie

vénkisasszony

knitting

kötés

crony

öreg hölgy, barát

grisly

hátborzongató, szörnyű

innocent looking

ártatlan kinézetű

spine

gerinc

to be bound

be van kötve

maroon

vöröses barna

leather

bőr

gilt writing

aranyozott írás

murder

gyilkosság

poisoning

megmérgezés

strangulation

megfojtás

drowning

vízbe fulladás

stabbing

megkéselés

arrow

nyíl

philandering

félrelépő, flörtölő

spouse

házastárs

false accusation

hamis vádaskodás

whopping

óriási

obsession with

megszállottság

to release

kiadni

boredom

unalom

dreary

siralmas, sivár

plot

cselekmény

to munch

majszolni

ledge

polc, párkány

to be made a dame

a “Dame” címmel kitüntetni, ami a lovaggá ütés női változata

feature film

játékfilm

in short

röviden

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