Showing posts from 2010

Daniel Defoe : A journal of the plague year

It was about the beginning of September, 1664, that I, among the rest of my neighbours, heard in ordinary discourse that the plague was returned again in Holland; for it had been very violent there, and particularly at Amsterdam and Rotterdam, in the year 1663, whither, they say, it was brought, some said from Italy, others from the Levant, among some goods which were brought home by their Turkey fleet; others said it was brought from Candia; others from Cyprus. It mattered not from whence it came; but all agreed it was come into Holland again.

We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days to spread rumours and reports of things, and to improve them by the invention of men, as I have lived to see practised since. But such things as these were gathered from the letters of merchants and others who corresponded abroad, and from them was handed about by word of mouth only; so that things did not spread instantly over the whole nation, as they do now. But it seems that the Gove…

Arthur Schopenhauer: On Reading and Books

Ignorance is degrading only when it is found in company with riches. Want and penury restrain the poor man; his employment takes the place of knowledge and occupies his thoughts: while rich men who are ignorant live for their pleasure only, and resemble a beast; as may be seen daily. They are to be reproached also for not having used wealth and leisure for that which lends them their greatest value.

When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process. It is the same as the pupil, in learning to write, following with his pen the lines that have been pencilled by the teacher. Accordingly, in reading, the work of thinking is, for the greater part, done for us. This is why we are consciously relieved when we turn to reading after being occupied with our own thoughts. But, in reading, our head is, however, really only the arena of some one else’s thoughts. And so it happens that the person who reads a great deal — that is to say, almost the whole day, and recreat…

Robert Frost: My November Guest

MY Sorrow, when she’s here with me,  Thinks these dark days of autumn rainAre beautiful as days can be;She loves the bare, the withered tree;  She walks the sodden pasture lane.Her pleasure will not let me stay.  She talks and I am fain to list:She’s glad the birds are gone away,She’s glad her simple worsted grey  Is silver now with clinging mist.
The desolate, deserted trees,  The faded earth, the heavy sky,The beauties she so truly sees,She thinks I have no eye for these,  And vexes me for reason why.
Not yesterday I learned to know  The love of bare November daysBefore the coming of the snow;But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.


English translations of Ivo Andric's Travnicka Hronika

Criticism of English translations of Ivo Andric's Travnicka hronika is confined to a small number of reviews and occasional comments in periodicals praising the first two translations for their fidelity to the original.1 Kenneth Johnstone's The Bosnian Story (1958), as the first English version of Andric's masterpiece was titled, had generally been regarded superior to John Hitrec's later Bosnian Chronicle (1963). Yet some American critics, notably professional Slavists, preferred Hitrec's translation for having masterfully captured the 'cadenced flow of the original' and for preserving 'a marvelous tapestry of Turkish Bosnia.'2 The novel's latest translation, The Days of the Consuls (1992), done by Celia Hawkesworth, likewise failed to generate extensive translation criticism. The few reviews published in Great Britain and abroad are said to have extolled Hawkesworth's translation as the most accomplished English version of Travnicka hronik…

Poem of the week: What mystery pervades a well! by Emily Dickinson

Shamefaced confession: I've been renewing my library copy of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson for more than a year. It's the perfect dipping-book, utterly reliable for a moment's, or an hour's, refreshment. There's no poet who's so consistently disconcerting, fascinating, odd-angled. Like Stephen Hawking, Dickinson takes you to the edge of the cosmos – which may be billions of light years away or at your back door. And it's the cosmos in microcosm, of course – another advantage. Dickinson's brevity convinces you that poems were never meant to be long or ostensibly complicated.
So it's high time I faced my chronic indecision and made a choice of Dickinson Poem of the Week (and, yes, bought my own copy of the Complete Poems). From a possible 1,775, I've picked number 1,400, the one that begins "What mystery pervades a well!"
It's a strange poem, "floorless", in a sense, and perhaps not flawless. The well appears to be …