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DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England)
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Children's Books: The Gnomes of the night
Children's Books: The Gnomes of the night
Price: £2.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MYSTERY SOLVED, 30 Mar. 2015
When Ryan changed his clothes for bed
He left them on the floor.
It never came into his head
To tidy them some more.

But he was not a baby now
And what he had to learn
Was why and where and when and how
To make that his concern.

The Gnomes of Night were there on hand
To teach him the right way
And help young Ryan understand
Why each successive day

What he had left around in heaps
Was somehow sorted out.
It did not stay that way for keeps,
Because things turned about.

His clothes and shoes no longer went
Each to its proper place:
Instead each item now got sent
To waste-disposal space.

And that was how young Ryan learned
To tidy his own stuff,
And how he also now discerned
How much help is enough.

This is a really top-class little children’s book. It has a ‘moral’ for the child, but without being heavy or patronising. It is told in rhyme, fairly loosely metrical which is as metrical as it needs to be. The illustrations and general art work by Fanny Liem are brilliant, as good as I can ever remember from my own children’s time, which admittedly was not exactly yesterday. Just after Easter the book will be going to my own two infant grandsons. Samko has just turned three, so he should be right for the book: Ben has a few weeks to go until his first birthday, so unless he is more precocious than I think it can be a treat in store for him down the line.

The little family keep their nice flat about as tidy as can reasonably be expected. If the boys follow their heredity in this respect, it will not be their inheritance from their paternal grandfather, I’m sorry to say. If I set a bad example in this respect let me at least do it in Latin, so here’s Ovid –

...video meliora proboque/deteriora sequor. ‘I see and commend the better but practise the worse’.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 30, 2015 8:54 PM BST


Schubert: Lieder
Schubert: Lieder
Price: £10.05

5.0 out of 5 stars WHITE ROSE, 28 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Schubert: Lieder (Audio CD)
As Kathleen Ferrier had been the Red Rose of Lancashire, Janet Baker hoped that she herself might be the White Rose of Yorkshire. If that was what this great singer wanted, and if it’s in any way up to me to grant her wish then let me grant it. What she has given me on this pair of discs is 42 songs by the greatest of all the song-writers. The first 30 date from 1971 and the accompanist is Gerald Moore, the final dozen are from 10 years later and in these the accompaniments are provided by Geoffrey Parsons. As if the singing were not marvellous enough, what makes this set an even greater treasure is that it also preserves so much of the work of the great Gerald Moore, an artist incomparable in his own field.

We are not kept waiting for proof of what Moore amounts to, because the very first song is Gretchen am Spinnrade, and I wonder how any listener could not be struck right away by the absolute perfection and rightness of Moore’s tempo and touch. While we are getting used to this the diva herself enters with an interpretation that is some ultimate in sensitivity, intensity and at the same time dignity. I think I could plod through all these first 30 songs giving each some suitably adapted variant of the same assessment. Everything is here – power when wanted of course, as in Anselm’s Grave or Aufloesung, but above all tenderness and lyricism. If I had to select my other (after Gretchen) most striking and affecting piece of interpretation, artistry and mastery from these two great musicians it might be The Young Nun. The rumble of the storm is majestic, the young nun is intense to start with, but listen to the sheer control that Baker exerts to express the strange serenity that comes over the music, her quiet Alleluias awesome while Moore provides the perfect response, and the calm of the ending is sublime.

Of the last 12 songs I would place 9 in the category of established favourites. The theme of this collection was apparently that they should be ‘women’s songs’. Obviously Gretchen and The Young Nun are women’s songs, but in general the numbers here are not gender-specific. Everyone has had the good sense not to offer, say, Erlkoenig, which I have heard done by a soprano and hope never to repeat the experience. Otherwse here are The Trout, Auf dem Wasser zu singen, Who is Sylvia, To Music, Der Musensohn, Heidenroeslein, Du bist die Ruh’ and a couple of others. Janet Baker sails on superbly, and Geoffrey Parsons does really very well even if he is no Gerald Moore. Indeed Parsons surpasses himself with the celestial repose he achieves in Nacht und Traeume, and I like to think Moore himself would have been proud of this.

Digital remastering has been applied in 1996, and I have no complaints about the sound. There is a short but sensible liner note by R Kinloch Anderson, but there are no texts. This is a bit of a nuisance I suppose, but the economics of the classical recording industry make this kind of economy unavoidable at times. In fact I found myself thinking back to a remark by Sibelius to the effect that it is not necessary to know what singers are singing about. No doubt this is an exaggeration, but it comes near to being true where this set is concerned. We are in the presence here of the greatest creative musical talent, I firmly believe, that any human being ever had. These 42 songs, enormous in their variety, are about one-fifteenth of the total number Schubert composed in thirty-one years of life. The variety and resourcefulness of the sheer musical invention is prodigious, incredible, out of this world. I know what most of them are about, but give them to me performed like this and I hardly give that a thought, such is this music’s power over me.


Mendelssohn / Bruch: Concertos for Two Pianos
Mendelssohn / Bruch: Concertos for Two Pianos

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GOOD SISTERS, BAD SISTERS, 24 Mar. 2015
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The good sisters are the marvellous sisters Labeque, here at their superlative best in some unfamiliar but interesting music. The not-so-good sisters are the obscure sisters Sutro who doctored the score of Bruch's concerto. It is not clear to me whether the damage has ever been fully undone, so now read on. Perhaps you will understand what I have not understood.

Mendelssohn's concerto was written when he was 14 or thereabouts. He was a precocious prodigy, so we know better than to assume that this is an immature work. It follows the full-scale Mozart concerto scheme, with a long orchestral introduction - the very scheme that he later truncated in his more familiar concertos. It is thoroughly enjoyable all the way through, but it seems to me to improve as it goes along. The slow movement is lyrical and moving, but the finale is a superb piece of Mendelssohnian sparkle, and the gossamer piano figuration gives Katia and Marielle Labeque the opportunity to wow us with some truly amazing leggiero virtuosity. Those who already know their work know that they play as one, but for even one to play this kind of piano writing so brilliantly is wonder enough, let alone for two in perfect combination.

The Bruch `concerto' has had a strange history indeed. It does not follow the scheme of any normal concertos. It sounds like a suite with obbligato piano parts, and a suite is what it turns out to have been in origin, but one intended for organ with orchestra. In 1915-16 Bruch gave the score in its new arrangement to the Sutro sisters. According to Christopher Fifield's liner note they gave the work its premiere under Stokowski in Philadelphia in 1916, but then covertly started to `neuter' the score so as to bring it more comfortably within their restricted abilities. So there is the first mystery - if they were able to perform it as written (I can only suppose) why did they need to simplify it? The next mystery is - how did the score manage to disappear for half a century despite having been copyrighted and lodged with the Library of Congress? Most frustrating of all - did Nathan Twining and Martin Berkofsky, who restored the score to the form we have here, have Bruch's authentic version of the piano parts, or did they have to create their own idea of that? If the genuine Bruch material was available, where did it come from after the Sutros had done their worst with it? All we are told is that the orchestral parts were recovered.

One way or the other, the Bruch piano parts call for, and are given, a completely different approach on the part of the soloists. The recorded sound in both concertos, particularly of the orchestra, is rather `soft-centred', but that suits the Labeque sisters' touch very well and the balance is good and natural. The recordings were made in 1990 and issued on the Philips label three years later. Between then and now I don't think I could have named a single composer other than Bach and Mozart who had written a concerto for two pianos. Now I know better, and the enjoyment that this disc gives me is all the greater for that.


Bartók: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste
Bartók: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste
Offered by Virtuoso Classics
Price: £14.02

5.0 out of 5 stars HIS MASTER'S VOICE, 23 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Considering how good this set is, and in particular how authentic the performances are, it is attracting surprisingly little attention from reviewers. The recordings were made in Chicago between 1989 and 1990 and the quality is admirable. The disc is almost a single hour-long crescendo, starting on the verge of audibility with the Andante Tranquillo of the Music for Strings Percussion and Celesta, and rising to a final assault on our ears and sensibilities with the Miraculous Mandarin Suite. When the orchestra is the Chicago Symphony it is hardly necessary to draw attention to the quality of their work, but I wonder whether by now music-lovers are forgetting that Solti was Bartok’s own pupil. I don’t doubt for a moment that many other accounts are as good as some enthusiastic reviews are telling us, but authentic is authentic, and here we have the tradition at its purest.

The Divertimento is the piece that is probably less familiar to audiences in general than the other two works are. It was written in 1939 at the behest of Bartok’s patron Paul Sacher, and is scored for strings alone. On this disc it is placed effectively between the Music for Strings [etc] and the strenuous Miraculous Mandarin score, serving as a kind of intermezzo or entr’acte. The MM presented here is the Suite, more frequently encountered in concerts and recordings than the unabridged version. Solti’s account pulls no punches, as most of us would expect, and it is easily ‘hellish’ (the composer’s own word) enough for my taste. I would give a favourable mention here to the Naxos performance of the entire MM score from Marin Alsop. This does not, I dare say, set any records for cacophonousness, but it is a useful reminder that what we are dealing with is still music and not just sound-effects.

There is a polyglot liner note of the familiar European kind. I found it helpful and informative up to a point, but what it rather suggests is a certain type of student essay -- a collection of random points without any real theme to it. For those already familiar with Bartok that will not matter very much. What I have mainly got out of this Bartok concert is a sense of reassurance that what I am listening to is the real thing. The disc may be hard to find, but if you can find it you may be able to get it cheaply (no promises, of course). If the performances duplicate others in your collection then just go ahead and duplicate them.


Gillette Fusion Proglide Manual 9 Razor Blades + Razor with Flexball Technology
Gillette Fusion Proglide Manual 9 Razor Blades + Razor with Flexball Technology
Offered by Mk_Online304
Price: £20.37

4.0 out of 5 stars SHAVE QUI PEUT, 21 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What I'm not certain about is how far my experience with this kind of razor can be generalised. My growth of beard is very light and my skin is fairly soft without being particularly sensitive. Men with tough facial stubble and skin that burns after every shave are not going to find me much of a guide in this matter. However I can't be just one of a kind either, so for what it's worth here is the review that I have promised to do under the Vine scheme.

I tried to give the new razor some kind of a challenge by leaving off shaving for 4 or 5 days. The razor did brilliantly. The 4-5-day growth was removed easily, leaving no trace that I could detect. The head also reached awkward little areas like the corner of the mouth without difficulty, and there seemed to be no risk that I could nick myself as I occasionally do with my old safety razor. So far so good. I came back after another 4 days, and this time the new razor hardly seemed to be doing anything, and I had to finish the job off with the safety razor. It was the same story with a new shaving-head, so next I tried shaving after only 2 days and then using the same head again after another 2. Better this time, but I was having to scrape and tug a bit at the second attempt, and it left two or three small drops of blood, not from anything amounting to a cut just from raised areas of the skin.

In other words this device is good for one shave per shaving-head. The shave it gives is not really much better than my old Wilkinson Sword blades give me, and those are good for five or six shaves each. Economy meets simplicity with them, so I'm sticking with them.


Troilus and Criseyde (Penguin Classics)
Troilus and Criseyde (Penguin Classics)
by Geoffrey Chaucer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars THE GO-BETWEEN, 19 Mar. 2015
There surely can't be many tragic love stories more affecting and involving than this. Nor, it seems to me, can there be many that are more original, despite the conspicuous play the author makes of depending on ancient sources. The tale of Troilus and Cressida (Criseyde) derives ultimately from the Iliad through a multiplicity of mediaeval variations, cited in detail by the editor. It is original in the way Hamlet is original, in its depiction of characters and thought-processes, and it does not suffer from the comparison. There are four protagonists, and two are straightforward, contrasted with a wince-making clarity. Troilus himself, son of King Priam of Troy, is a mighty warrior but tongue-tied and shy when it comes to dealing with women, derisive to begin with at the agonies of those who fall in love and then falling hopelessly, suddenly and finally into the same trap himself. How often have we all seen just that happen within our own acquaintance? Diomede, sent to escort Cressida from Troy to the Greek camp as part of a prisoner-exchange, is uninhibited in that respect to the point of outright crassness, with an eye for an opportunity and an easy `nothing venture nothing gain' attitude that I would again guess most of us will recognise without much difficulty.

The other two are anything but simple. Chaucer stays deliberately vague regarding Cressida's relationship with Diomede (characteristically hiding behind his sources - he was anything but straightforward himself), and what if anything remains of her love of Troilus. However it seems to me that there was a calculating bit in her decision to give herself to Troilus in the first place. She could make herself fall in love, and her fascinating speeches with the twists and turns of their thinking say to me that she was no innocent, quite unlike her infatuated wooer. That leaves Pandarus, a creation to rival Iago in a different way. Again, it's left to us to decide what prompted such extraordinary vicarious commitment to bringing the pair together. There may or may not be hints that his motivation was not altruistic, but hints are the most they can be. It is not just a matter of his strange motivation but also of his extraordinary mental agility and speed of reaction. He plots the lovers' tryst in fantastic detail, when the fateful prisoner-exchange is decreed he tries to steer Troilus into a different outlook that in effect abandons the romance he has taken such incredible trouble to arrange, and to the very end he is still trying to manipulate the emotions of the devastated Troilus.

It is all told in an easy and relaxed verse, typical Chaucer in being at the same time deadly serious and tongue-in-cheek. This verse is not as 'poetic' as, say, The Ancient Mariner. It stands in much the relationship to that, poetry-wise, as Hamlet does to Macbeth or Othello. This is a psychological drama, not an opportunity to display the special `tone of voice' and `way of saying things' that Housman thought the essence of poetry. Obviously it is in mediaeval English, and this edition uses the authentic original spellings. This will slow most of us down a bit, but that can actually be a good thing. I found that it not only forced me to read with the close attention this drama needs, it kept me fascinated with the wonderful English language itself, and I had to notice how popular speech and even slang have kept alive ancient meanings of words (guess, deal, gear, right, sweetheart) that have been lost in more formal discourse. Where this edition is particularly helpful is in its footnotes reminding us of the meanings of certain words (and reminding us repeatedly, for which I bless the editor) and translating occasional phrases and lines where we might go wrong. I think I only had to refer some half-dozen times to the glossary at the back throughout a poem that is half as long as Paradise Lost.

The editor is no less a person than the Professor of English at Cambridge, so his introduction has the thoroughly thorough and also thoroughly stifling profundity that I associate with university literature courses. There are also notes at the back, very helpful in the main but obsessed with quoting parallels for the sake of quoting parallels. At V/1176 there is the line `Ye, fare wel al the snow of ferne year', and I thought immediately of Villon's `Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan?' On turning to the back I found that the editor just quoted this obvious parallel without further comment on what the connection might be, and for a moment I nearly hurled the book across the room. Again I wondered whether the proem to book III might have influenced Milton's great invocation of light at the start of the same book of Paradise Lost, but no light was shed. In general, though, this is a very helpful edition. When reading the Iliad I found that after I had read the first 23 books the 24th was comparatively simple. You may find here that once you have got through the first four books you are quite fluent with the fifth.


Logos
Logos
by John Neeleman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars MYTHOS, 17 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Logos (Paperback)
This debut novel seems to be aiming at best-seller status already, and it ought to stand a fair chance of achieving that. The basic ingredients are here - a good strong story-line, Romans and Jews doing battle in Palestine, a very readable style, liberal dollops of sex and gore, and above all a highly provocative alternative scenario for the origin of the Gospel. This kind of swords'n'sandals setting is a proven winner with much of the reading public, and if the characters at least give some impression of being true to history that should add to the book's attraction. Probably not all that many readers will subject the participants to detailed prosopography because this is a novel not a volume of history.

Some readers may however be surprised by how little the narrative takes sides as between Jews and Romans. Indeed in the early chapters the Jews are shown as being riven with bitterly opposed factions. The hero of the saga Jacob is indeed a Jew, but he is a hero mainly in the simple sense of holding the central thread of the action - it's mainly a tale of what happens to him and what he tries to do to put that right. However that's not how matters develop either: Romans and Jews alike are shown as gradually yielding to a new vision, the vision of the Logos -- the Word or Message. Its growing power and influence are shown as depending on capturing hearts much more than minds, because it is represented quite unequivocally as being myth - deliberately concocted myth by St Paul and others. For People of Faith, then as now, that kind of detail just seems not to matter.

I shall be interested to see whether this provokes outrage or whether the events of the Gospel can be seen as `true' in some transcendental way even though they did not happen, which is what this story is saying. The Sermon on the Mount is great prophetic teaching indeed, and the tale of the Resurrection of Christ apparently strengthens the Sermon's power over human hearts and souls despite being invention in the literal sense. Is there any sense (just within the terms of this story) in which it is not invention, or is totally necessary and justified invention? Come to that, does even sense matter to thinking like this?

Back on the airport bookstalls, travellers looking for something to read will find Logos a very pleasant vade mecum. I sense that John Neeleman is writing down to his readers, because here and there, e.g. on the first page of Chapter Eleven, he raises the level of the writing to a different plane of quality. If he is doing so, I can imagine sound business reasons. The blood and thunder takes place mainly in the early episodes, the sex gets more frequent without losing descriptiveness or detail as the story goes on. My own favourite among the sexual descriptions is the passage where someone praises celibacy by listing with some particularity the activities from which it releases us.

There is even a final sexual envoi after all the arrangements are made for writing the Gospel that people need to hear, as defined by Paul and others. However that must be just to give the reader a good send-off. The real message of this book has been in the pages just preceding, with their scenario of the Gospel as myth (or perhaps allegory) and Jesus as just a man like other men. Something along these lines is how I myself have thought about these issues for decades, and I wonder how receptive the reading public will be to its being proclaimed in a novel written, very effectively, in a populist idiom. `In the beginning was the Logos' is the beginning of St John. `The world is everything that is the case' is the beginning of Wittgenstein's Tractatus. Something that did not happen cannot have been the case, surely, and therefore is not part of the world. Is there still some way of `believing' it?


Oral-B Pro CrossAction 600 Power Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush - Pink
Oral-B Pro CrossAction 600 Power Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush - Pink
Price: £24.95

5.0 out of 5 stars DENTAL REINFORCEMENT, 13 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If the teeth that God gave us are sound enough to last a long lifetime then we ought to make sure that they do. I am a septuagenarian, my teeth are all my own, I have a reasonable chance of a long life (going off heredity), I want the long life to be teeth-and-all, and I have learned just how important an electric toothbrush has been in keeping this ambition on track.

This new toothbrush looks promising, but the Vine agreement requires me to review it promptly, so the review has to be provisional. First, this is an Oral-B product, and the brand name inspires confidence because the Oral-B toothbrush that I have now used for 10 years has done a brilliant job. Plaque has been reduced, decay is something long forgotten, and maybe most important the gums are sound and healthy. They need to be abraded when brushing, I'm in no doubt that many cut corners with that as I did for decades myself, but an electric brush ensures that it happens just in the ordinary way. This new product uses rotary action, my previous one uses `vertical vibration', I have no idea which if either is better, but I suspect that it makes little difference and in any case I now have both so I should get the best of both worlds.

Another thing I don't know is the operational lifetime of these products. My existing toothbrush shows no signs of obsolescence, so perhaps the same can be expected from another horse out of the same stable. In terms of functionality there is only one significant difference: the leaflet tells us that after each recharging (22 hours or so) we can expect a week's use. This is startlingly less than I'm used to, because my old toothbrush gives me about two months! I therefore keep it by the bathroom basin and only put it on its charger when the power gives out. The new product looks to need keeping on its charger permanently, which does not incur any risk of overcharging. There is no major inconvenience involved, but it will need to be accompanied by its charger base if taken away from home for any period longer than a week. It has only one speed, and one is all I ever needed, and as well as the charging light there is a warning light to indicate low battery. The charging light just switches off when charging is complete, and I have been spoiled by my old toothbrush which has its blue charging light on pulse when operating and steady when charging finished. No big deal, I suppose, especially as the new toothbrush is much cheaper than the old.

Otherwise I suppose I ought to mention the pink colour. If that bothers you I hope your teeth fall out, because this looks a good product in pretty much every way.


Ibert / Glazunov / Villa-Lobos / Dubois: Saxophone Concertos
Ibert / Glazunov / Villa-Lobos / Dubois: Saxophone Concertos
Price: £7.07

5.0 out of 5 stars SAX APPEAL, 8 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Does anyone know why the saxophone has never established itself firmly in the classical orchestra? It was invented in 1840 and Berlioz spoke appreciatively of it. We all know it well as a jazz instrument, but the clarinet is equally at home in jazz combos while remaining a staple of the symphony orchestra. I find it a strange situation.

However all is not lost. What we have on this disc is four concertos (using the term loosely) featuring two different types of instrument. The Villa-Lobos Fantasia is for the soprano sax, the other three are for its alto counterpart, and the soloist in all of them is the magnificent Eugene Rousseau. He can be soulful when required, notably in the Dubois Sarabande, but the style of these pieces is mainly virtuoso and the recital ends with a flourish in the same composer’s finale. I suppose it would be fair to describe this music as in a sense lightweight, but only in the sense that the expression could be applied to much of Mozart.

Speaking of Dubois, I see that this disc, recorded originally in 1972, has not been updated to note his death in 1995. His birth year was 1930, as was that of the conductor Paul Kuentz, and I am happy to say that he is still with us and I wish him many years yet. His players do justice to both the music and the soloist, and as all four concertos are for small orchestras we have the opportunity to admire and enjoy the work of these instrumentalists also. The sound has been digitally remastered, if that even needs saying, and it is admirably clear if not exactly ingratiating in tone.

The liner note has nothing about the players, not even about Rousseau, but its message regarding the music and the instrument it is written for is conveyed not just in the usual English German and French but also in Italian and Spanish this time. Looking at the sales ranking of this fine disc I have to conclude that it could do with all the publicity it can get, so perhaps even these few remarks and a strong recommendation will help in some small way.


The Death of Virgil (Vintage International)
The Death of Virgil (Vintage International)
by Hermann Broch
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars MUCH SENSE OF DEATH, 8 Mar. 2015
That is a feeble translation of Virgil's phrase `plurima mortis imago'. Those three words show a special way he had of using language not as a vehicle for thought but to convey something outside and beyond thought, and it is something that this book seems to be trying to replicate on a large scale. It is not something I find in Milton, still less in the collective folk-poetry of the Homeric epics, and the nearest to it that I can think of might be in Blake. It is not the normal idiom of the Aeneid by any means, but something that gleams through unpredictably now and again, and I am no nearer now than I was 50 years ago to getting an adequate translation of such a line as `Sunt lacrimae rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt'.

This book is hung around the legend that the dying Virgil wanted his incomplete epic the Aeneid burned as being imperfect, but it is about much more than Virgil, or his poem, or even death itself. It is about totality, something completely shapeless, senseless and even immortal - immortal partly because death itself is permanent and cannot be killed or destroyed, partly because there is always, has been always and will be always an infinite universe of what is. The book divides into 4 sections, each named after one of the 4 elements that some ancient philosophers reasoned to make up the world - water, fire, earth and air. This division actually seems to me rather contrived and unimportant to the book, and it is nothing remotely resembling the way the ancients themselves viewed their `elements'. Ovid explains them clearly if we just correct his text to read what he must have been saying `...aer, qui quanto est pondere terrae/pondus aquae leuius, tanto est onerosior igni' - `air which is heavier than fire by the same margin as the weight of water is less than that of earth'. The ancients found exact aliquot ratios like this to be intellectually satisfying, but the last thing this book is about is exactness. In the `fire' section we are engulfed in a drifting mist of ideas, concepts and abstractions, each forever changing its identity and merging randomly into the next. The only connection with fire seems to be that this is where the question of burning the manuscript of the Aeneid first arises. The first section relates the arrival of the dying poet by barge from Greece and has nothing more about water. The third section brings us abruptly back to earth with the dialogue between Virgil and Augustus, who does not want the poem glorifying his new Rome destroyed for very worldly political reasons. The fourth resembles the second in a more pictorial way as the flotilla of boats carrying the characters of the book, losing their identities as they go, sails into the infinite; and air was the one to fill the last slot.

At one point I read the phrase `the shadow that is language', and it is worth remembering that this edition is a translation. Translating a work like this is nothing like translating directives on food-labelling or fishery quotas in the European Commission. It is an art in its own right, it must have been superbly done, but what it simply cannot be is the same as the original. I hope it is the original that George Steiner is talking about on the back cover, because if not what he says does not deserve a moment's notice. There is nothing abnormal in the least about the English syntax here, although many sentences are certainly very long. I also doubt whether there is any useful concept of `technical advance' in fiction. There are untold million ways of being original, Joyce himself did not change the basic development of English one iota, and I don't read this work, at least in translation, as representing any more of a step-change in fiction-writing than, say, Stapledon.

I credit Broch with a good knowledge of his poet, of Latin and of the period, although I don't know who perpetrated `Sallustus' (for Sallustius) twice on one page. He seems to associate himself with the view that the poems Aetna and Culex are Virgil's and I would rather believe that he had never read them (for which I could blame nobody) than that he could possibly have taken that stuttering rubbish for the work of the master. I dare say I would have read the book differently if I had not been familiar with Virgil's own style, but it is only a side-issue whether I am right in seeing its influence here or not. Not all the knowledge of Latin in the world will make this book an easy read, and none is necessary really. Do not make it more obscure or complicated for yourself than it already is. The previous owner of my copy was some hapless student trying to make a connection with the Divine Comedy, as forlorn a quest for mares' nests as I ever saw in my life. I wouldn't dream of `recommending' such a work, which is bound to be of minority appeal, and if I have conveyed something of the feel of it that is as much as I can hope to have done.


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