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Thread: Literature Ramble

  1. #76
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    Before responding to anyone's posts I want to say that I was unable to access LitNet for many hours today. I have been getting intermittent but frequent "host error" messages over the last few weeks, but this morning I could not even get the home screen. If this continues, I may be unable to post for--I don't know how long. If that happens, please understand that I haven't just left the site for another six to eight months (as I do occasionally) but that am doing what I can access it. I hope no one else has to go through this!
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 12-20-2017 at 10:01 AM.
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  2. #77
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whifflingpin View Post
    Quite the best conversation on Litnet for a long time. It's a pleasure just to sit, nodding, in the corner, listening and agreeing with all you guys. All too clever for me to join in, but it is most enjoyable.
    I appreciate your encouragement, Whifflingpin. The truth is that I would probably have a hard time keeping up with your knowledge of literature, philosophy, and theology, but please join in whenever you like. This is meant to be a thread to learn from one another, and I know I speak for all of us when I say that you would be seen as a valued teacher. It's nice to know you are out there in any case.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  3. #78
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Yeah, one of my younger sisters is a Historian and in her master degree work she had to analyse a lot of documents from trials and such and she was pretty adamant of how the Inquisition fame was exagerated (something like there was never a trial in Brazil, there is one court in Portugal, almost not capital punishement, the most usual punishements would be Monty Python style - like walking in the city carrying some ridiculous symbol of scorn).
    Your sister is right. As appalling an idea as religious inquisition is, and as murderous as the Spanish Inquisition and a some of the other inquisitions were, most of them don't deserve their bloodthirsty reputations. The Medieval inquisitors were Franciscan and Dominican Friars who were usually at odds to get the suspect to confess and be forgiven without further incident. Sometimes it didn't work out that way, but things didn't get truly nasty until early modern times when religion was otherwise becoming a source of violent confrontation across Europe. Spain, of course, had its own issues and timeline because of the romantic violence of the Reconquista and the "enemy within" perception after the forced conversions. And the Spanish Inquisition did turn out to be a pretty grisly affair.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    But of course you are a big I, Claudius fan. I bet you have loved the chapter where Claudius was caught in the mid of two historians discussing what is history. I bet you loved poor Titus defead
    That scene is a good example of why Graves works as a novelist. The historians were Titus Livy and Asinius Pollio. As you seem to remember, Graves gets them into a heated discussion on whether history ought to reflect events realistically or poetically, and no doubt Graves saw them as exemplifying the dichotomy in their own (historical) lives. But Pollio's once-famous history is now lost, so we don't really know how he wrote. Graves has him take the realist side largely on the basis of a critical comment he made about Julius Caesar's rather obvious self-glorification in The Gallic Wars (which was decidedly middle brow lit for the times). And while it is true that Livy's Ab Urbe Condita draws heavily on myth, he didn't really have a choice considering his limited sources. While he wasn't the skeptical historian that Tacitus was (or at least aspired to be), it's hardly Livy's fault that his Latin was beautiful.

    But Graves as a novelist is able to spin this inaccurate historical point into a memorable scene and a perfectly valid discussion of historiography (even if it doesn't really have much to do with Livy and Pollio). If he'd written a novel about Thomas of Erceldoune joining a witch cult, it would probably have been pretty good--even if he was crazy enough to believe it. I suppose the problem with Graves is that he really doesn't understand what fiction is. He wants his novels to be "real," and they are. They're just fictional real. You'd think a poet would get that.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I suppose the only use the witch histeria in america had was to create the circunstance for Hawthorne puritanism.
    The witch trials had the good effect of producing a strong legal backlash in which what would become American jurisprudence came to value skepticism and consider the rights of the accused. In fact (contrary to Hawthorne) Puritan Massachusetts had always been a fairly rational (if litigious) society. The Puritans considered Catholics superstitious and prided themselves on their legal processes. There had always been a small number of witchcraft accusations--usually directed at socially obnoxious characters--but juries typically tossed them right out. Some of those accused countersued and won--collecting rich settlements but forfeiting even more popularity. It's hard to be socially obnoxious.

    What changed in 1692/3 was that a cadre of teenage and younger girls began accusing adults willy-nilly. They started with the socially vulnerable but soon moved to the previously untouchable. A kind of panic set in--some fearing witches but most just fearing the girls. There are a number of theories about why the girls were doing this, but the bottom line is that they got away with it until they started accused members of powerful Boston families and high magistrates--then the party was suddenly over. Skeptics emerged, cases were thrown out, jails were emptied, and my uncle came home. Eventually one of the girls confessed that it had all been a lark.

    This, obviously, was Arthur Miller's allegory for the Red Scare by in The Crucible. I think that's a better fit than the more Hawthorne-esque scenario of an irrational, theocratic society, inherently blind to the injustices it was perpetuating. The really scary thing about the witchcraft hysteria and the Red Scare (and the Nazi movement for that matter) is that each arose quickly within a generally rational society.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Anyways, people compare Dostoievisky with Shakespeare a bit too (sometimes with good motives, sometimes not), but if I would give him some shakespearean nod is with Ivan. He is one of the most hameletian characters we can find around, and not exactly because he has a problem with his father.
    Oh, Smerdyakov is the Shakespearian bro. He's like a dumber version of Richard III (or maybe Edmund he bastar d from King Lear). In a way, Ivan is like his Iago--or his anti-Iago since *SPOILER* he spurs him to murder accidentally and with cold reason rather than ardent passion. Fyodor Karamazov also seems like one of Shakespeare's bad kings. If Shakespeare had written The Brothers Karamazov, it would have been called King Fyodor, but the tragic hero would have been Smerdyakov. Plenty of fatal flaws to pick from there!

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Now, the 1001 nights was gone, but I will bring something similar, as I recalled your passion for History. I just finished a book (a translation from a XII century work from Iraq), which name in english would be translated as Book of the lion and the diver (Kitab al-asad wa al-ghawwas). The book says this translation to portuguese was the first done to any other language and that even in arabic culture it is not well know (it is about fables and the scrolls with the original were lost until one find in India helped to fill the gaps).

    Well, the motive is because the book is inspired in Kalila and Dimna (which is inspired in Pachatranta). In this book (modeled like Mirror of Princes literature), a Lion (the king) receives advices from a wise Jackal (the diver in the title), so everytime a character has to illustrate an advice, he tells a fable. The translator compares Kalila and Dimna (where a lion also receives advices from a Jackal, just the Jackal is ambitious) and this Lion and the diver and the differences he see in both books (Kalila is considered the first arabic organized register of fables) set apart in 4 centuries is more less the good old History. He see in Kalila that historigraphy was not developed yet in arabic culture (being mostly about the life of Muhammad, therefore religious), so the book has actual fables with animals. But in lion and the diver, the Jackal actually tell "fables" from real kings, which, according to the translator, showed the clear advance of Historiography in arabic culture.
    Fascinating. He's probably right. So was the 400-year span between the 8th and 12th centuries or the 12th and 16th? It would help to know what kind of historiography the authors/cultures had been exposed to during that time.

    Okay, thank you for indulging my taste for history. I will return the favor by asking for your advice in literature. As I reflect now at the year's end, I am appalled by my ignorance of French liiterature. I've been thinking of reading Pascal's Pensees, which seems like a nice combination of pessimism and spiritual wisdom (two favorites of mine). Have you read this collection of essays and can you recommend it? Taking a cue from Gladys, I am also shocked at the few plays I have read since college. And even there, I read nothing by Moliere or even Voltaire. I can probably find my own way through Moliere, but what plays would you recommend by the latter? Are there any other French authors you would recommend? I am looking for basic classics and not recherche works. I really am as ignorant as Goliath on the subject. Merci.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  4. #79
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Now you're confusing me, Gladys.
    Fascinating, your last post #67. Sorry if I was rather too terse, so here is an elaboration that I hope is clearer.


    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    In my view, he is wondering here and in The Grand Inquisitor whether fallen humanity was even capable of receiving the purity of the Christ. Did the way in fact achieve anything at all?
    That the way is idiotically narrow and can achieve nothing is precisely what the ever-plausible devil, in The Grand Inquisitor, would have us believe. Ivan's madness is his reaction to dreadful existential despair. Alyosha response to the same despair is a leap of faith-despite-reason, a response with which Dostoyevsky seems to sympathise. The telling question, "Did the way in fact achieve anything at all?" is to be expected of The Great Tempter, but Dostoyevsky answers affirmatively with Myshkin, Alyosha and Sonya (in Crime and Punishment).

    In The Idiot, Natasya, Rogozhin and Aglaya sadly succumb to despair whereas the hope-filled Myshkin alone chooses the way of faith with its concomitant works of love. How can the ending of this novel be seen as failure! The narrow way Myshkin walked stored up treasures in heaven so that, at the last trump, Christ in all his glory will say of him:

    Matthew 25: 40 ...Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.


    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    From that perspective, way trumps achievement because temporal achievement (or lack of it) is ultimately illusory. Now we see as through a darkly, but then we will see clearly.
    Why then do Myshkin's contemporaries, and many a reader, see him as a failure? Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes and see not; which have ears, and hear not. (Jeremiah 5: 21)

    Works of love trump earthly achievement for those following St Paul's admonition: Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3: 2). In other words the idiot, who loves much, stores up for himself treasures in heaven while the world stands aloof, judging him a failure. Jesus could rightly say of Myshkin, what he said to the woman, who was a sinner, in the house of Simon the Pharisee:

    And Jesus turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. (Luke 7: 44-45)

    Meanwhile the daylight grew full and strong; and at last the prince lay down, as though overcome by despair, and laid his face against the white, motionless face of Rogozhin. His tears flowed on to Rogozhin's cheek, though he was perhaps not aware of them himself.

    At all events when, after many hours, the door was opened and people thronged in, they found the murderer unconscious and in a raging fever. The prince was sitting by him, motionless, and each time that the sick man gave a laugh, or a shout, he hastened to pass his own trembling hand over his companion's hair and cheeks, as though trying to soothe and quiet him.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Can you show me that Natasya's death at the end of The Idiot was Dostoyevsky's assertion that many are damned and few blessed (which is how I understand the admonition "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it)?
    As to the damned, Dostoyevsky has nothing to say and neither do I.

    That evil ofttimes prevails in the world is beyond dispute: Natasya is murdered, Rogohzin incarcerated, and Agalaya the victim of a reckless Polish adventure. All three were damaged and troubled souls crying out for compassion, solace and redemption. Of the many so called Christians in Myshkin society in St. Petersburg, who alone responded with love? Who of them entered the strait gate, walking the narrow way, which leadeth unto life?

    Matthew 7: 13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat


    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Thank you for the link to the Kierkegaard website. It did not convince me that Dostoyevsky's point was that the gate is narrow, but it did set me thinking about Christian teleology...
    As to the narrow way, Chapter 6 of The Idiot approaches in import the The Grand Inquisitor passage in Brothers Karamzov. Universal condemnation and much heralded failure of the young Myshkin's narrow way by Swiss worldly wisdom is only half the story because Myshkin is storing up treasures in heaven. Chapter 6 plays out on a grander scale in the rest of the novel but the suffering-servant tenor is much the same:

    "Next morning they came and told me that Marie was dead. The children could not be restrained now; they went and covered her coffin with flowers, and put a wreath of lovely blossoms on her head. The pastor did not throw any more shameful words at the poor dead woman; but there were very few people at the funeral. However, when it came to carrying the coffin, all the children rushed up, to carry it themselves. Of course they could not do it alone, but they insisted on helping, and walked alongside and behind, crying.

    "They have planted roses all round her grave, and every year they look after the flowers and make Marie's resting-place as beautiful as they can. I was in ill odour after all this with the parents of the children, and especially with the parson and schoolmaster. Schneider was obliged to promise that I should not meet them and talk to them; but we conversed from a distance by signs, and they used to write me sweet little notes. Afterwards I came closer than ever to those little souls, but even then it was very dear to me, to have them so fond of me.

    "Schneider said that I did the children great harm by my pernicious 'system'; what nonsense that was!..."


    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    (I didn't watch the teleplay since I prefer to read literary works first).
    Same here. I adore Ibsen and, in particular, Brand, Emperor and Galilean, Hedda Gabler, Ghosts, The Wild Duck, When We Dead Awaken, The Lady from the Sea, Rosmersholm, The Master Builder, and an early work The Vikings at Helgeland describing the encroachment of Christianity on Norway's remote North.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    That scene is a good example of why Graves works as a novelist. The historians were Titus Livy and Asinius Pollio. As you seem to remember, Graves gets them into a heated discussion on whether history ought to reflect events realistically or poetically, and no doubt Graves saw them as exemplifying the dichotomy in their own (historical) lives. But Pollio's once-famous history is now lost, so we don't really know how he wrote. Graves has him take the realist side largely on the basis of a critical comment he made about Julius Caesar's rather obvious self-glorification in The Gallic Wars (which was decidedly middle brow lit for the times). And while it is true that Livy's Ab Urbe Condita draws heavily on myth, he didn't really have a choice considering his limited sources. While he wasn't the skeptical historian that Tacitus was (or at least aspired to be), it's hardly Livy's fault that his Latin was beautiful.

    But Graves as a novelist is able to spin this inaccurate historical point into a memorable scene and a perfectly valid discussion of historiography (even if it doesn't really have much to do with Livy and Pollio). If he'd written a novel about Thomas of Erceldoune joining a witch cult, it would probably have been pretty good--even if he was crazy enough to believe it. I suppose the problem with Graves is that he really doesn't understand what fiction is. He wants his novels to be "real," and they are. They're just fictional real. You'd think a poet would get that.
    I think he could be making a point about the historical novel as the one he was writting too. Not without considering he was more on Titus side of the craft...

    This, obviously, was Arthur Miller's allegory for the Red Scare by in The Crucible. I think that's a better fit than the more Hawthorne-esque scenario of an irrational, theocratic society, inherently blind to the injustices it was perpetuating. The really scary thing about the witchcraft hysteria and the Red Scare (and the Nazi movement for that matter) is that each arose quickly within a generally rational society.
    I am not sure Hawthorne was blind, but I meant how the whole thing build up moralist writer that loved a bit of parables and had some strange sensibility about human's dark sides.


    Oh, Smerdyakov is the Shakespearian bro. He's like a dumber version of Richard III (or maybe Edmund he bastar d from King Lear). In a way, Ivan is like his Iago--or his anti-Iago since *SPOILER* he spurs him to murder accidentally and with cold reason rather than ardent passion. Fyodor Karamazov also seems like one of Shakespeare's bad kings. If Shakespeare had written The Brothers Karamazov, it would have been called King Fyodor, but the tragic hero would have been Smerdyakov. Plenty of fatal flaws to pick from there!
    Well, Ivan has the hameletian mania to create fictional "works" to expose his toughts. The Dreams are nothing but one of the plays within the play.


    Fascinating. He's probably right. So was the 400-year span between the 8th and 12th centuries or the 12th and 16th? It would help to know what kind of historiography the authors/cultures had been exposed to during that time.
    8TH and 12th.

    Okay, thank you for indulging my taste for history. I will return the favor by asking for your advice in literature. As I reflect now at the year's end, I am appalled by my ignorance of French liiterature. I've been thinking of reading Pascal's Pensees, which seems like a nice combination of pessimism and spiritual wisdom (two favorites of mine). Have you read this collection of essays and can you recommend it? Taking a cue from Gladys, I am also shocked at the few plays I have read since college. And even there, I read nothing by Moliere or even Voltaire. I can probably find my own way through Moliere, but what plays would you recommend by the latter? Are there any other French authors you would recommend? I am looking for basic classics and not recherche works. I really am as ignorant as Goliath on the subject. Merci.
    I never read an edition of Pascal Pensees (one or fragment here and there). The unorganized nature of his work helps me to prefer Montaigne

    Anyways, my suggestion about which Voltaire's play you should read is "None". The few I read deserve the lack of reputation they have. In many aspects, Voltaire seems less able to create anything and they are more a defense of style. His poems are more interesting, as old dated they are. For example, La Henriade is an epic style, but History has an special weight on Voltaire (and obviously, myth was only a literary motif) and Voltaire narrative skills make it a bit interesting. Unless you are set to read as a curiosity, I would avoid it even because there is a better, much better, playwriter representative of classicism in France, which is Racine. Try on Fedra.
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  6. #81
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    Fascinating, your last post #67. Sorry if I was rather too terse, so here is an elaboration that I hope is clearer.
    Thanks for the elaboration, Gladys. Your positions are clearer to me now. On some things we agree, on others we don't. Hopefully I can be as clear as you were.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    Ivan's madness is his reaction to dreadful existential despair. Alyosha response to the same despair is a leap of faith-despite-reason, a response with which Dostoyevsky seems to sympathise.
    We agree about this. If Myshkin had responded to his crisis as Alyosha did instead of reverting to the alienated state from which he had come the novel's start, I would not see the end as ambiguous. As it is, I suspect that although Dostoyevsky also made the faith choice, he too felt doubt, and that the novel's end is an artistic representation (and a profound one) of that all-too-human experience of despair. I would compare it to the despair felt by Jesus' disciples after the Crucifixion but before the Resurrection--can it really end this way? For us, perhaps it has more to do with the persistence of evil as we await the Return--is this really all the world is? Neither of those scenarios imply that Dostoyevsky's answer to the questions was yes. As you point out, the case of Alyosha shows that he had the courage to choose faith.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    The telling question, "Did the way in fact achieve anything at all?" is to be expected of The Great Tempter, but Dostoyevsky answers affirmatively with Myshkin, Alyosha and Sonya (in Crime and Punishment).
    For reasons stated above, I would put Myshkin in a category of his own.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    In The Idiot, Natasya, Rogozhin and Aglaya sadly succumb to despair whereas the hope-filled Myshkin alone chooses the way of faith with its concomitant works of love. How can the ending of this novel be seen as failure!
    Can you show me where I have said the end of novel is a failure? On the contrary, I have said:

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    What an ending, indeed. It shocked and moved me as, I think, no other 19th century novel's has done...even the ambiguity is immensely powerful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    (I like the ambiguity of the Idiot's ending so it loses no points from me on that score).
    An ambiguous ending is far from a failed one. As I say above, "the novel's end artistic representation (and a profound one) of that all-too-human experience of despair." Perhaps it strikes you differently--that's fine. My view is that it is Dostoyevsky's supreme and agonizing expression of faithful doubt. I consider it one of the most powerful novels ever written.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    The narrow way Myshkin walked stored up treasures in heaven so that, at the last trump, Christ in all his glory will say of him:

    Matthew 25: 40 ...Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
    It seems to me that to take this position one has to abandon the idea of Myshkin as a Christ figure. Perhaps you do. You have said elsewhere that you see him as a paradigmatic suffering disciple. That's not my view (and honestly I don't think it was Dostoyevsky's), but if one takes that step then what you say is consistent. Myshkin has been a good and faithful servant and has born his witness the the extremity of his ability.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Why then do Myshkin's contemporaries, and many a reader, see him as a failure? Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes and see not; which have ears, and hear not. (Jeremiah 5: 21)
    Myshkin's contemporaries see him as a failure because they are human and inherently drawn from Purity to sin. He is purity personified, so he is a loser (though a bafflingly likable one) in the world of sin they inhabit. I can't answer for "many a reader." I believe Dostoyevsky's ambiguity arose from the same question that led him to tell Ivan's story: is sinful humankind even capable of receiving the purity of Christ? If not (and taking Myshkin as a Christ figure), then the failure is humankind's and not Myshkin's. But the implication--that Jesus' ministry could save no one--is what Dostoyevsky found so tormenting. (Again, it might be compared to a disciple's despair in the agonizing hours before the Resurrection--does it really end like this?). That Alyosha made his courageous choice in the face of similar doubts does not mean that Dostoyevsky was not troubled by them--quite the contrary, for as we agree, the existential choice of faith arises from doubt. Perhaps Dostoyevsky's ambiguity at the close of The Idiot was intended as an invitation to the faith choice. I'm not sure, but it squares the circle rather nicely.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    and[/COLOR] an early work The Vikings at Helgeland describing the encroachment of Christianity on Norway's remote North.
    Thanks. I'll throw that one into the mix, too.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  7. #82
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I think he could be making a point about the historical novel as the one he was writting too. Not without considering he was more on Titus side of the craft...
    The strange thing is (it's interesting how many statements about Robert Graves begin with "The strange thing is") that although Graves was a poet--and very much thought like one--it was the supposed realist Pollio whose opinion prevailed in the I, Claudius. Claudius takes his advice to heart, which is why he is so adamant about telling the truth about the back-room antics of the Julio-Claudians rather than presenting them in idealized terms. What Graves is actually doing is using the gossipy parts of Suetonius and fleshing them out with other ancient sources to try to populate his novel with real people and their juicy stories. But as usual he is too credulous and never asks himself whether fallacious rumors might have been spread about these figures for political purposes. Of course the Julio-Claudians were pretty much bonkers, and it would be hard to exaggerate the excesses of some of them. It's funny though that Graves feels the need to assert his historical accuracy through a faux Pollio when in fact he was more the faux Livy. But perhaps he too is a character in a Dostoyevsky novel. ;-)

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    8TH and 12th.
    Well, you've got Muslims expanding into large parts of the old Roman Empire during the 8th century. No doubt they were encountering the classical legacy of critical history (at least the examples the Goths and Vandals didn't burn). There are supposed to have been some Muslim historians as early as the end of the 7th century, but I don't know about their historiography or whether they were much influenced by the classical west. It is reasonable to think that the idea of Muslim history was developing during the period you mention. Cool.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I never read an edition of Pascal Pensees (one or fragment here and there). The unorganized nature of his work helps me to prefer Montaigne

    Anyways, my suggestion about which Voltaire's play you should read is "None". The few I read deserve the lack of reputation they have. In many aspects, Voltaire seems less able to create anything and they are more a defense of style. His poems are more interesting, as old dated they are. For example, La Henriade is an epic style, but History has an special weight on Voltaire (and obviously, myth was only a literary motif) and Voltaire narrative skills make it a bit interesting. Unless you are set to read as a curiosity, I would avoid it even because there is a better, much better, playwriter representative of classicism in France, which is Racine. Try on Fedra.
    Okay, I've downloaded Racine's Phaedra, Moliere's Tartuffe, and, to the glory of messy spiritual pessimism, Pascal's Pensees. I will consider the Henriade. I'm interested in the French Wars of Religion and would doubtlessly enjoy it. And I feel like I should have read something by Voltaire besides Candide. (I also want to know if Voltaire was the one who said "Paris is worth a Mass" or if it was really Henry IV). Any of Balzac's novels better than the others?
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    The strange thing is (it's interesting how many statements about Robert Graves begin with "The strange thing is") that although Graves was a poet--and very much thought like one--it was the supposed realist Pollio whose opinion prevailed in the I, Claudius. Claudius takes his advice to heart, which is why he is so adamant about telling the truth about the back-room antics of the Julio-Claudians rather than presenting them in idealized terms. What Graves is actually doing is using the gossipy parts of Suetonius and fleshing them out with other ancient sources to try to populate his novel with real people and their juicy stories. But as usual he is too credulous and never asks himself whether fallacious rumors might have been spread about these figures for political purposes. Of course the Julio-Claudians were pretty much bonkers, and it would be hard to exaggerate the excesses of some of them. It's funny though that Graves feels the need to assert his historical accuracy through a faux Pollio when in fact he was more the faux Livy. But perhaps he too is a character in a Dostoyevsky novel. ;-)
    Yeah, but I somehow think he was being humble and apoletic for being Titus. After all, both Claudius and Pollio wrote, but Titus became the bigger influence and most well-known. It is almost as if he is saying "Sorry, guys who write realistic historical novels with attention to each detail, with research there and there, I can only be this way but think you guys have a point". Of course paying attention to Suetonius is a great idea, his text is quite colorful and his characters are much more lively than Tacitus for example. How could he come with a very dickens like character in Urgolina without Suetonius...

    Well, you've got Muslims expanding into large parts of the old Roman Empire during the 8th century. No doubt they were encountering the classical legacy of critical history (at least the examples the Goths and Vandals didn't burn). There are supposed to have been some Muslim historians as early as the end of the 7th century, but I don't know about their historiography or whether they were much influenced by the classical west. It is reasonable to think that the idea of Muslim history was developing during the period you mention. Cool.
    An overall literary development in the area (they already had the Alexandria's library left overs), in a way, if I understand well what was said, there historiography development was a movement from the study of religious texts and the focus in the descendents of the prophets and the governs that followed it. The religious texts (Koran and the called Hadiths) have yet a strong oral/memory conection, so all this is also signals of the development of a literary culture and therefore the kind of "thinking" that is derivated from it.



    Okay, I've downloaded Racine's Phaedra, Moliere's Tartuffe, and, to the glory of messy spiritual pessimism, Pascal's Pensees. I will consider the Henriade. I'm interested in the French Wars of Religion and would doubtlessly enjoy it. And I feel like I should have read something by Voltaire besides Candide. (I also want to know if Voltaire was the one who said "Paris is worth a Mass" or if it was really Henry IV). Any of Balzac's novels better than the others?
    About Voltaire, funny enough, the texts he was more serious and dedicated about (plays and poems) are those he was less Voltaire. I suppose that with the plays he couldn't hide his name behind some dutch publisher and everyone would know he was the author (and he wanted to be knowns) and the king and nobility were his primary audience, he couldnt be as radical as he would be in latter in his novels, letters and essays. Not saying he couldnt be funny, he is Voltaire after all and the work with the french metric sharpned his pen enough to make him that fabric of quick witts. Probally the plays he improvised for fun in Genebra (and according to some, badly performed) could be more interesting. But anyways, beside this, even his essays in the dictionary and for the encyclopedia have a bit of his rascal side.

    I am not a huge fan of french realism (it is the unfunny dickens, except Flaubert, the guy can be funny), so I only read Eugene Grandet and Father Goriot. They are about the same level.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    If Myshkin had responded to his crisis as Alyosha did instead of reverting to the alienated state from which he had come the novel's start, I would not see the end as ambiguous. As it is, I suspect that although Dostoyevsky also made the faith choice, he too felt doubt...
    If Dostoyevsky really did make the faith choice he, like Job of old, would have felt doubt.

    While Ivan Karamozov is crushed by despair, Myshkin's experience is qualitatively different. He is ever a knight of faith, fighting valiantly at the front in the heat of battle, and fighting to the end his tears flow on to Rogozhin's cheek. Myshkin, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, has no notion of despair either here or, finally, in a Swiss asylum. Ravaged by PTSD and boundless grief, his enduring mind-set is well characterized by the apostle's declaration:

    John 15: 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Can you show me where I have said the end of novel is a failure?
    I was less than clear on which failure: I meant Myshkin's. Haven't you said the end of the novel depicts Myshkin's failure to help his friends rather than Myshkin's exemplary triumph of selfless love at the inevitable expense of his own sanity? In The Idiot, Natasya, Rogozhin and Aglaya sadly succumb to despair whereas the hope-filled Myshkin walks alone the way of faith with its concomitant works of love. If Myshkin is merely scripture's good and faithful servant, a Christian, can you blithely dismiss the impact of his ministry on those he failed to save and on those standing aloof watching?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    It seems to me that to take this position one has to abandon the idea of Myshkin as a Christ figure. Perhaps you do. You have said elsewhere that you see him as a paradigmatic suffering disciple. That's not my view
    I see no textual evidence that Myshkin is other than a faithful disciple, a glorious martyr, following in the footsteps of his lord and master. Occam's razor supports my view unless you can quote a line of text that supports your peculiar interpretation of Myshkin as a Christ figure, whatever that might mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    But the implication--that Jesus' ministry could save no one--is what Dostoyevsky found so tormenting.
    Here and in previous post, you connected your view on Myshkin with what you suppose is Dostoyevsky's take on The Grand Inquisitor passage in The Brothers Karamazov. I also see no textual reason to accept your take for either Dostoyevsky or the narrator except that faith always arises as a way forward in the presence of crippling doubt (angst).

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    I believe Dostoyevsky's ambiguity arose from the same question that led him to tell Ivan's story: is sinful humankind even capable of receiving the purity of Christ?
    I would paraphrase your question as: "Is the way to salvation too narrow?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Perhaps Dostoyevsky's ambiguity at the close of The Idiot was intended as an invitation to the faith choice. I'm not sure, but it squares the circle rather nicely.
    Sounds plausible to me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Yeah, but I somehow think he was being humble and apoletic for being Titus. After all, both Claudius and Pollio wrote, but Titus became the bigger influence and most well-known. It is almost as if he is saying "Sorry, guys who write realistic historical novels with attention to each detail, with research there and there, I can only be this way but think you guys have a point".
    Maybe, but it doesn't sound much like Graves to me. He thinks that he's the only one who's right due to his encyclopedic knowledge of antiquity--which he certainly had. But his opinions were often eccentric to mainstream scholarship (as witness The White Goddess), which only convinced him the more that he had things right. The Claudius novels have high degree of historicity, mostly because the Julio-Claudian dynasty is so well documented. But some of his other historical novels (like King Jesus) are really out there. Anyway, when I think of Graves, the words brilliant and eccentric come right to mind--less so humble and apologetic.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Of course paying attention to Suetonius is a great idea, his text is quite colorful and his characters are much more lively than Tacitus for example. How could he come with a very dickens like character in Urgolina without Suetonius...
    Ah, I think we are having one of our rare "lost in translation" moments. Urgolina was... Urgulanilla, Claudius' first wife? Not much is known about her in history and as I remember she was a very minor character in the first book (and not in the second at all). But perhaps you meant Messalina, his 3rd wife, who was a major character in the 2nd book and is still a notorious lady because of her legendary sex romps. Or was Urgolina some else?

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    An overall literary development in the area (they already had the Alexandria's library left overs), in a way, if I understand well what was said, there historiography development was a movement from the study of religious texts and the focus in the descendents of the prophets and the governs that followed it. The religious texts (Koran and the called Hadiths) have yet a strong oral/memory conection, so all this is also signals of the development of a literary culture and therefore the kind of "thinking" that is derivated from it.
    Well, that makes sense. The Golden Age of Islam came on relatively quickly. Once there's a Caliphate (and the potential for rivals) you need an historical narrative to justify the continued right to power. So it would have been the right time for that kind of new thinking to emerge in elite literary corners. Official Chinese history, which is older, was almost exclusively that kind of propaganda. Tacitus and Suetonius (who were senators) were allowed to savage the emperors as long as they kept quiet about the family in power when they wrote. But I don't think those ideas were much tolerated further east (understanding that parts of Morocco a west of Spain and Portugal, but what are you going to do?).

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    About Voltaire, funny enough, the texts he was more serious and dedicated about (plays and poems) are those he was less Voltaire. I suppose that with the plays he couldn't hide his name behind some dutch publisher and everyone would know he was the author (and he wanted to be knowns) and the king and nobility were his primary audience, he couldnt be as radical as he would be in latter in his novels, letters and essays. Not saying he couldnt be funny, he is Voltaire after all and the work with the french metric sharpned his pen enough to make him that fabric of quick witts. Probally the plays he improvised for fun in Genebra (and according to some, badly performed) could be more interesting. But anyways, beside this, even his essays in the dictionary and for the encyclopedia have a bit of his rascal side.
    I think some of his plays (and the Henriade) were written when he was still fairly young when he would have wanted to get his name about. After all, that's what he invented it for.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I am not a huge fan of french realism (it is the unfunny dickens, except Flaubert, the guy can be funny), so I only read Eugene Grandet and Father Goriot. They are about the same level.
    Ah, well the answer is clearly that I need to read Flaubert. Okay, I've downloaded Madame B. I may not get to it for a while, but it's about time I read it. I've also downloaded Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary and La Rochefoucauld's Aphorisms, which Voltaire loved, and which looks like a pithier version of the same thing. I'll worry about Balzac some other year.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    If Dostoyevsky really did make the faith choice he, like Job of old, would have felt doubt.
    Well, we agree on that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    While Ivan Karamozov is crushed by despair, Myshkin's experience is qualitatively different. He is ever a knight of faith, fighting valiantly at the front in the heat of battle, and fighting to the end his tears flow on to Rogozhin's cheek. Myshkin, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, has no notion of despair either here or, finally, in a Swiss asylum. Ravaged by PTSD and boundless grief..."
    Gladys, Myshkin is a fictional character created by a 19th century author. Dostoyevsky could not possibly have made him "Ravaged by PTSD"--a concept that did not exist when he wrote The Idiot. That is something you are bringing to the narrative yourself. Dostoyevsky says that Myshkin has been left "enfeebled and humiliated." Although the author wasa Christian, he did not mention him "fighting valiantly at the front in the heat of battle." Nor does he mention (though surely it was important to his faith) that Christian witness is strong in its humiliation. Instead he makes the telling remark that although Doctor Schneider "frowns ever more and more and shakes his head" and "fears that Myshkin's brain is fatally injured," nevertheless, "he does not as yet declare that his patient is incurable"; even so, he "allows himself to express the gravest fears." Here is Dostoyevsky's assertion of his "faithful doubt." Like Myshkin's caretaker, his mind is "wracked with the gravest fears." But he will not abandon his faith, just as Schneider will not "declare that his patient is incurable." This is a statement of embattled faith--exemplary of the kind doubt that (we agree) gives rise to faith.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    his enduring mind-set is well characterized by the apostle's declaration:

    John 15: 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
    Except that Myshkin the literal disciple didn't lay down his life. He went insane and was incarcerated. It is Myshkin the symbolic Christ figure lays down (symbolically) by departing from the world of sin; the time of the bridegroom among us is over--at least for now. But accepting Myshkin as a symbol of Christ symbol opens up the ambiguities of Dostoyevsky's faith.

    Perhaps it would help to understand that a symbolic Christ is just that--a symbol. Myshkin is not literally Jesus: he is not the Second Temple Jewish prophet executed in Jerusalem by the Roman authority. He is a fictional character whose author created him as a Christ symbol (though within his own story) to make certain points--particularly about the author's persistent doubt and resilient faith. Myshkin could not be a literal Jesus, for example, because he observes and comments on Hans Holbein’s painting The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb (which Rogozhin tellingly keeps over his door). Dostoyevsky uses this detail to establish dramatic irony by evoking a shocking image that will be recalled at the novel's end (anyone who has seen the painting knows how shocking). Myshkin's comment, on seeing the image is: "Why, a man could even lose his faith looking at that picture!" "Lose it he does" is Rogozhin's grim rejoinder. But Dostoyevsky, as shown by his subtle paraphrase of Doctor Schneider's diagnosis, does not quite lose his--though he "allows himself to express the gravest fears."

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    I was less than clear on which failure: I meant Myshkin's. Haven't you said the end of the novel depicts Myshkin's failure to help his friends rather than Myshkin's exemplary triumph of selfless love at the inevitable expense of his own sanity? In The Idiot, Natasya, Rogozhin and Aglaya sadly succumb to despair whereas the hope-filled Myshkin walks alone the way of faith with its concomitant works of love. If Myshkin is merely scripture's good and faithful servant, a Christian, can you blithely dismiss the impact of his ministry on those he failed to save and on those standing aloof watching?
    Oh, I didn't claim the Myshkin was the good and faithful servant of Jesus's parable (nor am I blithely dismissing anything. I said that if you were to take Myshkin as something other than a symbolic Christ figure that, your points about faithfulness witness were at least consistent. But to take that step (I add now) you would need to dismiss Dostoyevsky's own meaning: his profound and moving expression of faith everlasting--that even before the horror of Holbein’s intimidating vision, one does not declare the patient incurable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    I see no textual evidence that Myshkin is other than a faithful disciple, a glorious martyr, following in the footsteps of his lord and master. Occam's razor supports my view unless you can quote a line of text that supports your peculiar interpretation of Myshkin as a Christ figure, whatever that might mean?
    Well, see above for two great examples (and also for what a Christ figure means). Obviously a novelist is not going to overtly refer to a character is a symbolic Christ figure any more than as representing the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 (whom you identify with Myshkin and whom Christians take as a symbolic Christ figure in any case). So put away Occam's razor, it's not going to help you (besides, Occam's probably wondering where he put it by now ). And face it: you are not dealing with an absolute theological truth but an opinion about how Dostooyevsky ended a book and why. There's really nothing wrong with having different opinions about an author's intent. The idea of Myshkin as a symbolic Christ figure (far from peculiar to myself) is a rather mainstream view--if anything it's a bit old hat. That doesn't mean your opinion is not the correct one, although you certainly haven't convinced me. That shouldn't bother you in the least, though. I respect you, Gladys, but I assure you I haven't the slightest interest in whether you come 'round to my position or not. There's room for both of us.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    Sounds plausible to me.
    Same here. Apparently there is room for agreement, too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Maybe, but it doesn't sound much like Graves to me. He thinks that he's the only one who's right due to his encyclopedic knowledge of antiquity--which he certainly had. But his opinions were often eccentric to mainstream scholarship (as witness The White Goddess), which only convinced him the more that he had things right. The Claudius novels have high degree of historicity, mostly because the Julio-Claudian dynasty is so well documented. But some of his other historical novels (like King Jesus) are really out there. Anyway, when I think of Graves, the words brilliant and eccentric come right to mind--less so humble and apologetic.
    Those intellectuals have humble weird sides with their egos when they are talking about their position in the history of literature and about their influences. I can't avoid but think of it considering how we all notice how poor Titus looked after it (a bit bullied and exactly by Claudius, which remind me, in the book he kind give some dignity to Claudius, something most historians avoided to do, prefering to make him a pathetic link between Hades and Hell, so Graves kind like to save the small guy, even if he is an emperor. After all, Claudius is the Idiot) and how Graves is far from following Pollio.



    Ah, I think we are having one of our rare "lost in translation" moments. Urgolina was... Urgulanilla, Claudius' first wife? Not much is known about her in history and as I remember she was a very minor character in the first book (and not in the second at all). But perhaps you meant Messalina, his 3rd wife, who was a major character in the 2nd book and is still a notorious lady because of her legendary sex romps. Or was Urgolina some else?
    Yeah,I meant her mother, albeit Urgulanilla kind like "completes" the scene, when she turns sympathetic to Claudius. Messalina is not a character we can miss, her name is quite big after all. (And I read just I, Claudius). But Urgolina, she is very comic in her strange physical presence, her even "Male" side (more than masculine than claudius), her devotion to Livia. Even her name is fitted for some kind of ogreess, it is almost a latinized Dickens. Dickuns?


    Well, that makes sense. The Golden Age of Islam came on relatively quickly. Once there's a Caliphate (and the potential for rivals) you need an historical narrative to justify the continued right to power. So it would have been the right time for that kind of new thinking to emerge in elite literary corners. Official Chinese history, which is older, was almost exclusively that kind of propaganda. Tacitus and Suetonius (who were senators) were allowed to savage the emperors as long as they kept quiet about the family in power when they wrote. But I don't think those ideas were much tolerated further east (understanding that parts of Morocco a west of Spain and Portugal, but what are you going to do?).
    The moorish rule (the few I understand about the islamic story) was rival to the caliphate rulers. They were also more radical in the religious sense, I think they rise to power was after the decline of the Caliphate group (caused by Mongols attack, Bagdah destruction and which lead to the cultural decline and also a more radical religious approach, which is the path arab society kind followed until today, which the translator says are also represented in both this Lion and the Diver - as the Lion and the diver main problem was the invasion of a bull which they kill- and in the 1001 nights - as the popular form the work was created, the violence reflect on it and the religious moralism showed this).

    I think some of his plays (and the Henriade) were written when he was still fairly young when he would have wanted to get his name about. After all, that's what he invented it for.
    Yes, but even latter in life, Voltaire mentioned his preference for his plays (and poems) and the idea that his novels would soon be forgotten. Drama was his true passion, his favorite topic of discussion, etc. It is no wonder he was one of the first translator to french of some Shakespeare's scenes to french and also one of the first french to attack Shakespeare (in an move to try to preserve the French Drama Institution). He was victorious, but this meant he gave strength to the french playwriters of romantic age to wipe him out of the scene.



    Ah, well the answer is clearly that I need to read Flaubert. Okay, I've downloaded Madame B. I may not get to it for a while, but it's about time I read it. I've also downloaded Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary and La Rochefoucauld's Aphorisms, which Voltaire loved, and which looks like a pithier version of the same thing. I'll worry about Balzac some other year.
    Le Rochefoucauld (as most traditional french aphorisms is very serious about his work). You will see in some of the entries that Voltaire just can't resist to add that side crocked smile in a serious topic. But that is Voltaire brilliance, the capacity to move from one idea to another with one simple step which woudl take for most writers larges jumps.

    Emma isn't what make me see Flaubert as a funny man, It was Bouvard and Pecuchet, but sure after it I got more how ironic he could be in Madame Bovary. Also, his correspondence is also funny, because the little man was great in being a little man. His rantings about taking months to write two pages are priceless, if you want to find a true aesthetic faith. He also have a book you may find interesting, Temptation of Saint Anthony, which is his take on the matter of faith and mysticism.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Those intellectuals have humble weird sides with their egos when they are talking about their position in the history of literature and about their influences. I can't avoid but think of it considering how we all notice how poor Titus looked after it (a bit bullied and exactly by Claudius, which remind me, in the book he kind give some dignity to Claudius, something most historians avoided to do, prefering to make him a pathetic link between Hades and Hell, so Graves kind like to save the small guy, even if he is an emperor. After all, Claudius is the Idiot) and how Graves is far from following Pollio.
    Yes, I suppose, although I still think Graves sees himself as being the (faux) Pollio--even though he isn't. But as I said, he sticks to the straight and narrow closer with the Claudius novels than with most of his other books. And his version of Claudius is a great character--most memorably because he represents the one time Graves took on the mainstream and more or less won. Before Graves, Claudius was usually thought as Gibbon had described him: the stupidest emperor, but hey, he conquered Britain, and that had huge implications in world history. Graves point--that the early years (at least) of Claudius's reign give the lie to his supposed stupidity, which makes one wonder if he had been playing the fool to survive--has become part of the popular imagination. Classicists are a bit more cautious: Claudius was certainly a more benign emperor than his predecessor Caligula, but then anyone would have been; and the historical Claudius could be ruthless if he had to be. But no one thinks he was stupid anymore.

    Claudius got his bad reputation because he was probably a bit senile in his later years. That gave his 4th wife, Agrippina Junior (whom Graves calls Agrippinilla) and her son Nero a chance to create their own little junta before he died (or more precisely, before they murdered him). Hence the stupid, weak emperor who couldn't control what was happening in his own household. I think his reputation also suffered under centuries of Italian culture because if people remembered nothing else about him, it was that he was a multiple cuckold. The rehabilitation of his memory in popular culture was probably Graves' greatest triumph.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Yeah,I meant her mother, albeit Urgulanilla kind like "completes" the scene, when she turns sympathetic to Claudius. Messalina is not a character we can miss, her name is quite big after all. (And I read just I, Claudius). But Urgolina, she is very comic in her strange physical presence, her even "Male" side (more than masculine than claudius), her devotion to Livia. Even her name is fitted for some kind of ogreess, it is almost a latinized Dickens. Dickuns?
    Okay, she's coming back to me. It has been more than 30 years since I've read the Claudius novels, but I know the story and characters well enough. Somehow I remember Urgulanilla as the masculine-looking lady, but that's probably just a touch of Claudian senility. I suppose mother and daughter would both have made good Dickens characters--and yes, the names! Claudius' all-powerful freedmen Pallas and Narcissus would fit the bill, too, although I imagine Dickens would have skewered them as impertinent bureaucrats while Graves had to be more apologetic for Claudius' sake. But most of the characters--Caligula, Livia, Julia, even Claudius himself--are over the top in that quintessential Robert Graves way. It's hard to see another author taking them on.

    The strange thing is (you see what I mean?) that Graves once wrote a terrifyingly realistic and down to earth work: Goodbye to All That, his biography (but since he wrote it before he was very famous, it's is more like a memoir of his youth). I read it about the time I read the Claudius novels, and I remember being shocked by it. It began with one or two chapters (that bored me) about Graves' experiences in English boarding schools (including the view, scandalous when he wrote, that homosexuality was an essential part of their social structure). Ho-hum. Then all of a sudden the First World War breaks out and he's off for the trenches. That was most of the book and it was the part that shocked me. It was graphic and unrelenting (though sometimes funny). Graves survived the front lines from the war's start, watching (quite a bit like Claudius) everyone around him get done in. Then a new crew would be brought in and the same thing would happen to them. Then another. Eventually he was gravely wounded at the Somme (the army informed his parents he was dead). He was transported out in a narrative that is as horrific as the trenches. After that, as I recall, there is a brief, anticlimactic account--perhaps originally withheld--of his (sort of) friendship with T.E. Lawrence ("of Arabia"). But it's mostly about what an immature dope Lawrence was--in effect, a boarding school boy who never grew up. There was a bit more (about his marriage, I think), but the book more or less petered out after the war. I don't know if I'd still be shocked by it, but I was at the time.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    the Lion and the diver main problem was the invasion of a bull which they kill- and in the 1001 nights - as the popular form the work was created, the violence reflect on it and the religious moralism showed this).
    At the risk of sounding a bit like Graves, the part about the bull sounds a little like Gilgamesh and Enkidu's battle with the Bull of Heaven. But perhaps the bull is a mythic archetype. There were the bovine ancestors at Lascaux and Altamira, the bull leaping cult on ancient Crete, Theseus and the Minotaur, Zeus and Europa, etc. I think Picasso got this, which his why he places a distorted bulls head in his nightmare vision of Guernica. Anyway, it's interesting to see the bull turn up here, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Le Rochefoucauld (as most traditional french aphorisms is very serious about his work). You will see in some of the entries that Voltaire just can't resist to add that side crocked smile in a serious topic. But that is Voltaire brilliance, the capacity to move from one idea to another with one simple step which woudl take for most writers larges jumps.
    I'm looking forward to learning about Le Rochefoucauld's philosophy (the edition I have promises no less). It's strange to think of aphorisms yielding a philosophical system, but I suppose Neitzsche's do so (not to mention the eastern philosophers). I don't know, Le Rochefoucauld's maxims just seem too witty for that. Nous avons tous assez de force pour supporter les maux d'autrui. We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others. Heh heh. I think I'm going to like him.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Emma isn't what make me see Flaubert as a funny man, It was Bouvard and Pecuchet, but sure after it I got more how ironic he could be in Madame Bovary. Also, his correspondence is also funny, because the little man was great in being a little man. His rantings about taking months to write two pages are priceless, if you want to find a true aesthetic faith. He also have a book you may find interesting, Temptation of Saint Anthony, which is his take on the matter of faith and mysticism.
    Thanks. Let me see how I like Madame B first. It's just one of those things I should have read ages ago. I should also reread Anna Karenina one of these days. Maybe Flaubert's novel will be a good transition since both involve bad marriages.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 12-23-2017 at 12:11 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Yes, I suppose, although I still think Graves sees himself as being the (faux) Pollio--even though he isn't. But as I said, he sticks to the straight and narrow closer with the Claudius novels than with most of his other books. And his version of Claudius is a great character--most memorably because he represents the one time Graves took on the mainstream and more or less won. Before Graves, Claudius was usually thought as Gibbon had described him: the stupidest emperor, but hey, he conquered Britain, and that had huge implications in world history. Graves point--that the early years (at least) of Claudius's reign give the lie to his supposed stupidity, which makes one wonder if he had been playing the fool to survive--has become part of the popular imagination. Classicists are a bit more cautious: Claudius was certainly a more benign emperor than his predecessor Caligula, but then anyone would have been; and the historical Claudius could be ruthless if he had to be. But no one thinks he was stupid anymore.
    I think Graves biggest "problem" about Claudius is transforming him in a modern schollar. Instead of comic books, history scrolls. Claudius raise was almost the life of a misfist in an academic field, being bullied by those with superior physical skills, women, etc. It is quite nice as a book character and of course, he was not such idiot, but that would make a more accomplished emperor or at least his intelectual production would survive with a better status.

    Okay, she's coming back to me. It has been more than 30 years since I've read the Claudius novels, but I know the story and characters well enough. Somehow I remember Urgulanilla as the masculine-looking lady, but that's probably just a touch of Claudian senility. I suppose mother and daughter would both have made good Dickens characters--and yes, the names! Claudius' all-powerful freedmen Pallas and Narcissus would fit the bill, too, although I imagine Dickens would have skewered them as impertinent bureaucrats while Graves had to be more apologetic for Claudius' sake. But most of the characters--Caligula, Livia, Julia, even Claudius himself--are over the top in that quintessential Robert Graves way. It's hard to see another author taking them on.
    It is a bit of advantage of working with characters nobody remembers, you can be creative with them. With more historical characters you have to use either their welll accepted traits or, like with Claudius, playing the reverse of the expectatition to build up an original character. With Livia and Julia you could always change the point of view to a feminine view because it was absent in classical texts, but I doubt someone could pull a serious texts showing Caligula as a nice dude misjudged for being too liberal or something.

    The strange thing is (you see what I mean?) that Graves once wrote a terrifyingly realistic and down to earth work: Goodbye to All That, his biography (but since he wrote it before he was very famous, it's is more like a memoir of his youth). I read it about the time I read the Claudius novels, and I remember being shocked by it. It began with one or two chapters (that bored me) about Graves' experiences in English boarding schools (including the view, scandalous when he wrote, that homosexuality was an essential part of their social structure). Ho-hum. Then all of a sudden the First World War breaks out and he's off for the trenches. That was most of the book and it was the part that shocked me. It was graphic and unrelenting (though sometimes funny). Graves survived the front lines from the war's start, watching (quite a bit like Claudius) everyone around him get done in. Then a new crew would be brought in and the same thing would happen to them. Then another. Eventually he was gravely wounded at the Somme (the army informed his parents he was dead). He was transported out in a narrative that is as horrific as the trenches. After that, as I recall, there is a brief, anticlimactic account--perhaps originally witheld--of his (sort of) friendship with T.E. Lawrence ("of Arabia"). But it's mostly about what an immature dope Lawrence was--in effect, a boarding school boy who never grew up. There was a bit more (about his marriage, I think), but the book more or less petered out after the war. I don't know if I'd still be shocked by it, but I was at the time.
    Well, lets consider that his entire discussion with Titus and Pollios was in the end a discussion about literary genre. He could be - i know not much about him - as peculilar as you say, but that show to me as someone concious of literary genre functions and traits. He probally would appeal to realism because it was an autobiography and he saw no motive to "romance" his own life.


    At the risk of sounding a bit like Graves, the part about the bull sounds a little like Gilgamesh and Enkidu's battle with the Bull of Heaven. But perhaps the bull is a mythic archetype. There were the bovine ancestors at Lascaux and Altamira, the bull leaping cult on ancient Crete, Theseus and the Minotaur, Zeus and Europa, etc. I think Picasso got this, which his why he places a distorted bulls head in his nightmare vision of Guernica. Anyway, it's interesting to see the bull turn up here, too.
    Graves? You are souding like Joseph Campbell. Anyways, I have no doubt the bull is a relevant cultural archetype. The motiff was taken from Kalila and Dimna (not a bull, but an ox that brings the Lion and Jackal together in that work). The difference is that in Kalila, the ox is invited to join the lion's court and in Lion and the diver, the bull is killed. The translator suggests this show one of those historical changes: in Kalila, islamic society is open to outsiders. 4 century afterwards, it is weary. Considering the breeding of cows and such is something coming from India (so outsider in the middle west) and with it, a lot of cultural (and religious) motifs and myths came together, I can see in Enkidu, in those two stories (and in the famous golden calf Moses had to destroy) the theme of cultural influence (either as acceptance or denial) according the level of religious/social organization and structure.

    Talking about Campbell, one of things I find funny in his theory is how badly he wants to see a "Mystical" transmition of the myth when you have a more simpler (and perhaps more cynical) explanation: if they were taught pecuary, they would be taught the stories too. No need for a vague primiary universal junganian pool of archetypes.



    I'm looking forward to learning about Le Rochefoucauld's philosophy (the edition I have promises no less). It's strange to think of aphorisms yielding a philosophical system, but I suppose Neitzsche's do so (not to mention the eastern philosophers). I don't know, Le Rochefoucauld's maxims just seem to witty for that. Nous avons tous assez de force pour supporter les maux d'autrui. We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others. Heh heh. I think I'm going to like him.
    French culture certainly have a tradition for aforisms that should have a similar reputation we give to haikais. I guess they are just not exotic enough, because they are as good at saying a lot (or like oscar wilde, so little) with precision and economy.
    #foratemer

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I think Graves biggest "problem" about Claudius is transforming him in a modern schollar. Instead of comic books, history scrolls. Claudius raise was almost the life of a misfist in an academic field, being bullied by those with superior physical skills, women, etc. It is quite nice as a book character and of course, he was not such idiot, but that would make a more accomplished emperor or at least his intelectual production would survive with a better status.
    Yes, this is what I meant about Claudius being Graves' greatest triumph over mainstream opinion. The historical Claudius really was kept in the shadows in his youth, almost certainly because his physical disabilities were an embarrassment to the dynasty. He really did become a historian, in the way that dangerously placed member Medieval noble might have become a monk to avoid problems. He really did survive Caligula's reign of terror by playing the fool. Livia's career as a poisoner and Tiberius' general creepiness are more debatable, but the moving if comical scene *SPOILER* after Caligula's assassination in which his guards find Claudius cowering behind a curtain, ignore his stammering pleas for mercy, and make him emperor to hold onto their positions, is well attested. Graves is off base on a few things, but he got Claudius' story mostly right. And the quirky, off-beat character he made of Claudius was his masterpiece.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    It is a bit of advantage of working with characters nobody remembers, you can be creative with them. With more historical characters you have to use either their welll accepted traits or, like with Claudius, playing the reverse of the expectatition to build up an original character. With Livia and Julia you could always change the point of view to a feminine view because it was absent in classical texts, but I doubt someone could pull a serious texts showing Caligula as a nice dude misjudged for being too liberal or something.
    I, Caligula would be a tall order but not impossible. You would have to make him out as a charming rogue with violent tendencies (maybe a little like Alex in A Clockwork Orange) and emphasize the historical abuses of the Roman (Caligula's favorite pool of victims) against the people at large. Believe it or not, some classicists have tried to rehabilitate Caligula's reputation (if only a little). Yes, he was a dangerous psychopath, they say, but there was a method to his madness. He was not the first Emperor to have claimed some sort of divinity. It was a source of the mob control needed to them in power. Caesar, Augustus, and Tiberius had pushed the envelope as far as they dared, but Caligula was guilty of extreme overreach. (That and making his horse a senator).

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Well, lets consider that his entire discussion with Titus and Pollios was in the end a discussion about literary genre. He could be - i know not much about him - as peculilar as you say, but that show to me as someone concious of literary genre functions and traits. He probally would appeal to realism because it was an autobiography and he saw no motive to "romance" his own life.
    Yes, especially since Goodbye to All That marked Graves bitter and permanent departure from England in the face of much snobby social pressure. He was plainly interested in documenting how much he had sacrificed for a society that couldn't bear his nonconformity. In that case, the grislier the better.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Talking about Campbell, one of things I find funny in his theory is how badly he wants to see a "Mystical" transmition of the myth when you have a more simpler (and perhaps more cynical) explanation: if they were taught pecuary, they would be taught the stories too. No need for a vague primiary universal junganian pool of archetypes.
    There's also a less genteel (or for the Jungians, less clinical) approach to the "mystical" bull motif. In agrarian societies, bulls are strongly associated with male fertility. Again, I will try to be discreet, but anyone who has spent any time on a farm or ranch knows exactly what I am talking about. The fertility aspect is probably what's going on in the prehistoric caves and the cult on Crete (and certainly in the Europa myth). The Golden Calf story may fall into this category too since it clearly depicts a reversion to paganism. In other cases, the bull brings destruction (as with the Minotaur and the Bull of Heaven) but such dualistic functions are commonplace in myth. Consider Apollo, the god of medicine, whose name means "I destroy" and whose arrows are the plague; or Diana, the goddess of the hunt who is also also a protector of animals. Pagan gods can typically control positive or negative aspects of an attribute, so it's not surprising to see the bull bringing fertility at times and devastation at others.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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