Through Adrian Mole, Sue Townsend managed to infuse an evergreen element to her prolific commentary

Perhaps when I am famous and my diary is discovered people will understand the torment of being a 13 and three fourth -year-old undiscovered intellectual

Adrian Mole

At 13 and three quarters I was Adrian Mole too. I kept a journal that delved deeply into the self, page after page of long-winded confessions whose candour was matched by an absolute lack of perspective.

The journal was my true friend, my source of strength, my peace; my absolute saviour in a cruel, cruel world. In it, I blew up small slights and tiny inconveniences to epic proportions deriving a strange satisfaction from wallowing in my self-imposed misery.

I grappled with burgeoning sexuality, thought strange thoughts of the world unravelling around me, constantly felt isolated and misunderstood, obsessed about the inadequacies of the physical self—weight, spots, social awkwardness, myopia et al. And I always knew that when I became a famous writer and my diaries were discovered I would be, like Adrian Mole, THE teenaged intellectual of our times.

I’m not in the minority, I realize. Perhaps, nearly all of us have been him to some degree. Adrian Mole is the average teenager’s kindred spirit. Angst ridden, pseudo-intellectual, opinionated yet inherently reclusive — the voluble sentiments restricted to his head and the pages of his journal are original, convoluted, droll and very relatable.

The creator

Sue Townsend, creator of this remarkable young man, died last week.

Townsend wrote the first of her Adrian Mole series over 30 years ago but she managed to infuse an evergreen element to his prolific commentary that ranges from teenage angst, class consciousness, observations of the British political system and most importantly his enduring love for neighbour Pandora Braithwaite.

True to life

Annelise Manchanda, a Bangalore-based entrepreneur agrees, “I read the books and saw the movies when I was almost the same age as Adrian so he grew up with me. I loved the character of Adrian Mole. The way she created character were so true to life,” she smiles.

“I read the entire series right from the Secret Diaries of Adrian Mole, aged 13 and 3/4th, published in 1982 all the way to the very last novel,” says Moon Mukherjee, who works in the area of worker rights. “The wry, satirical humour is brilliant. It’s essentially a rather tragic story but related in a very funny way.”

Tragedy was no stranger to Sue Townsend. Born in the city of Leicester in 1946, the daughter of a postman, she began writing in secret by the age of 14 and continued doing so through crippling poverty, a broken marriage, motherhood and chronic illness. Painfully shy, it was only after meeting her second husband, Colin Broadway, and allowing him to read what she had written that things begun to happen.

She joined a writers group and began writing plays before the Adrian Mole series catapulted her into fame.

Simple but beautiful

“I liked the first few books the best,” says Moon. “It was the best of her work, I think.”

Annelise agrees, “I haven’t and don’t want to read the later books. I don’t want to see him grow up. I like the slightly whacked up kid and I love the way she’s gotten into the head of a teenage boy.

It’s simple, but beautifully written. I normally clear out my existing stash of books from time to time, giving it away to a second hand book store but I still can’t bring myself to give this away. It still makes me smile.”

“Very few authors did funny the way Sue Townsend did, while not letting it dip into the frivolous,” says Bangalore-based writer and columnist Jane De Suza.

“After chancing upon my first Adrian Mole book, I went back and devoured all, including his latest, Prostrate Years. Sue Townsend’s sleight of hand lies in her darts at the political scene in Britain – the unemployment and social injustice - through the eyes of a desperately serious (and therefore hysterically funny) teen boy. I pined with Adrian for the unattainable Pandora, suffered with him through his parents’ extra-marital frolicking and laughed out loud throughout.”