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Chattering Courtesans and Other Sardonic Sketches (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 24 Jun 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (24 Jun. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447024
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447026
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 485,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Lucian (AD c.125- c.200) was a Greek writer of prose satires. Many of his works are dialogues where mythological or historical figures are placed in ridiculous situations. He was influential on the later Humanist writers, including Thomas More and Erasmus.

Keith Sidwell is Professor of Latin and Greek at University College Cork. He is co-author of the language textbooks Reading Greek and Reading Latin, and author of Reading Medieval Latin and Lucian: a selection. He has published widely on Greek Tragedy, Greek Comedy, Lucian and his influence, and Medieval and Renaissance Latin literature.

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
For the non-classicist Lucian is famous for his 'True Histories', recounting a fantastic voyage that incorporates a trip to the moon, an inter-stellar war, a sojourn in a whale so big it contains a land-mass and various inhabitants, and perilous encounters in numerous islands filled with strange and wonderful sights. Although it parodies Homer and other classical writers, you are inevitably reminded of subsequent works by Swift, Cyrano, Milton, Calvino, even Terry Gilliam... Lovers of imaginative literature will want this volume just for 'True Histories', but there are lots of other reasons for buying it. This is the sort of book you are just so grateful that Penguin are still happy to publish - a real labour of love with maps, glossary, 100 pages of notes, and a really nice cover. I'm not competent to judge the translation but it reads well and conveys Lucian's wit (at one point there is even a small but justifiable reference to Cork, where the translator teaches). I liked 'The Ship', a very natural dialogue which features enjoyable speculation on what its protagonists would do if they could have anything in the world. 'Toxaris' includes 10 condensed tales of friendship and reads a bit like a slice of the 'Decameron'. The 'Chattering Courtesans' dialogues have an almost 'floating world' feel to them - brief, sparkling reflections on the love lives of these Greek geishas. Art historians will be interested in the story about Apelles in 'Slander' and discussion of the work of other artists in 'Images'. Lucian constantly reminds you of the glories of Greek philosophy and literature (Rome is barely mentioned) and the whole book provides a fascinating sense of the continuity of Greek civilisation, down to Lucian's time in the second century AD. Highly recommended.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rubbah on 19 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback
Initially I thought this book was going to be incredibly difficult to read and so put off reading it for as long as possible.
However, chattering courtesans was interesting, insightful and at times even funny. Lucian makes fun pre-concieved ideals about women and men in that time. He even makes fun of religion and customs, for example mourning those who have died.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Makes me happy 30 Sept. 2006
By Shadowgraphs - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book contains a variety of pieces by Lucian, the premier Greek-language satirist of the ancient word. You get a pretty big range of syles here. There's some old comedy, some new comedy, some prose, some dialogues, some longer pieces, some shorter pieces; pretty much a bit of everything. Of special interest is True Histories, which contains the first description of a space battle in the cannon of western literature, along with many other bizarre yet charmingly amusing episodes.

I personally recommend this as an introduction to Lucian becuase the translation completely rocks. It's kind of a daunting task to translate any form of comedy that is more subtle than over-the-top (you can think of this as pretty much the opposite of Petronius) and Keith Sidwell definately rises to the challenge. He adds a distinctively Irish sense of wit to the text and makes it a real pleasure to read. Plus, the footnotes explain any witty references that require a knowledge of Greek to understand, which is really helpful for the lay read.

If you love classical authors and have never read Lucian, you're really missing out! He is a hillareous literary innovator and stands as one of the gems of the classical cannon Just make sure to read most of the "essentials" (Homer, Plato, Lucretius, Seneca, etc...) before tackling this; like any good humorist, Lucian is overwhelmingly fluent in the cultural canon and references just about everything he possibly can.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
I loved this book 8 May 2006
By K. Campbell - Published on
Format: Paperback
Lucian was the George Bernard Shaw of the ancient world. In his stories, philosophers get drunk and argue to no purpose, just like today's TV pundits. A mother accuses her daughter of not loving her, because the daughter refuses to sleep with a rich man who will ensure the mother's retirement income. A king threatens to execute someone who made fun of him for waxing his chest (a philosopher convinces the king to be lenient, and when the king asks him, "Well, I have to punish him somehow. What should I do?" the philosopher says, "Why don't you make him get his chest waxed?").

Lucian wrote about middle-class Romans in the 3rd century AD -- he uses humor to expose their hypocrisy, vanity and general silliness, but you get the feeling that he loved people for those very weaknesses -- he's sardonic, but he's also sympathetic.
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