The introduction provides some excellent Grimm trivia, if naught else… Wilhelm concentrated on literature, while Jacob was more wide-ranging; and therThe introduction provides some excellent Grimm trivia, if naught else… Wilhelm concentrated on literature, while Jacob was more wide-ranging; and there are no fairies (I repeat, no fairies, so get out of here with those fairies) as fairies were French. It does a pretty nice job of introducing everything. Presentation of business at hand -- each tale's years, sources, provenance, whatnot -- isn't as dry as it could be thanks to the fun and light cross-referencing and compact digressions by Applebaum.
And the translations always seem really, really excellent. Some rhyming songs stretched a bit far to fit back into English, but the bulk of it is line-for-line impressive and well done. Dual-language seems to me quite rewarding and awesome, for big details (whether it feels better to say this or that, etc.) or small details (cross back line-by-line or sentence-by-sentence or graf-by-graf, etc.), or how you read at all.
Also, I guess folk tales can seem, when they're just bare English, off-point and bad; so when there's macabre or gruesome bits, those can be ironically twisted up in a way to mock what seems crazy and archaic. But they don't seem like that much in German. Everything has the same rich, aged, funny, kind of smelly character, where everything's as old as everything else, so you can be macabre a little bit anytime you want to. It's not just little tales that can do that, sure, but crazy-big monuments and movements and songs. And don't get me started on the grand dangers of blood and alcohol. Hitler didn't drink, fyi.
"Der Froschkönig" is the first, "Märchen von einem, der auszog, das Fürchten zu lernen" (they be dead on them gallows, y'idiot) the second, "Der Wolf und die 7 jungen Geißlein" (Big Swallow motif, yo; cut out of belly and replace with stones), the third, and "Brüderchen und Schwesterchen", "Rapunzel", "Die 3 Spinnerinnen" next.
"Hänsel und Gretel" (hot-as-hell oven) is the seventh, "Strohhalm, Kohle und Bohne" the eighth, "Das tapfere Schneiderlein" the ninth, "Aschenputtel" (dance with prince and then a super-quick wardrobe change) the tenth, "Frau Holle" and "Rotkäppchen" next, and "Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten" (talking animals whose dreams of rock musician stardom won't be cut short by any meddling humans) the thirteenth.
"Tischendeckdich" (Table-Set-Yourself, and don't forget the donkey who poops gold) is the fourteenth, "Daumesdick" the fifteenth, "Die 6 Schwäne" and "Dornröschen" and "Sneewittchen" the next, and "Rumpelstilzchen" (angry little person, who boasts too loud about his own cool name) the nineteenth, and "Der goldene Vogel", "Allerleirauh", "6 kommen durch die ganze Welt" next.
But I really like "Hans im Glück" most of all. It's so simple, just a guy going home after service, and powerful all the same. A careful series of exchanges… Seven years to gold. Gold to horse. Horse to cow. Cow to pig. Pig to goose. Goose to grindstone. And then that falls down a well, so he's "frei von aller Last" and happy still. Who would have thought?
"Die Gäusemagd" the twenty-fourth, "Die zertanzten Schuhe" (take better care of your sweet kicks, so no one realizes you sneak off to dance) the twenty-fifth, and "Schneeweißchen und Rosenrot" and "Die Meisterdieb" the last. These Germans and their silly folk tales. They can spin one pretty well when they feel like it, it seems like, for eventual translation alongside they original words, to which you just gotta word up. Word....more
Giacomo Leopardi, 1798-1837, a little-known Italian philosopher but world-renowned poet, composed most of this collection of prose between 1823 and 18Giacomo Leopardi, 1798-1837, a little-known Italian philosopher but world-renowned poet, composed most of this collection of prose between 1823 and 1828. The resulting magnum opus, Operette morali ("Small Moral Works"), ties together 24 dialogues and fictional essays. Its translation, plus the biographical sketch on Leopardi that precedes it, are both by Charles Edwardes, a stiff English chap writing in 1882. Stilted sometimes, even mean-spirited, but such a departure for all involved.
The actual material -- silly dialogues, essays, just fleeting corners of rhetoric, sharp in a mannered antiquity -- are sometimes long-winded but usually pretty nicely balanced.
Before I discuss the bulk, let me just pick out two that I feel perfectly encapsulate Leopardi. Both of these come in the middle of the book. The 12th, "Dialogue between Nature & an Icelander," takes its time setting up its premise but soon enough delivers a nicely droll end. The 19th, "Dialogue between Timandro & Eleandro," has Timandro inquiring politically and nicely (on behalf of optimism?) and Eleandro brashly and dismissively (on behalf of pessimism?); suitable, I think! ;-)
The rest, whether dialogue or essay, rest pretty clearly in a few subjects. One is probably scornful mythology… I don't know mean scorning the mythology that exists (at least not always), but maybe inventing new mythology one of whose express purposes is to be scorned. The 1st essay in the book, "History of the Human Race," is thick and repurposes all of anthropology. The 4th, "Prize Competition of the Academy of Sillographs," asks if could machines could ever be social.
The 9th, "The Wager of Prometheus" does poke at actual mythology but in a chummy way. After a contest among the gods about which of their inventions is best (Bacchus's wine, Minerva's oil, or Vulcan's cooking pot), Prometheus wagers with Momus that humanity is. Some doubting ensues!
There are other dialogues that bluntly revise common misunderstandings: the 3rd one, "Dialogue Between Fashion & Death," asks which is more permanent, more impermanent. The 5th one, "Dialogue Between a Goblin & a Gnome," asks would the apocalypse, after it happens, be parochial. Smart and silly, but tied a little too tightly to earthly particularly.
Others (better, I think) subtly direct their questions to the cosmos. The 6th, "Dialogue between Malambruno & Farfarello," weighs happiness and vice. The 7th, "Dialogue between Nature & a Soul," examines happiness as a human raison d'être. The 10th, "Dialogue between a Natural Philosopher & a Metaphysician," looks at prolonging human life: more years _and_ better years, or more years _or_ better years?
And gradually those cosmos-directed questions can turn more and more to mortality. The 16th, "Dialogue between Columbus & Gutierrez," asks if soldiers'/sailors' risks, versus the relative safety of ordinary people, mean they enjoy their lives more or less. The 21st, "Dialogue between an Almanac Seller & a Passer-by," is a tiny dialogue examining the popular attitude that the past is bad but worth reliving.
And at the very end, Leopardi's writing crashes head-on into mortality. Three in a row, offering an interesting summary of the subject. In the 22nd piece, "Dialogue between Plotinus & Porphyrius," self-destruction is the topic (Plotinus curtly but successfully anti-, Porphyrius pro-), along a rich philosophical vein, Reason vs Nature, but then settling on egotism.
The next, "Comparison of the Last Words of Marcus Brutus & Theophrastus," examines it in a more nonfictional, historical sense. And the next again, "Dialogue between Tristano & a Friend," examines it again: the friend unsuccessfully -anti, Tristano -pro.
Leopardi also reviews other authors in these pages. His 13th, "Parini on Glory," seems to deal just in assumptions and cruel/crude audacity. Greatness, he quotes agreeably, "owes more to men of common powers than to those who are exceptionally endowed," and sneers on at intellectuality ungratefully. His 15th, "Remarkable Sayings of Philip Ottonieri," is a bit disagreeable and trite, and too dense and inscrutable by far. It's only very occasionally relatable or interesting.
So on the basis of those two alone, I think it's safe to say Leopardi isn't a great writer when he isn't creative. And the mere flights of fancy in the book -- 14. "Dialogue between Frederic Ruysch & His Mummies"; 17. "Panegyric of Birds"; 18. "The Song of the Wild Cock" -- are appropriately some of the funniest and most exciting pieces....more
Chapter 132 is really one of the few that spoke to me this first long time around. "The Symphony" it's called. Pondering nature to pondering life, andChapter 132 is really one of the few that spoke to me this first long time around. "The Symphony" it's called. Pondering nature to pondering life, and it's all in crisp and soft poetry. Ahab on the deck, thinking the water halved like parents, and Starbuck shows up to commiserate, and hears a lot about age and eternity and family and marriage and self. Retreat to Nantucket, to just go home and give up the whole thing? No. Ended shortly too, with just an ominous note about Fedallah.
Cerys Matthews reads the chapter in the Moby-Dick Big Read, and her lovely Welsh accent carries the words to new heights. I wish more of Melville was lent to her voice, but you can't have everything....more