In the absence of anything better to do (Friday night boredom…), I thought I might as well update y’all on my reading habits.
1) Robert Graves – The Greek Myths: The Definitive Edition
This book was new and revolutionary in the ’60s, which (I think) just goes to show how slowly things actually change in the classics world… This edition was reissued in 2011. Considering Graves admits to taking hallucinogenic mushrooms in the intro, it’s definitely a book ‘of its time’. Not to say that people don’t do that any more, but I guess back then it was a way of being outrageous while also being a male, white, classicist (or, as he likes to call himself, mythographer). I guess you could give Graves that title – he seems to have gathered as many fragments of similar myths he could find and mas
hed them together. Admittedly, some of his sources (and lack of citation) are a bit shady, but it’s an interesting read, especially if, like me, you thought myths were just stories people made up to explain the formation of the universe (a sort of ‘Brief History of Time’ without the complicated science). Through comparing historical accounts, myths, and actual anthropological/archaeological finds, Graves makes a huge endeavour to attach meaning to and demystify every single thing about Greek mythology. It’s a great effort, but reading into everything through the historical filter kind of kills the appeal. Still, it’s nice to know why there was so much violence and male promiscuity (while the goddesses generally aren’t sexually promiscuous).
Basically, don’t read it if you’re worried about spoilers. Sometimes stories are better as just stories.
2) Jean-Luc Nancy – L’intrus
Back in the early 2000s (if I’m not mistaken), French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy underwent a heart transplant. In L’intrus (literally translated, that means ‘the intruder’), he explores his condition (heart failure) and the way medicine deals with it. He doesn’t go into excruciating detail about medical procedures, but actually talks about the self, and where the definition of ‘I’ lies when any part of you is transplanted. Also, he considers the effects of technology on humans – not in a 1984 way, but rather in terms of what it means if people can be granted extra years (or better years?)… Strangely reminiscent of Frankenstein.
According to him, a heart that no longer functions properly as a heart has betrayed its purpose and thus becomes an intruder. For obvious reasons, I can sympathise – and find that a lot of thoughts he’s written down are things I’ve contemplated also (such as the way doctors kind of play God by deciding who gets a transplant and when, and what happens to ‘me’ and my identity after a transplant). I’m actually really hoping – nay, aspiring – to translate this slim volume into English or Greek because it’s worth reading.
3) Aristophanes – Peace (Ειρήνη)
In 421 BCE, Athens and Sparta decided to stop fighting each other and sign the Peace of Nicias (also known as the Fifty years peace, although it only actually lasted six). Ten days prior to the validation of the peace treaty, Aristophanes presents his play Peace. It’s hilarious – featuring his quick wit and sharp critique on the corrupted society he lived in (of course, he didn’t know how little people would actually change!). Not as much satire of his contemporaries, but it was his chance to revel in the celebration for peace. While it still contains some of his vitriolic humour, it’s also greatly scatological. Literally. The entire prologue is built around the feeding habits of a huge, greedy dung beetle that is to take our hero Trygaios to Olympus. Of course, it wouldn’t be Aristophanes without the dirty jokes.
Admittedly, I think I enjoyed Wasps more, not quite sure why… Meanwhile, this play has made me hungry for figs with honey (yes, I’ve been craving them for the entire week!).
What are you reading?