For the last few weeks I have been very aware that I need to get on with my Alexander reading. To that end, and after writing last week’s post, I decided to start reading Pindar’s Odes (tr. Anthony Verity Oxford World’s Classics 2007), The Iliad (tr. Richmond Lattimore University of Chicago Press 1951) and get on with Ulrich Wilcken’s biography Alexander the Great, which I first opened a few weeks ago. Because I am not principally reading them for pleasure, these books will now take the priority in my reading schedule.
Having said that, last Saturday I also started reading Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. This long poem is set in the Dark Ages (so-called) but is all about chivalrous knights and Courtly Love – ideas that came into being in the mediaeval period. I am reading David R. Slavitt’s translation, and – nothwithstanding the fact that he throws in obscure words that I will never know the meaning of (syzygy? inamorato?) – his is indeed a very ‘lively’ translation, as the back page blurb says.
The Alexander Books
The reason I am reading the Odes, Iliad and Wilcken is this: Alexander was a big fan of Pindar. So much so that when, in 335 B.C., he razed the poet’s city of Thebes to the ground, he permitted Pindar’s home to be let alone out of respect for his memory.
My choice of the Iliad was very easy: Alexander loved the book so much (he compared himself to Achilles) that he slept with a copy of it under his bed.
Wilcken wrote his biography of Alexander in 1931. Although it is regarded as ‘one of the great biographies of Alexander’ (again, according to the back page blurb), I have to admit I am reading it because a friend lent me the book. Having said that, I was about to give it back to him a while ago when I started reading it on the way to his house. I enjoyed what I read so much that I borrowed it again from him!
The Ariadne Objective
The book is just over 280 pages long, but Davis’ account of Kreipe’s kidnap only begins in the 230s – that makes it half the length of Leigh Fermor’s own account in Abducting a General.
The other 230 or so pages are comprised of the build up to the operation and were a fascinating read. By the time I finished the book, I not only had renewed my appreciation for what a brave and bold (even if not strictly necessary) mission Leigh Fermor, Moss et al had pulled off but conceived a desire to find out more about people like John Pendlebury, archaeologist turned war hero, and Sophia Tarnowska, the Polish nobleman who was forced out of her country and from state to state until finally ending up in Egypt where she decided she would run no more.
The Colour of Magic
A really fun read. This book is definitely in first place for the 2015 Most Unexpected Pleasure award. I prefer high fantasy. The Colour of Magic is as silly as they came, but wonderfully, exuberantly so. I’ll miss it.
On Going Books
The Lord of the Rings
J. R. R. Tolkien
The company are currently hurrying through the Mines of Moria. That means the pesky balrog lies around the corner, waiting to unfurl his wings – if indeed, he has any. Is that still a matter of Deep Controversy on the web?
The Nearer East
I can’t remember if I said it before but I am reading a copy of the book from Archive.Org. My library didn’t have this book so I can’t tell you how grateful I am to Archive and whoever uploaded it.
The best thing about the Archive website is that you can download the book you are reading so that you can do so without an internet connection. Having done that for The Nearer East, and forgotten that I could do so, I rediscovered this fact again this week and immediately downloaded (as a PF) Accidents of an Antiquary’s Life for when I have to take my copy back to the library! We are so lucky to have these websites.
Something else I discovered this week was that there is a Hogarth archive at St Anthony’s College in Oxford. A list of its contents can be found online here. It appears to be accessible to members of the public! *plots trip to Oxford*