The tale narrated by Edoardo Bellerini is based on the somewhat audacious premise that an ancient poem, "The Nature of Things", rediscovered in the fourteen hundreds, tipped the waiting world into the Renaissance, ending the so-called Dark Ages. That hypothesis is, at the very least, a bit overblown. However, the author's account of the search for lost literary works of ancient Greece and Rome gives us a fascinating look into the flower - and ultimate downfall - of these great civilizations. I marveled at the perseverance of the Medieval scholar, Poggio Bracciolini, who found himself out of work after the dethroning and eventual execution of his employer, Pope John the 23rd. (No relation to the modern Pope of the same name...) Bracciolini set out on a journey that took him to England and across much of Europe, lead by tantalizing hints of the Great Poem's existence somewhere in an unknown archive - perhaps a monastery...
Edoardo Bellerini reads "The Swerve" with passion and style - perfect for this work. I'm already looking for another read by him.
I highly recommend, "The Swerve". Maybe "The Nature of Things" didn't actually bring us into the Modern Era. On the other hand, the great scholars who were motivated to retrieve it certainly kept the spirit of inquiry and the love of reading alive during an aptly described time of great cultural and societal darkness.
Okay - I'm a little biased. I dance to an Epicurean drum. But this story has it all. If you've in the slightest bit interested in how a Roman poem, referencing Epicurus, written 100 years before Christ can sum up our 'modern scientific' view of life, the universe and everything, then this is your book.
I'm still buzzing about the wealth of ideas in this book. I'm getting "On The Nature Of Things' straight away.
Simply put this book is a gem. Plant a shovel and dig up the precious stuff inside.
Fine art photographer, retired English professor, dog mom to an adorable Maltese mix, long-time Californian, genealogist, what else?
I'm a huge fan of Greenblatt's "Will in the World," so I was happy to try this one. I was not disappointed. This is a absorbing account of the re-discovery of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura in the Middle Ages and how it affected thinking in the Renaissance and beyond. The story is fascinating, the reader excellent, and listeners will not be disappointed. I'm now reading Lucretius' poem itself, and only wish that I could read it in the original Latin, though A.E. Stallings has a good recent (2007) translation.
A school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!
I wanted to like this book. I really, really wanted to like it. It came highly recommended from a very respected person, so I began it with great excitement.
And then it just didn't measure up.
I found the story hard to follow. When were things just "a person" and when were they someone with a name, and what was that name? How did we go from one place and suddenly be in another place?
There were some interesting points that I drew out of the book, but in general, it just fell short for me. Off to something I'll enjoy better...
it was well spent in light of the content & history that i learned. unfortunately it was also very painful due to the overly dramatic and affected narration.
my high school classmate who was dyslexic and a terrible stutterer.
I would buy a book (by Greenblatt) where the tasty quotes from Lucretius were pulled out and given more explanation/examination.
Certainly. I chose this book precisely because Ballerini read it.
His unbelievably intimate understanding of the books he reads.
I've always been interested in history, and especially of the Middle Ages. I thought that Greenblatt's depiction, however correct, might have been more nuanced. Historians such as Duby, Le Goff and Pernoud have demonstrated that the Middle Ages were not simply a world of darkness and despair. Furthermore, as demonstrated by Rubenstein in Aristotle's Children, contrary to what Greenblatt implicitly claims, the Church played a major role in guaranteeing the survival of the greco-roman intellectual heritage.
An educator and senior who listens to his books from his phone through his hearing aids.
This an interesting historical eye-opener for all those who thought the early Christians and especially the catholic church had an exclusive lease on the moral high ground. Using "The Nature of Things" a poem by Lucretius, an early century follower of the philosopher Epicurus as a historical touchstone, Stephen Greenblatt leads his reader/listener from the gods of early Rome, through the superstition of the dark ages and fanatical tyranny of the Roman Catholic church to age of enlightenment and even evolution. This is not a read/listen for those that hide among their sacred cows.
Where will humanity be had mythology (religion) not interfered with the well developed human knowledge around the classic Greek era?
The exquisite documentation of historical facts.
His accent, pronunciation of Italian terms, clear diction and emphasis.
Absolutely... I could not put it down.
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?!