history, science, et al.
"The Swerve" traces the little-known story of the poem "On the Nature of Things" by epicurean philosopher Titus Lucretius. Centuries ahead of its time, this poem envisioned a world governed by basic laws of physics operating at the atomic scale--and notably, the absence of a deity at the reins. Nearly lost to humanity during the dark ages, fortune put it in the hands of a bureaucratic book-hunter named Poggio Bracciolini in the 15th century.
The book is roughly divided into two parts--one exploring the philosophy and setting of Lucretius' poem, and the other the biography of Bracciolini. Both are fascinating stories, with excellent details of everyday life in both eras. Although touched on, I felt that more direct examples of how the poem influenced modern philosophers and scientists were needed. The author spends a fair amount of time in wistful descriptions of the poem's art and philosophical depth, yet scarcely quotes directly from the poem itself. The narrator seems to reflect this in tone, seemingly breathless from partaking in beauty which is, irksomely, not always made apparent to the reader.
In sum: Crucial for those interested in ancient philosophy and the Renaissance, although expect a high amount of surface to substance.
I love this book. How close our world came to NOT becoming enlightened. We might have been in the dark ages still. But we're not, and it's a miracle. We should count our blessings every day that we are literate! It's also a cautionary tale against all those who don't value critical thinking and higher learning.
In a class by itself.
Such a beautiful and sensuous reader of English and Italian.
There are some stand-out historical events and characters that will leave you thinking: how come I never knew about this?!
Yes. Anyone interested in history, science and relegion should enjoy this book.
Can't think of one.
I enjoyed learning about the important position of a Scribe during those times.
Learning about the philosophy of Epicuras as it pertains to this world and after death.
This book purports to be a discussion of how the rediscovery of one of Lucretius' works ignited the Renaissance. It falls somewhat short of this lofty goal, but manages nonetheless to be a really interesting and well-researched representation of European culture during the time of the Western Schism of the Roman Catholic Church. The lives of popes and anti-popes of the period, their backstories, their political alliances, and the lot of everyday people is graphically discussed.
Yes, and I will. His thoughts are complex but one can follow.
I really don't think there is a comparable book....perhaps Haidt.
There are not scenes in this book, really.
No. It's a little dense for one sitting, but I would gladly listen to it repeatedly.
More from Greenblatt. Students and scholars benefit greatly from his writings!
reading a different book!
he could have written a better book!
It was impossible to detract from a book this poor.
Here's the gist of it: some Italian guy loves old Roman manuscripts. After a VERY long time, he gets his hands on this one, by Lucretius, a Roman writer who says, there is no God, you die, the soul dies, that's it, so enjoy yourselves now. Thinkl you've never heard of this guy? Think he's simply another atheist/epicurean type? Think again. Thomas Jefferson had 5 copies in his library which PROVES this is the most important book ever in the history of ever. Now I've just saved you 300+ pages of supposition, guessing and endless detail, much of which feels totally invented.
Love that Texas weather!
To say that I had no idea is to put it mildly. Greenblatt, in his thorough and inimitable style, tells of the world in Classical Greek and Roman times, how the growing Christian Church changed society and also preserved (despite themselves, seemingly) the "pagan" early writings, and how Petrarch inspired Poggio to (eventually) discover Lucretius's long poem, "On the Nature of Things." I have learned of the invention of beautiful handwriting, how books--codices-- existed in Greek and Roman times (it was not all scrolls), and that monks in the dark ages were required to know how to read, and to read daily for extended periods of time. I have learned so much; I am eager to re-read this book to fill in what I have missed in all the amazing disclosures. My long fascination with the Middle Ages and my complete ignorance of Classical Greek and Roman times are being amply rewarded with details and images of how it must have been.
The realization of how deeply and extensively the ethic "Christian guilt and sin" quashed curiosity and learning.
Language is speech; I appreciate hearing the words as well as reading the text. I am both listening and reading this book.
This book introduces the reader to very exciting concepts and helps to connect modern times to ancient times. We are not so very different, except for the overlay of the Christian ethic. People and societies are so real in Greenblatt's telling. I can't wait to finish the book and read it again, making notes the second time.
I love this book!
If you are someone interested in the process of discovery of medieval books from ancient monasteries - this is the book for you. I am not one of these people but even I could make out that this book is erudite and smart in that field. My problem with this was just that. Drawn in by the blurb, by Prof Greenblatt's Charlie Rose interview where he described Lucretius as the "honey on the lip of a cup of bitter medicine" - I was disappointed that this book did not have enough of Lucretius for me. For almost 5/6th of the book it is clever writing about Europe (or even more specifically Italy) in Middle Ages. It may be that I misled myself, but I would've liked a lot more discussion on Lucretius instead, right from the beginning, and a closer examination of the ramification of the discovery of "On the nature of things" not just the finding of it.
Fascinating account of books, learning and society in middle ages. First half was a page turner but it slowed down in the second half. Still not to be missed.
reading is pure joy
The historical details and the narrator. The voice reminded me of my Italian Lit professor in college reading Dante to us in Italian. Wish there was more in Italian, but in English (99% of the book) the tone and pacing were very enticing and enjoyable as well. I liked the specific-ness of the locations and the idea of following this one individual who often was at odds with his times. Seemed analogous to a modern person who suddenly finds himself laid off mid-career due to politics or downturns... and now what?
stop trying to make the poem the crux of the Renascence -- it wasn't.
Pronunciation, timbre, pacing, warmth.