Sunday, 28 February 2016

Recent Reads: Catullus and others

The cold weather has enabled me the time to read several recently-published books:-

The first I would recommend is "Catullus's Bedspread", by Daisy Dunn, about the great Roman poet who was a contemporary of Caesar and Cicero. When I was doing school Latin, nobody told me that Roman poetry could be so remarkably rude and obscene: far beyond anything that would be acceptable nowadays!
  Secondly: Simon Sebag Montefiore's "The Romanovs", Montefiore concentrates on personal details rather than politics, and there are plenty of sordid details to tell about this seriously weird dynasty. My only criticism would be that he gives far too much attention to the killing of Nicholas II and his family. Of course it was a tragedy, but the man was extremely stupid and also violently antisemitic (he believed every word of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", which his own secret police had put out); and an immense number of Jews were slaughtered in pogroms during his reign.
   On this topic, we have David Cesarani's "Final Solution": an enormous book on the Holocaust. Cesarani stresses throughout how improvised, incoherent and generally chaotic the Nazi campaign of mass murder was. Cesarani, whom I met once, sadly died prematurely last year, and this book will have to serve as his posthumous achievement.
   Another large book is "The Story of Alice", by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst. I wouldn't have thought it was possible to write a dull book about Lewis Carroll and Alice, but I found this tough going. There was simply too much detail, particularly on things that might have influenced Carroll, and the result was frequently indigestible.   

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