Posted by Dennis » 1 Comment »
I’ve finally gotten around to picking up Ryszard Kapuściński’s Travels with Herodotus, which I mentioned previously. I’m 25 pages in and there’s so much I could quote, but I thought I’d select the following and encourage others to pick the book up as well. The author relates how he purchased a copy of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls to work on his English once he’d settled in India:
I returned to the hotel, opened the Hemingway to the first sentence: “He lay flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees.” I understood nothing. I had a small English-Polish pocket dictionary, the only one that had been available in Warsaw. I managed to find the word “brown,” but none of the others. I proceeded to the next sentence: “The mountainside sloped gently…” Again—not a word. “There was a stream alongside…” The more I tried to understand this text, the more discouraged I became. I felt trapped. Besieged by language. Language struck me at that moment as something material, something with a physical dimension, a wall rising up in the middle of the road and blocking my way, closing off the world, making it unattainable. It was an unpleasant and humiliating sensation.
We’ve all felt that way, but Greek and Latin have never left us alone in a foreign land. Even Herodotus, as Kapuściński notes, had the benefit of Greek being the lingua franca, which is why English was so important for Kapuściński to learn. How he did it showed great determination and possibly courage, though he really had no choice. One bit in particular could be taken as good advice by students of Greek and Latin:
I was never without the Hemingway, but now I skipped the descriptive passages I couldn’t understand and read the dialogues, which were easier…
Posted by Dennis » Add Comment »
Something that always drives me nuts is seeing people who care about the same things I do making those things seem lame. Like Star Trek. Watching the interaction between Spock and McCoy isn’t much different for me from reading Sherlock Holmes as he invites Watson to join him on a case and says he’ll be lost without his Boswell. But then some jerk has to dress up in a costume and get into debates with other jerks about the smallest things, and make me feel like I shouldn’t ever confess to liking Star Trek. But there. I said it.
I also like Latin.
And sometimes Latinists make Latin seem so … dorky.
If you’re like me maybe you wouldn’t mind seeing the following on a t-shirt:
ET VNVM ACCEPI HANC
It beats some of what I’ve seen, that I know my students would never be caught dead in, and I can’t blame them.
Posted by Sarah » Add Comment »
Scientists have discovered a new planet! This short article discusses the find. I’m disappointed in the name, TrES-4. Since it is bigger than Jupiter, shouldn’t it be called Kronos or something? Oh but the Star Trek writers already used that name for the Klingon homeworld (pronounced Kronos, spelled Q’onoS). The Klingons wouldn’t be pleased with scientists calling their planet “fluffy” though!