The Times Literary Supplement profiles Darkness at Noon author Arthur Koestler as an iconic “Dangerous Intellectual”: “‘My analysis … is: one third genius, one third blackguard and one third lunatic …’”
It’s a question that puzzles writers of all stripes: why is so much academic writing so terrible? It’s an issue that’s been a lifelong head-scratcher for the linguist Steven Pinker, who set out to answer the question once and for all. His verdict? It has to do with the meaning of “literary style.”
Gregory Rabassa, literary translator and professor at Queens College, died this past week. Rabassa helped introduce Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch, among others, to English-language readers. He was 94 years old.
What do you do if you’re Leo Tolstoy, 20 years old and being treated in isolation for venereal disease? Start a diary, of course. Because you’re Tolstoy, you’ll probably use this diary to make a plan of your day, and then comment on how your actual activities line up with your ideals (“not quite,” usually). And, to be as Tolstoy-ish as possible, why not rate all your actions on a general moral scale? An example: “Arose somewhat late and read, but did not have time to write. Poiret came, I fenced, and did not send him away (sloth and cowardice). Ivanov came, I spoke with him for too long (cowardice). Koloshin (Sergei) came to drink vodka, I did not escort him out (cowardice).” And so on. For some long-term perspective, pair with The Millions‘s perennially popular “Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? 8 Experts on Who’s Greater.”
A 13th century Welsh book originally written by monks on pages of animal skin has finally been made available online thanks to the country’s National Library. The ancient Book of Aneirin contains the Gododdin, one of the oldest poems ever written in the language.