Como le dije a Javi Martín Real en una entrevista que me hizo no hace mucho y que publicó en su espléndido blog (javiervallestero.blogspot.com), me encanta leer y releer las novelas de Agatha Christie y siempre se las he recomendado a mis alumnos, no solo por el interés que tiene tratar de descubrir al asesino por las pistas que la autora va dejando caer a lo largo del relato, aunque a veces resulten engañosas, sino porque cada página de cualquier novela de Agatha Christie está llena de modismos y expresiones coloquiales que no han perdido actualidad y que les ayudan por tanto a mejorar su inglés. Si queréis saber algo más sobre su vida y su obra, aquí tenéis hoy una charla que di en la EOI de Málaga en diciembre de 2011:
AGATHA CHRISTIE: HER LIFE AND HER WORK
1.- Introduction: some facts and figures that make Agatha Christie great
First of all, I must thank you the Official School of Languages for having invited me to talk about Agatha Christie. I’m far from being an expert in literature and so I can really hold no claims for this honour, if we except the fact that I am and have always been a fan of Agatha Christie’s and have read and re-read all her books with pleasure.
Well, I’ll begin my talk by giving you some facts and figures about Agatha Christie that make her great:
- she wrote 94 books, including six romantic novels under the pseudonym of Mary Westmacott
- her novels have been translated into 103 languages
- The Mousetrap, her most famous play, has been running in
since 1952 to the present day London
- more than one thousand million copies of her books in English and another one thousand million in other languages have been sold
- in a normal year 5 million A. Christie paperbacks are sold in the
2.- Agatha Christie’s life
some important dates in Agatha Christie’s life
15th September 1890 – Born at Torquay,
Devon, in Ashfield, her parents’
home. Her parents were Frederick Alvah Miller, an American businessman from and Clarissa
Margaret Boehmer, called Clara by the family. She had one sister (Marjorie) and
an elder brother (Louis) who she called Monty, both older than her. Agatha
adored them both, especially Monty, although he used to tease her quite a lot.
But Agatha’s childhood was a very happy one. In the first chapter of her Autobiography,
which she began writing in April 1950 and finished 15 years later, in 1965,
when she was 75 years old, she says: “One of the happiest things that can
happen to you in life is to have a happy childhood. I had a very happy
childhood. I had a home and a garden that I loved; a wise and patient Nanny;
and as father and mother two people who loved each other dearly and made a
success of their marriage and of parenthood.” Like the Victorian woman she was
her mother gave Agatha a very good education, though she didn’t go to school
for long. But she was taught at home and she was very good at Arithmetic,
French (at speaking it, not at spelling), music, singing, etc. When she was 15
she was sent to New York
to a fashionable finishing school for young girls to complete her education. Paris
1914 – Marries Archibald Christie – Lieutenant-colonel from the Royal Flying Corps. She fell in love with this handsome soldier, though as she later admitted that marriage was a mistake because they had nothing in common. But she didn’t have much experience with men. It’s true that she had flirted with many young men both in
England and in
where she had been with her mother after her father’s death, but she had had no
serious engagements. As a child she was very naive, and when she was 11 or
twelve years old she believed what her sister Madge told her about how women
had children: children came through the navel. The mother had a key to her
daughter’s navel and when she got
married the mother gave the key to the husband. Anyway, she married Archie;
this marriage lasted 14 years and she had a daughter, Rosalind, by him. Cairo
1920 – her first novel gets published by The Bodley Head (they published her first 6 novels, then her literary agent took her novels to Collins). The novel had previously been refused by several publishers and it took a year for it to be accepted.
1926 – On Dec. the 3rd, the Queen of Crime or the Duchess of Death as she preferred to be called, mysteriously disappears for 11 days. Her car, a green Morris, is found by a gypsy abandoned in a quarry. She was finally found at a hotel in Harrogate, Yorkshire, a fashionable resort near
Leeds, where she had
checked in with the name of her husband’s mistress, Mrs. Nancy Neele. Nowadays
people would think it was a publicity stunt, but apparently Agatha suffered
from amnesia. The mystery has never been solved. It’s been suggested that she
wanted to teach her husband a lesson for his infidelity, but Agatha never
mentioned this, not even in her autobiography, published by Collins one year
after her death, so nobody knows the reason for her disappearence.
1928 – she divorces her first husband.
1930 – she marries Sir Max Mallowan, the famous archeologist, who was 14 years younger than her. Curiously, when they got married she gave her age as 37, three years less than she was and he, as 31, 5 years older than he really was. It was a very happy marriage. She’s reputed to have once said: “Marry an archeologist. The older you get, the more charming he will find you.” They loved and respected each other very much. She accompanied her husband in his archeological diggings in the Middle East (
and help him classify the items that were found. Nimrud
They were devoted to each other all their lives and they were together until Agatha’s death in January 1976. Sir Max Mallowan died two years later.
Nov. 25th 1952 – The Mousetrap’s first night at the Ambassadors Theatre in
It had been previously presented in London Nottingham
on the 6th of October, where it had been a resounding success. The
Mousetrap was later (1974) transferred to the larger St. Martin´s Theatre
where it is still running. It holds the record for the play with the longest
run in the history of the theatre and it has become a must for visitors to . It was written by
Agatha in 1947 as a thirty-minute radio play with the title Three Blind Mice
to commemorate Queen Mary’s 80th birthday. When the BBC asked her what
she’d want to celebrate the event Queen Mary said she would like a play by
Agatha Christie. Agatha gave the rights to the play to Matthew Prichard, her
only grandson, who has become a millionaire thanks to this. London
Oct. 28th 1953 – Witness for the Prosecution’s first night in
It was also highly successful and later it was filmed several times. London
1971 – she’s granted the title Dame of the
British Empire by Queen Elizabeth. She said that it had
been one of the happiest moments in her life.
Jan. 12th 1976 – she dies in Cholsey, near Wellingford, Oxfordshire, where she’s buried at St Mary’s, the parish church.
let’s check how good your memory is: what important events in agatha’s life happened on the following dates:
1971 – made a Dame of the
British Empire by Queen Elizabeth.
1914 – she married Lieutenant-Colonel Archibald Christie
1930 – She married the famous archeologist Sir Max Mallowan, 14 years younger than her
1952 – Her most famous play, The Mousetrap, is produced in
where it’s still running. London
1926 – she disappears mysteriously for 11 days.
1976 – She dies in Cholsey, near Wellingford, Oxfordshire.
3.- Agatha Christie’s work
order the following novels by date of publication
Murder at the Vicarage
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
They Came to
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
They Came to
Elephants Can Remember
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Murder on the Orient Express
The Mysterious Affair at Styles – 1920 (her sister Marjorie told her once: “I’ll bet you can’t write a mystery to which I can’t guess the ending”. Agatha replied: “Wait and see. I have an idea going around in my head about medicine.” And in three weeks she had finished her first novel. Agatha had worked as a volunteer in the dispensary of a
hospital during the 1st
World War, and there she had learnt quite a lot about poisons). London
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – 1926 (she was accused of playing a trick on her readers)
Murder at the Vicarage - 1930 (where Miss Jane Marple first appears)
Murder on the Orient Express – 1934 (filmed several times)
They Came to
– 1951 (also filmed) Baghdad
Elephants Can Remember – 1972 (one of her last novels)
the most famous characters she created
Hercule Poirot – the Belgian detective (first appears at The Mysterious Affair at Styles, her first novel, 1920). Agatha describes him as follows: “ An extraordinary-looking little man. He was precisely five feet four inches tall; he carried himself with great dignity; his head was exactly the shape of an egg and he always had it perched a little to one side. And above all there was his moustache, very stiff and military and his pride and joy... he always wore striped trousers, correct black jacket, bow tie, and patent leather shoes, and a muffler if the weather was less than hot.” (Agatha ‘killed’ him in Curtain – 1975)
Miss Jane Marple, the spinster, living in the small
(modelled on her great-aunt
and her grandmother), first appeared in Murder at the Vicarage (1930).
Agatha imagines her as follows: “a tall, slender, fragile, pink-and-white lady
with silver curling hair and an expression of the utmost gentleness in her
china-blue eyes.” (she appears for the last time in Agatha’s posthumous novel Sleeping
Murder – 1976 – she doesn’t ‘kill’ Miss Marple, maybe because in a way she
identified herself with this old lady). village of St.Mary Mead
her favourite novels
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - 1926
Moving Finger - 1942
Crooked House - 1949
The Pale Horse - 1961
Endless Night - 1967
4.- the language in Agatha Christie’s novels
colourful language: no lengthy descriptions, plenty of dialogues and idioms
Match the numbers with the letters
1.- to talk turkey
2.- to talk nineteen to the dozen
3.- to take a month of Sundays
4.- to send sb. off with a flea in their ear
5.- to put the wind up sb.
6.- He didn’t cut any ice with Helen
7.- To stick out one’s neck
a.- tardar un verano
b.- jugarse el tipo
c.- meter las cabras en el corral a alguien
d.- hablar con franqueza
e.- no hacía buenas migas con Helen
f.- echar a alguien con viento fresco
g.- hablar por los codos
KEY: 1-d; 2-g; 3-a; 4-f; 5-c; 6-e; 7-b
the grammar of some of her uneducated characters (maids, gardeners, etc.)
- I says, instead of I say
- he was took, instead of he was taken
- there’s a man wants to see you, for there’s a man who/that wants to see you
- hoping as you will forgive me for troubling you – for hoping that...
- you mean Jackie Afflick as was in Fane & Watchman’s office - ...who was...
- I did hear as you and your husband was some kind of relations – for I did hear that you and your husband were some kind of relations
- the lady said as how you could do with a little extra help of a Wednesday – the lady said that you could do with a little extra help on Wednesdays
- smoke me pipe in peace for smoke my pipe in peace
- she didn’t have no luck for she didn’t have any luck
- some people ain’t got no eye for geraniums no more for some people have no eye for geraniums any more
novel titles based on well-known nursery rhymes (verses read to children in bed before they go to sleep)
Match the numbers with the letters:
1.- Three blind mice, see how they run?
They all ran after the farmer´s wife,
who cut off their tails with a carving knife...
2.- Mrs McGinty’s dead. How did she die?
Sticking her neck out just like I...
3.- The clock struck one.
The mouse ran down
4.- One, two,
Buckle my shoe;
Knock at the door;
Pick up sticks;
Lay them straight;
A big fat hen...
5.- Ten little nigger boys went out to dine.
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little nigger boys sat up very late.
One overslept himself and then there were eight...
And then there were none.
6.- This little pig went to market;
This little pig stayed at home;
This little pig had roast beef;
This little pig had none;
And this little pig cried, wee-wee-wee-wee-wee,
I can’t find my way home.
a.- One, Two, Buckle my Shoe.
b.- Five Little Pigs.
c.- Ten Little Niggers (later And Then There None)
d.- Three Blind Mice (later the Mousetrap)
Dickory, Dock. Hickory
f.- Mrs. McGinty’s Dead.
1-d; 2-f; 3-e; 4-a; 5-c; 6-b
Well, that’s all. I hope you enjoyed my talk and are willing to say with me: “Thank you so much Agatha for the hours of fun that you have given us.” And I thank you for your kind attention.
Christie, Agatha, 1977, An Autobiography,
Robyns, Gwen, 1976, The Mystery of Agatha Christie,
Doubleday. New York
Opie, Iona and Peter (eds.), 1973, The
Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, Oxford:
Press. Oxford University
After A. Christie’s father’s death when she was 11 years old the family had some financial difficulties.
A. Christie’s idea of complete happiness was to have a houseful of servants.
In the 2nd World War, Greenway, A. Christie’s mansion in
Devon was taken over by
Hubert, her daughter’s Rosalind’s husband was killed in action in the war.
Charles Laughton played the judge’s role in Witness for the Prosecution (film).
20 months after A. Christie’s death, Sir Max Mallowan married a mutual friend of theirs, Barbara, also an archeologist. Agatha had always told her husband that if she were to die before him she would like him to remarry. This marriage lasted only a few months.