Category: Rome

Harald Voetmann: Vågen (Awake)

The latest addition to my website is Harald Voetmann‘s Vågen (Awake). Voetmann is a classicist and this book is about Pliny the Elder, famous for his Natural History, an early encyclopedia, and for his death from the fumes of Vesuvius. The book is narrated by Pliny and by his nephew and adopted son Pliny the Younger. We follow Pliny the Elder’s compilation of the work but also see a comparison between his worthy intellectual effort and the ugliness of the world in which he lives. Pliny aims to catalogue the whole world but even he realises this is not feasible and many of the things he believes to be facts are not, with our greater knowledge, at all accurate. His nephew takes a more pragmatic view, preferring sex to his uncle’s great labours.

César Aira: Fulgentius

The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s Fulgentius. The eponymous hero of this book is a sixty-seven year old Roman general. He is setting out on his latest campaign – he has already been on over a hundred – this one to Pannonia (Eastern Europe). One thing distinguishes him from most generals. When he was twelve he wrote an autobiographical tragedy – a new genre in Roman tragedy – initially meant as a pastiche of Roman tragedies, but which took on a more serious tone as he was writing it. It was praised by his tutor but then forgotten till someone, unknown to him, revived it thirty years later. He now takes it on his travels and has it performed at every town he halts at during his campaign, very concerned about how it is performed. We follow the performances and his campaign, during which he thinks, as we might expect from Aira, about a lot of things, even though he hates philosophy. This is somewhat different from the usual Aira book but, as always, an interesting read.

Maria de la Pau Janer: Pasiones romanas [Roman Passions]

The latest addition to my website is Maria de la Pau Janer‘s Pasiones romanas [Roman Passions]. This tells the story of six women from Palma, Majorca, who all have men problems, all losing at least one man, either by death or because he left her (usually for another woman). They also all end up or pass through Rome. The framing story is of Ignacio, a married man, who finds a wallet dropped by another passenger going on the flight to Rome, which contains a photo of the woman he loved and left ten years ago. He now decides that he wants her back. It is grim, serious and intense, with no humour, just a story about how romantic relationships are generally doomed to failure but friendship might be a viable alternative.

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