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The Golden Ass (Penguin Classics S.) Paperback – 22 Nov 1990

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; Revised edition edition (22 Nov. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140445242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140445244
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 178,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"An execllent introduction and an accurate...translation."--Jim Williams, SUNY at Genesco"This translation deserves the highest praise. It is idiomatic whenever possible, clear and effective throughout; I am more impressed with it than with three others that I have sampled. The introduction is informative and balanced in judgment."--Philip F. O'Mara, Bridgewater College"This is a good edition. The translation flows, the introduction is thorough."--Richard Mason, George Mason University"[A] fresh, funny, evocative translation that captures Apuleius at his most uncanny."--W. Gardern Campbell, Mary washington College"Walsh's new rendering--which on every page, improves upon the commonly used and dated translations of Jack Lindsay and Robert Graves--appears at a time when this ever popular novel is even more greatly appreciated by social historians for the window it provides on provincial life among real imperial subjects in the second century CE. This edition is enhanced by an excellent introduction, a select bibliography, explanatory notes, and an index and glossary of names....It should quickly become the obvious choice for Latin-less readers."--Religious Studies Review6R"This translation is literal enough to come to a scholar's aid, and at the same time scholarly enough to use without embarrassment."--Bryn Mawr Classical Review"P.G. Walsh has given us an excellent translation, contemporary without being too trendy, as well as a superb introduction that gives the historical, philosophical, and religious background of the work....Oxford's World's Classics has done it again, has produced a useful edition and superior translation of a work that has needed it for several generations."--CAES Newsletter"Splendid volume, living up to the scholarly accuracy that makes the World's Classics series."--Professor John R. Lenz, Drew University"OUP's decision to commission a new translation of Apuleius' novel by a scholar who has made a significant contribution to Apuleian studies is a welcome move. This is without doubt the translation I would prescribe for students studying the work in English."--Bryn Mawr Classical Review"The best scholarly introduction and notes among the currently available paperback editions and a very high standard of accuracy in representing the Latin original."--Professor Robert Lamberton, Washington University --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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What I should like to do is to weave together different tales in this Milesian mode of story-telling and to stroke your approving ears with some elegant whispers, as long as you don't disdain to run your eye over Egyptian paper inscribed with the sharpened point of a reed from Nile. Read the first page
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Lawton VINE VOICE on 30 April 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written in the second century AD, The Golden Ass, is as bawdy or tawdry (depending on your point of view) as a downmarket tabloid newspaper. Criminality, bestiality, avarice, eroticism, there's barely a single aspect of low-life human behaviour that doesn't feature in this book. What's striking is that mankind has changed so very little in the last two thousand years and the beauty of this book is that the writing is still so fresh that it vividly brings to life the reality of living in Antiquity.

The book also has the distinction of being one of the few ancient texts that contain any details about the Isis Mysteries, which the author is initiated into at the end of the book. Since initiates were sworn to secrecy, this doesn't amount to much but nonetheless gives a fascinating insight into the ritualistic and mystical elements surounding the Isis cult.

Some feel that the spiritual tone of this final section is rather at odds with the sordid catalogue of events in the rest of the book but it's message seems quite clear to me. Life can dump all sorts of crap on us and we can do our best to get out from under it but ultimately our chances of success simply rely on luck or a divine act of grace.

Robert Graves translation flows wonderfully and if, as some claim, he's taken quite a few liberties with the original Latin, I'm not particularly bothered because it makes for a great read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 27 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
An enjoyable and enduring classic 23 Dec. 2007
By Vincent D. Pisano - Published on
Format: Paperback
Apuleius' The Golden Ass, or Metamorphoses, is the only Latin novel to survive in its entirety. Composed in the second century, this picaresque work tells the tale of Lucius, a man whose curiosity in magic and indulgence of sexual pleasures leads him to accidently transform himself into an ass. What follows are the various trials and hardships he endures as well as the tales he hears throughout his travels. It is not until the intervention of the goddess Isis that Lucius is transformed back into a man, and he devotes the rest of his life to her cult.

Apuleius' storytelling is lively, witty, an often sexually explicit. Indeed, many forms of fetish are showcased within the pages, including beastiality. More often than not, the novel indulges readers in their guilty curiosities while also providing hilarious and adventurous prose, with a splash of red-streaked violence thrown in for good measure. However, despite being written nearly two-thousand years ago, what may shock the modern reader most is how approachable and familiar is not only the humor but also the sentiments and sensuality of these Roman characters. It is not difficult to imagine Lucius' world.

The Golden Ass offers readers a romp through ancient Rome through the eyes of a contemporary while also entertaining. It is also a highly revealing documentation of religion and magical belief in Greco-Roman polytheism, and contains the only complete description of the initiation into a Mystery cult. The true essence of the novel is that it is a fable culminating in the religious transformation of the individual and the embrace of salvation (soteria). However, the pagan salvation was not one of the afterlife, but of this life, and involved changing one's perspective of the world and also of life and death. The ass in the ancient world was seen as the most base of animals, an utter slave to its desires, and Lucius' transformation at the end should be read as symbolizing his overcoming of those passions.

The Golden Ass is bawdy and shocking, but also intelligent and satisfying. Graves' translation is fluid and easy to follow. The prose is as enjoyable (and perhaps rewarding) to read today as it no doubt was nearly two-millennia ago.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Great Read 20 May 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is an extremely fun read. It flows beautifully, and will keep you turning the pages. It also is valuable historically because it offers some insight into the lives of the lower classes, which tended to be ignored by Roman historians such as Tacitus or Dio Cassius.
However, one word of warning - while the Graves translation is very enjoyable and easy to read, my Roman History prof said that it was not a particularly loyal translation. So, if that matters to you, you may want to look elsewhere - but I doubt any other translation will read as well as this one.
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Four Gold Stars for the Golden Ass 14 April 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I consider myself a connosieur of the classics, so when I heard of an ancient novel concerned with sex, illicit sex, and illicit donkey sex, I decided to take a closer look.
And I'm glad that I did. At the back end of the classical Western literary tradition of silliness, which includes such hallowed humorists as Chaucer, Bocaccio, Rabelais, Cervantes, and, in its divine form, Shakespeare, we find the one tale that may have excited them all--Lucius Apuleius's Golden Ass.
The Golden Ass is filled with adventure, suspense, humor, and nonsense. I had a grin on my face most of the way through, and I got the feeling that the author did too. Tip o' the hat to Robert Graves for delivering an authentic translation that brings us Apuleius in his bawdy best.
The only thing I found occasionally irritating was that, like Cervantes, Apuleius has a tendency to digress. Big time. He inserts the entire myth of Cupid and Psyche right into the middle of the narrative, for example. Does this add to the mythological message of the whole? Probably, but it subtracts from the fantastic flow of the story. My urgent plea to Apuleius, were he alive today, would be, "Stick to the ass!"
There are a number of reasons that traditionally bring people to this book: to study Classical Rome, classic literature, mythology, psychology... maybe you're curious about the intimate lives of donkeys. Whatever has brought you to this novel, now that you're going to read it, perhaps the best thing to do is to take the advice of the author himself, who says, "Read on and enjoy yourself!"
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
An under-rated classic. 4 Aug. 2005
By Hakuyu - Published on
Format: Paperback
I was glad at least one reviewer recognised that the 'Golden Ass' culminates in the story of Lucius' initiation into the divine 'Mysteries.' At this point the entire feeling tone changes, shifting into another key - along with the language. W.Y. Evans-Wentz, famous for his Tibetan Buddhist studies, regarded the 'Golden Ass' in its entirety as an expression of the Western Mystery tradition.

Tales of magical metamorphoses are the very stuff of antiquity, and while Apuleius 'Golden Ass' more or less occupied a category of light-reading - akin to the modern novel (novella), it is worth bearing in mind that 'magic' was real enough for Apuleius' and his contemporaries. At one point in his life, Apuleius had to appear in court to defend himself against charges of using magic to profit his circumstances. Most translators touch on this. Thessaly was renowned for its witches and witchcraft - and Lucius' fascination with it, in the story, probably typified how many young people actually felt. The counter-point and climax in the story, Lucius' initiation into the Isiac religion, regaining human form, transformed in outlook, also reflected a shift in the contemporary outlook. It is hard for us to understand today, but Apuleius - a Platonist, probably subscribed to the Isiac religion. In fact, the beatific vision conveyed in the story of Lucius' conversion - borders on a theosophical vision of totality, Isis - as a formless-form.

Reviewers inevitably pick up on the bawdy element, bestiality etc., and while this may not be the sort of book you would want to read to children, the 'raunchy' side of it has been exaggerated. As Robert Graves remarked, when Lucian takes on assinine form, his rich Pasiphae "is no mere bestialist, but shows her genuine love for the ass by planting pure, sincere, wholly unmeretricious kisses on his scented nose " - which puts a rather different perspective on things. Still, there can be little doubt that - for Lucius, acquiring the form of an ass signifies a kind of fallen state. It has sometimes been said that the 'religious' element - Lucius' initiation into the Mysteries of Isis, was inserted as a kind of dupe, something to appease moralists and put them off track. But the juxtaposition of profane and sacred imagery in the story is one of a piece.

St. Augustine read the 'Golden Ass' and was influenced by it. There are obvious allusions to the Metamorphoses in Boccacio, and Shakespeare. There are no fixed rules about reading this book, but it is worth looking at Robert Graves' remarks about the symbolism. Seen in its earlier religious context, the Ass was also a religious symbol. Marie-Louise von Franz wrote a whole 'Jungian' commentary on this Roman fable. Other people have taken a less elevated view, seeing the metamorphoses of Lucius as nothing more than a ripping read, full of bizarre imagery and fantastic scenes. But Roman fables have connected meaning, which will not become apparent if we take them literally. Unravelling the symbolic attributes of this tale is a kind of long term project you might take on, if you enjoy the book. I recommend reading several translations, because Apuleius' Latin is as tricky as it is interesting. Besides Robert Graves' translation, there is Jack Lindsay's version, the old Loeb edition by Gaselee (basically a reworked version of Adlington's text (1566) - and, so I hear, a new Loeb edition (haven't checked that out yet).
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
the first novel? 24 May 2000
By L. Byron - Published on
Format: Paperback
The most shocking thing about this book is how un-unusual it is. All the cliches, jokes, etc., which one takes for granted, are here centuries ago and unchanged by time. Reading it is stepping back in time and realizing that 2000 years is nothing--for there has been little or no change in our collective sensibilities and desires. Beyond its offer of the eternal human, if that were not enough, here is the only printed evidence of initiation into a Mystery Cult--very important in itself, for scholars anyway. But what is most enlightening is the revelation that all that you read you have heard before. These stories are somehow part of Western tradition, or perhaps all human traditions. Eg., the hen-pecked husband, the cuckhold, etc. Like the film Citizen Cain, one is often un-struck by it because all of its techniques have been adopted, and so it is rather dull; there is nothing in it we have not seen as we have adopted all its devices (or what it was, is now what is). Try as some of us might, this book is evidence that we have not changed--and this is not fodder for conservatives, nor for liberals (nor for radicals); all can be disheartened and gladdened, and all can learn what human stuff is made of through its perusal.
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