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Fragments (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 29 Jul 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Bilingual edition (29 July 2008)
  • Language: English, Greek
  • ISBN-10: 0142437654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437650
  • Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 0.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 347,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Fragments of wisdom from the ancient world In the sixth century b.c.-twenty-five hundred years b....

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When the iron hoe was a new invention, Pythagoras saw mathematical logic as a language of cosmic prophecy. Read the first page
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Matthew C. Stuart-White on 8 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
The book predominately consists of the fragments themselves presented in a helpful translinear fashion with plenty of margin-space for notes. In this respect it does well.

The foreward however sheds light on the authors' biased reading of Heraclitus as an ancient proponent of postmodernism! The translation, in parts, shares this same bias. Heraclitus speaks of The Logos, which is truth shared between all humanity, if only they will wake up to look upon it. The individual worlds of men are dreamlike dellusions, he says. In my opinion Heraclitus was the anti-thesis of a postmodernist.

But nevermind, highly usable and superbly layed-out. Look elsewhere for a sensible commentary.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By sanyata on 3 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
Not only do the author's misinterpret Heraclitus, their translations are also WRONG. Get Charles Kahn's academic translation instead.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 16 reviews
151 of 154 people found the following review helpful
Not a translation, but renderings into 20th century New Age talk 6 Sept. 2005
By Christopher Culver - Published on
Format: Paperback
Heraclitus' FRAGMENTS come here in the original with a facing-page translation by Brooks Haxton that tries to do to the pre-Socratic philosopher what no earlier translator has done, make him a New-Ageish wisdom poet in tune with our modern needs. It is a disastrous experiment, and I cannot recommend it either to students of Greek or readers interested in the pre-Socratics.

The problems here are legion. For one, Haxton doesn't use Diels' numbering scheme, favouring Bywater's dinosaur-era numbers, which means this work is out of touch with most collections of Heraclitus. The Greek typeface used is very idiosyncratic and not conformant to classical norms. But the translation itself is horrid.

A lot of what the reader is getting here simply isn't Heraclitus. Instead of providing a footnote with his opinion on what the fragment may mean in context, as reputable scholars would do, Haxton simply adds content to the translation. Unless he were to look at the translation notes in the back, the average reader would be unaware that much of what he was reading wasn't actual said by the philsopher, but is just one modern translator's opinion. Take, for example, Haxton's rendition of the fragment "Nyktipoloi, magoi, bakchoi, lenai, mustai", which is literally translated "Night-walkers, mages, bacchants, lenai, and the initiated", but which Haxton inexplicably expands to "Nightwalker [sic], magus, and their entourage, bacchants and mystics of the wine press, with stained faces, and damp wits". One that really takes the cake is 89: "Ex homine in tricennio potest avus haberi," which simply means "A man could be a grandfather in thirty years." Haxton somehow comes up with "Look: the baby born under the new moon under the old moon holds her grandchild in her arms".

This translation is a crime. If you are interested in Heraclitus' thought, try getting a reputable scholarly translation. Dennis Sweet's HERACLITUS: Translation and Analysis (University Press of America, 1995) is quite easily readable and entertaining. Stay far away from Haxton's kookish work.
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
At Least it Has The Greek 12 May 2006
By Ben Hoffman - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you know Greek, and don't care about using it as a reference work, this is a good, inexensive edition. It contains the fragments in Greek.

On the pages opposite the Greek, though, is not a translation. Instead, it is an adaptation into English. This adaptation is occasionally inspired, often mediocre, and almost never what Heraclitus said.
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Abandoned in "Translation" 11 Aug. 2007
By benjamin - Published on
Format: Paperback
When I picked this volume up, I was quite excited to finally have the opportunity to read the fragments of Heraclitus. This particular volume is printed as a bilingual edition, with the Greek on the left page and the English "translation" on the right. This particular edition gives 130 Fragments as belonging to Heraclitus, but only translates 126 of them; the translator indicates that one was deleted in a prior edition (9), two fragments were repetitive (42 & 54), and another is omitted due to its overlapping with the two prior fragments. Apparently, the translator is going for some kind of narrative flow in the fragments and what the reader therefore gets is a Heraclitus that has been packaged for sale.

For aspiring scholars like me, however, the omission in the translation are only one concern. Of greater concern is when Brooks Paxton, the "translator", writes in his notes that he has "provided my own examples" (95, n. 16) within the actual text of the translation from other ancient Greek writings! So, not only are we getting a commodified Heraclitus, but a commodified Heraclitus that is also now intertextual with other ancient Greek literature that he not only never cited, but actually lived before they were written! Paxton then writes, "Heraclitus, no doubt, would have chosen other examples" (ibid.). One wonder why Paxton didn't just translate the examples that Heraclitus himself gave so that we might understand what it was that he was originally trying to get across. Further, Paxton even changes entirely the reference to a town in one of the fragments because little is known about the town that Heraclitus references (97 n. 112).

I myself do not know Greek, so I cannot comment upon how well translated these passages are. Given the above notes from Paxton's own hand, however, I am not willing to trust the translation - for all I know he has played fast and loose with it, going for the aesthetic feel of a word over (and perhaps even against!) what would actually communicate what Heraclitus actually wrote or said. I find it extremely disappointing that Penguin Classics would allow and publish such shoddy academic work. This book is of no use whatsoever to the lay person who wants to actually understand Heraclitus; it is of even less use to the student that would like a reliable translation to use for research. Fortunately, there are other translations - such Guy Davenport's Herakleitos and Diogenes - which aim at being responsible translations, in the belief that Heraclitus could - and will continue to - speak for himself.
57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
Shiny Happy Truisms 5 May 2004
By Jeremy Kazan - Published on
Format: Paperback
While Heraclitus is no do doubt deserving of five stars, and Brooks Haxton does provides some lovely, even moving, translations here; there is something just a little too fast and loose about this edition for my comfort - as if the folks at Penguin figured they could cash in pitching ancient Greek thought to a New Age audience. I hate to say it, but this is a volume in desperate need of far more extensive footnotes and a far more rigorous introduction to provide a better picture of the world and context from these fragments and their author come from. Unfortunately, without these, Haxton/Penguin merely leave the reader with an amorphous list of happy truisms. James Hillman's softball introduction is of little use with its glib glossing of archetypes, postmodernism, and cross cultural comparisons of so-called "wisdom poetry" in what I can only take as a feel-good attempt to make Heraclitus into some sort of hip dude; you know, like Buddha, Lao-Tzu, Jesus and gang. And I have no doubt that he was, but this sort of self-congratulatory blather (e.g. "I like to think [Heraclitus] would have enjoyed this deconstruction") makes my teeth grind. This book is fine for those who want to rub their bellies and say "ohm," after every precious fragment, and Haxton's renderings really are nice, but it is still essentially useless for the student or serious reader. The use of the original Greek text on the facing pages appears perhaps only as a desperate attempt at some sort of legitimacy. On a shallow note, this book does feature one of the nicest, and most appropriate, covers to grace a Penguin Classic in a long time. At least their design department still appears to be top notch.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Good for Greek, Despicable Translation 11 Mar. 2007
By J. Golebiewski - Published on
Format: Paperback
As a recent graduate of a Classics program and enthusiast of pre-Socratic philosophy, I was thrilled to see an edition of Heraclitus' fragments available with the original Greek text opposite an English translation (particularly because the Greek text of the Fragments is so hard to come by). To readers of Greek, the English translation will look poor if not atrocious and absurd. It aims to capture the 'sense' of the Greek while consistently avoiding more literal renderings. Sometimes a 'loose translation' is enjoyable, if not preferable - but here the supposedly 'poetic' translation is SO outrageous that I feel it does a grave injustice to Heraclitus' philosophy. There are two reasons to buy this book: 1) you are a student of Greek who can read the Greek text and appreciate it while ignoring the English translations on the right-facing pages, or 2) you want to read the English translations to get a taste of Heraclitus but feel inspired to learn the Greek by having its presence on the left-facing pages. No one should buy this book hoping to get an authoritative translation of Heraclitus.
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