world literature classics: thoughts extempore

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World Literature Classics; Thoughts Extempore

Xah Lee, 2010-08-18

Spent like a whole day last week revisiting all of my World Literature Classics pages. Rechecked all links, nosed about anything that might be new (e.g. reread Wikipedia articles, checked printing status at amazon, editions, reader comments...), and fixed any unintended grammatical errors and or improved my annotations here and there.

Here's a few short ones you might enjoy:

  • This one is hilarious: Little Red Riding Hood (Politically Correct version). Note that the Little Red Riding Hood story changes thru the ages, to suite the waves and tides of the changing times and places.
  • This one by James Agee: A Mother's Tale, is the best presentation of agnosticism. (agnosticism here is not with respect to god, but epistemology.)
  • This one, is just classic. Cupid and Psyche. Very typical of greek mythology. In which, you learned that their gods and goddesses are not some righteous beings as of gods in Abrahamic religions, but filled with desire, jealousy, anger, materialistic wanting, all the foibles. e.g. it's common for a greek goddess to kill or deform some mortal maiden out of jealousy of her beauty, or for gods to vie for power or steal other's wives, even eating their own son or cutting off dad's penis for power. (in-faimly power struggle between males happens thru-out Chinese history, am sure in Europe too).
  • To Build a Fire (Jack London) About human animals vs nature.

I really love them.

The one novel i never completed reading is Gulliver's Travels. The last annotation i did was on Part 4, chapter 7. That means i have about just 10% more to go. Supposedly, the ending is somewhat a surprise: that of all the Lilliputians and Brobdingnagians and Laputians whatnot hateful creatures so described in the saga, it turns out it's just human animals.

I was reading it starting in 2005 but stopped about 2008, because i found the work quite boring and tedious to go thru. All the allusions and satire require a understanding of UK politics of 1700s. Quite painstaking research to annotate.

Another large work, which i really do enjoyed reading a lot, is The Arabian Nights of Sir Richard Burton's translation. This work is just amazing. In the phantasmagorical story itself (often with wild sexuality), but as well as Burton's amazing English style. I remember that some alt.english.usage folks commented that Burton's Arabian Nights is bad tortuous English, but i truely enjoyed it, in its perhaps stilted use of archaic words, far more than Gulliver's Travels. And, i really do love the embedded poems littered thru-out. These poems, as it is often said, are “extempore”.

Here's one example from The Fisherman And The Jinni:

“O toiler through the glooms of night in peril and in pain,
Thy toiling stint for daily bread comes not by might and main!
Seest thou not the fisher seek afloat upon the sea
His bread, while glimmer stars of night as set in tangled skein?
Anon he plungeth in despite the buffet of the waves,
The while to sight the bellying net his eager glances strain,
Till joying at the night's success, a fish he bringeth home
Whose gullet by the hook of Fate was caught and cut in twain.
When buys that fish of him a man who spent the hours of night
Reckless of cold and wet and gloom in ease and comfort fain,
Laud to the Lord who gives to this, to that denies, his wishes
And dooms one toil and catch the prey and other eat the fishes.”

Do you know what Arabian Nights is about? You've watched Disney right? Check these three single-paragraph tales out: The Arabian Nights: 70. ABU AL-ASWAD AND HIS SLAVE-GIRL.

Speaking of long tales, the other one i truely enjoyed, read it i think 3 times, is The Tragedy Of Titus Andronicus.

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