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Thursday 5 January 2012

Twelfth Night - Noche de Reyes!

Everyone is back at work in Britain, tinsel and Christmas trees tidied away, but in Spain, this is ‘Noche de Reyes’ the time for present giving, and the official end of Christmas. This year for the first time, my little grandson who lives in Spain was aware and excited about Santa coming (Santa duly did) and tonight eagerly awaits the Three Kings – los Reyes Magos.

Twelfth Night is of course the title of a Shakespeare play, so called because Shakespeare was commissioned to write a play for the celebration of the Epiphany – the twelfth and last day of Christmas. The play itself has nothing to do with Christmas or the Three Kings, but it has been one of my favourites for a very long time – deliciously funny and witty, and who could not be in love with Viola, the strong young heroine who (as do a number of Shakespeare’s heroines) dons men’s clothing to survive and speaks wonderful lines? When I was about 12 I had a Twelfth night party in which everyone had to assume the name of one of the characters of the play. It ended with us dismantling the Christmas tree. As a tradition, I have to say, it didn’t catch on.

This Christmas, record numbers of E-readers have found their way into people’s stockings. It was only to be expected, therefore, that downloads of ebooks would soar. According to some sources millions of ebooks have been purchased in the UK alone since Christmas. I will put to one side for the moment the Daily Mail’s characteristically measured report of the seemingly unstoppable rise in piracy, echoing what has happened in the music and film industry. One of the things that has struck me is the number of people who have been downloading classics (many of them free) and have announced that they are going to include them in their reading along with their habitual literary diet. For some, this is about trying something they have never read before; for others, revisiting well-loved books.

So, on ‘Noche de Reyes’, if you want a free ebook for your fine new e-reader, resist the temptation to download a pirated version. Instead, be adventurous. Find something surprising, that is new for you, unlike anything you normally read, among the classics legitimately available for free download. Or download an old favourite, to carry with you and dip into wherever you are.

I, of course, have downloaded Twelfth Night.

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