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Customer Review

5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, hampered by obscure writing style, 10 Aug. 2008
This review is from: The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller (Paperback)
Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg traces the story of one Menocchio, a peasant from northern Italy who was put on trial (and eventually burned at the stake) for heresy by the Italian inquisition in the 16th century. He puts forwards parts of the transcription of the trial, and we realize that Menocchio has some quite heterodox (and not totally consistent) views on theology and cosmology, suggesting a number of eclectic sources for his ideas. For example, he viewed the Earth as a sort of giant cheese and the angels as worms coming out of the cheese (hence the book's title). How an Italian peasant, without presumably much access to books, would get such views, Ginzburg asks. He traces the bookshelves of Menocchio, but he is unable to come up with a clear answer. For example, even though his cosmology seems to have been influenced by a reading of the Koran, that was not among the books he possessed. Ginzburg finally suggests that Menocchio was a recipient of an ancient oral tradition, perhaps going back to the prechristian past, that was not totally suppressed by the church in rural areas. The book deals with an interesting subject, but is unfortunately hampered by Ginzburg's deliberately obscure writing style. A more conventional storytelling would have helped.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Oct 2010 18:58:58 BDT
Brot says:
Like Menocchio, but less excusably, your reading is absurdly arbitrary and reductionist. At no point does Ginzburg assert that Menocchio is claiming the world to be a 'giant cheese'. It is perhaps unfortunate that he fails to suggest that this may have been little more than a simile, an analogue of expression from an individual whose discourse is riddled with vivid phrases elsewhere. Ginzburg's style is nothing if not clear, and you would do well to consider it is a translation, and a very good one at that.
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Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

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