A series of unfortunate events: The bad beginning, Lemony Snicket

Your initial opinion on just about anything may change over time

Mireia Singleton Escofet

“It is very useful, when one is young, to learn the difference between “literally” and “figuratively.” If something happens literally, it actually happens; if something happens figuratively, it feels like it is happening.”

The beginning of this satirical saga features a trio of recently orphaned children the Baudelaires whose parents have just perished in a fire. The children are to inherit a large fortune as a result and soon enough become the prey of the villainous Count Olaf who claims to be a distant relative of the children and manages to become their adoptive father.

Count Olaf is a master in disguise and fools all the adults who are meant to have the children’s well-being at heart. The children, however, see right through him and work together as a team in order to unmask and expose the Count for what he is a greedy psychopath.

Much of the charm of this read resides in the narrative style Snicket adopts. Snicket challenges the traditional role of the story teller who promises a happy ending to his fable. Snicket is realistic and blunt about the fate and future of the children who although charming and lovable are unable to find someone who will take care of them and basically provide what any child needs: unconditional love and protections from their guardian/parent.

The book is recommendable for students who have a solid A2 level. Some of the vocabulary and expression may be tricky but Snicket is aware that this is a children’s read and every now and then he clarifies terms and idioms within his narration. There is also an extremely visual descriptive role that Snicket undertakes that helps visualise and incorporate new vocabulary for a reader in a foreign language which I personally think makes it an appealing read.

Editions

[eng] The bad beginning (A series of unfortunate events) Egmont 1999/2012 192 pages
[cat] Un mal començament (Històries desafortunades) Columna Edicions 2003 161 pàgines
[fr] Tout commence mal (Orphelins Baudelaire) Nathan 2009 192 pages
[cast] Un mal principio (Una serie de catastróficas desdichas) Montena 2017 192 páginas
[it] Un infausto inizio (Una serie di sfortunati eventi) Salani 2017 140 pagine

Adaptations

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) Trailer

Dear Viewer,
We regretfully present you with the official trailer, a word which here means a collection of the unhappy happenings surrounding the lives of the three Baudelaire orphans and one despicable Count Olaf.
For the sake of your mental well-being and overall enjoyment of your internet browsing experience, we recommend you search “cats playing instruments” immediately and spend the next 2 1/2 minutes watching a tabby in a t-shirt attempt to play a keyboard instead.
With all due respect,
Netflix

Resources

Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler) interview by James Woodroof (2011).

Shadowy author Lemony Snicket will sit in a room filled with technology and be interrogated by TIME For Kids Kid Reporter Andrew Mancini, who will ask all the wrong questions and receive some alarming answers—assuming of course that this mysterious man actually shows up (2014).

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