I ignore genre labels. Some of my favorite books are outside my genre comfort zone. Listening to audiobooks is still reading. Not theater.
I purchased this book quite some time ago. I started to read it then, but put it aside because at the time I wasn't up for the level of attention it clearly required. I recently picked it up and this time I made it through. I am very glad I did.
The focus of the book is on the rediscovery of an ancient poem "On the Nature of Things" by Lucretius, and the impact that rediscovery had on the swerve towards modernity and the beginning of the Renaissance. The poem, which stems from the author's devotion to the beliefs and ideals of Epicurianism, was written almost 2100 years ago and was rediscovered by a priest on a mission almost 600 years ago.
I admit I have never made it through an entire translation of "On the Nature of Things" and since I don't read classical Latin I will never tackle the original. But I have read substantial portions and have found them both lyrical, perceptive and surprisingly modern. I was interested in learning about how the poem was viewed within the context of the time of its rediscovery.
I think it is far fetched to give this rediscovery alone so much credit for swerving western civilization into the modern world. But I do agree it is one of the important factors. Greenblatt used this event as a launching point to explore several of these events and factors and the key participants at the time. The portions of the book that focused on the time period, the people and leaders who lived through them and especially the martyrs created by a church desperate to avoid any thoughts or ideas that did not mesh neatly with their doctrine, were fascinating. Much of this information wasn't new, but Greenblatt is quite a story teller. Large sections of the book were real page-turners. And it is rare to find a non-fiction book about a 2000 year old poem written to honor one of the fringe philosophical movements of the time, that was rediscovered by a Catholic priest about 1600 years later after being long forgotten and buried in a monastery, that could achieve "page-turner" status.
I highly recommend this book. And I highly recommend it be listened to. Edoardo Ballerini is one of my favorite narrators and he does an outstanding job on this book. His narration is what moves this from a four star to a five star.
Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).
This book is less a history lesson than it is a worshipful panegyric extolling the virtues of materialistic atheism. I found it to be well written and wonderfully narrated by Edoardo Ballerini. What I did not find it to be was correct. Greenblatt’s premise is that the lost poem of Lucretius, “On the Nature of Things” was instrumental in shaping the modern way of thinking. And what was this great rediscovered revelation so nearly lost to history? “The denial of divine providence and the denial of the afterlife were the twin pillars of Lucretuis’ whole poem” (8:29). I hardly think that atheism was in danger of being forgotten. Greenblatt succumbs to the common error of many who spend their lives in the hollowed halls of higher learning: he fails to consider that the normal state of man is a life lived in rebellion against God. For Greenblatt the recovery of this lost poem of Lucretius was not just a boon to literature but to epistemology as well; for through it we remain connected to our classical atomistic roots. He attributes Lucretius the virtue of restoring our atomistic understanding of the ontological nature of the universe. This was summed up in the words of the modern popularizer of atheistic thought, Carl Sagan, who famously, and nearly reverentially, put mankind in his place with the words, “We are star stuff.” No humanistic, materialistic atheism was never in danger of extinction. That said, this book is an entertaining excursion exploring humanistic thought and Greenblatt makes his case as well as he can considering his presuppositional basis of Godlessness.
Seems a bit all over the place. Lacked focus.
While the story is interesting, it felt like I was listening to a conversation with a very knowledgeable professor that had been drinking. It was written to be believable but felt like some of it was made up or embellished but I was not smart enough to be able to put my finger on it to call it out. Overall I'm not real sure what the point of the book was?
Beautifully written and performed. The thesis is not completely convincing, but definitely interesting. The book offers a unique examination of a period in time and way of life that were profoundly impactful on our modern world. A highly enjoyable, thought-provoking listen.
Swerve was lucid and interesting history, moving seamlessly around a 1,500 year timeframe. I was especially drawn in by the excellent narration - it did the work justice.
At first I didn't like the narrator but his elegant sounding Italian won me over somewhat.
I don't know. Maybe.
I was inspired to look up some names. Those people were real...I could find them in Wikipedia.
The humanist poet, Lucretious
Penned some verses the Church thought were specious
When Poggia found 'em
He spread 'em around 'n
Pretended to think them facetious.
I was attracted to this book because of the Pulitzer Prize recommendation. I like well written books about antiquity, classical philosophy & languages, etc. I'm about two hours into it. There is fascinating information about how books were written and preserved over the centuries. But this book is also an anti-Christian polemic. Early Christian intellectuals and leaders are criticized for their asceticism and alleged intolerance. Mr. Greenblatt draws caricatures and straw men and then compares them to his idealized versions of Epicurean philosophers and pagans. Frankly, I have had enough of that. I wish I could get my money back. I cannot listen to this book anymore.
There is some flavor of Mr.Ballerini reading a dirge for the loss of 98% of books and works from antiquity, as well as Christian mobs destroying libraries and worms eating scrolls and codices. His reading style was not as sad as listening to someone reading thousands of names of people who have died in some public memorials, I've been to. No,I wouldn't go that far.
There was information about the creation of books in antiquity. I liked the description of what scribes did, where they did their work, what kind of writing materials they used, how books were preserved. The description of recovering a library at Pompeii was good.
If you don't like Christianity or believe that orthodox Christians from the past tried to stop people from enjoying themselves altogether and that Epicurean philosophers have a better answer for the human race, then this is the book for you. It is well researched in some respects and well written.
Before I read this book I read "On The Nature Of Things" first. I hate reading books about a book before reading the actual subject-book first. That way I can have better appreciation of what the subject the author is talking about. This book 'The Swerve" is more about the era of rediscovery in the early 15th century, than about Lucretius. If you are intent to know about Epicureanism or Lucretius this could be one book, but the study is a broad one and you will need to find other authors that specifically focus on that material. To be sure the rediscovery of books like the work of Lucretius, did not help the theocracy of that time. The author does a good job humanising the long dead book hunters of the late middle ages. That is the best aspect of this book. Its the story of book hunters and the beginning of the end of Christian theocracy in Europe, not the story of Lucretius.
I'm not sure what I enjoyed more about this book, the history of manuscripts and the lengths of adventure one had to go through in order to discover them in the middle ages, the insights into the philosophy and worldview of a certain class in Roman society, or the fresh view on the birth of the Renaissance. But one thing that is certain is that I enjoyed all these aspects in this performance. In some ways this book is a hodgepodge of diverse subjects from the history of free thinking to the history of ancient manuscripts, but it never feels disjointed. It was one of those works that, when it ended after nearly 10 yours, left you yearning for more. After finishing this audio book, I went on to read Lucretius' 'On the Nature of Things', the rediscovery of which was the topic of this work, which was also a fascinating work in its own right, but not nearly as fun or as riveting of this superb performance.