Friday, June 29, 2007

How to Take Intelligent Vacations

I’m off on holidays for two weeks, so I don’t think I’ll be posting much over the next fortnight. I’ll be spending my holidays on all those things teachers do- marking, setting exams, writing programs, and I hope to get stuck into a few good books too. If you’re looking for something good to read over the holidays, here are a few tips from Umberto Eco.

"For vacationers who will be spending long hours on the beach I would recommend the Ars magna lucis et umbrae of Athanasius Kircher fascinating for anyone who, lying under the infrared solar rays, wants to reflect on the wonders of light and mirrors. TheRoman edition of 1645 can still be acquired through antiquarians for sums undoubtedly inferior to those that our former leaders exported into Switzerland…

For young people who are recovering from (or disappointed by) political activity, but are still anxious to keep an eye on the problems of the Third World, I would suggest some little masterpieces of Muslim wisdom. Adelphi has recently published The Book of Advice by Kay Ka’us ibn Iskander, but unfortunately without the original Iranian; the translation does not convey the flavour of the text. I would suggest instead the delightful (Kitab) al-sa’adah wa-al-is’ad by Abu al-Hasan al-‘Amiri, available in Tehran in the critical edition of 1957.

But not every reader is fluent in Middle Eastern languages, of course. For the patristically-oriented motorist, less burdened by constraints on bulk or weight of luggage, the complete collection of Migne’s Patrologia is always an excellent choice. I would advise against the Greek Fathers before the Council of Florence of 1440, which would require packing both the 160 volumes of the Graeco-Latin edition and the 81 of the Latin edition, whereas the Latin Fathers prior to 1216 are squeezed into 218 volumes…

Finally, for those whose Hebrew is rusty, there is always the Corpus Hermeticum and the Gnostic writings (Valentinus is best; Basil is not infrequently prolix and irritating). All this (and much more) will make for an intelligent vacation."

[Umberto Eco, How to Take Intelligent Vacations, from How to Travel with a Salmon and other Essays, 1994]

4 comments:

Mike Salter said...

Hmm. Well, I'll be cleaning out the gutters on our roof, helping babysit my wife's friend's kids, and watching Wimbledon and the Asian Cup.

So much for classics teachers' intelligent vacations...

Anonymous said...

Salve, Latin teacher from Newtown. I am a Latin teacher from Kensington. Could it be that one day the Classicists among us will take over the world...again?

jm said...

I sincerely hope so. After this weekend I'm full of optimism for the future, and the triumph of good over evil.

a latin teacher from kensington... have we ever met before? (I teach at St George Girls, in Kogarah).

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