Archive for December, 2021

A very happy Christmas, and New Year

Well, here we are again. This is the time of year when book bloggers compile their lists of the Best of the Year, their Top Ten, and what not. But I doubt I’m capable of doing that: I don’t think I’ve read ten books this year.

Mind you, what I have read has been pretty substantial. I actually finished Finnegans Wake, and I’m still patting myself on the back over that. And Dante’s Commedia, in Clive James’ translation. I doubt I got as much out of either as I should have done, but at least I tried my best. There are posts earlier in this blog describing my experiences with these monumental works.

And speaking of monumental works, I re-read Goethe’s Faust too (there’s a post somewhere on what I made of that strange second part). I also read Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, and, I must admit, I found it more congenial to my tastes and sensibilities, Add to that some dozen plays by Shakespeare (I’m still readimg one a month), and about half of Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu (to be completed next year some time), as well as Sheila Hale’s massive biography of Titian, i guess I haven’t been doing too badly.

But my blogging has, I realise, dropped off considerably. Laziness, I suppose. I’ll try to do better next year – honestly, I will.

As for reading plans – yes, there are always reading plans. I need to finish Tale of Genji for a start: it is a book I’m finding absorbing, but difficult. Its cultural background I am entirely unfamiliar with, and its literary aesthetics are very different from anything I have encountered before: I am finding it difficult merely keeping up, and am not at all sure that I’ll have anything to say of any great interest should I decide to blog about it once I have finished.

And similarly for a few other books I am planning to read: they are generally departures from my usual reading, and I am diffident about having any particular insight to offer. I’d like to read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde, both in the original text rather than in modern translations. And I’d like to tackle Rabelais. I’ve acquired Gargantua et Pantagruel in translations by Thomas Urquhart and Pierre le Motteux (le Motteux completed what Urquhart had left unfinished when he died), and by Donald Frame, and I plan reading them both – the latter because it is a modern translation reputed to be scholarly and accurate; and the former because, despite the looseness that, I understand, was quite common in translations of the seventeenth century; and, further, despite many passages that are, seemingly, Urquhart’s own invention; this translation is often declared to be a masterpiece in its own right. Since I wanted to read both an accurate version, and also to enjoy Urquhart’s contributions, the best solution seemed to be to read both.

In addition, I plan to read, along with Tom of the much esteemed Wuthering Expectations blog, all the existing Greek plays – one a week (there is an itinerary here). Maybe that is just what I need to get back into blogging again on a regular basis.

I plan also to continue reading one Shakespeare play a month, although, given how much I have written about Shakespeare’s plays on this blog over the years, I doubt I’ll be blogging about them unless I have anything very specific to say.

And that’s about it, really. So best wishes to all for a very Happy Christmas and New Year. And I’ll try to ge a bit more productive next year.

“Nativity” by Fra Angelico, cortesy of Museo dimSan Marco, Florence.