A Modern Erasmus

When I have a little money, I do not buy food or other such trivialities. I buy books. – Erasmus

Ah, as Lawrence Olivier might say in one of his Nazi- or vampire-hunting roles … “I haf enlarged ze library mit some literature of ze mittle-Europeans.” Today at the bookstore, I picked up a few new volumes in a pre-Yule splurge:

The Sorrows of Young Werther and Selected Writings, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: This is something by Goethe that I have always meant to read. I used to have Kaufmann’s bilingual translation of Faust, but it has been a long time since I read anything else by one of my literary, philosophy and scientific inspirations. About 10 years ago, I was in Switzerland and saw the garrett in Lucerne where Goethe lived for a time.

Mysteries, Knut Hamsun: I was turned onto Hamsun about 15 years ago when I encountered him in the works of Henry Miller. Miller praises him constantly throughout the Tropics books. At that time, I picked up Hunger, which is probably Hamsun’s most known work. I liked it a great deal, but at the time my reading was limited to what I could find at the library, so Hamsun took a back seat to other writers. I’m looking forward to this one.

Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke: Also about 10 years ago, a friend of mine who fancied herself a poet was always toting around a copy of this book. I looked at it briefly, but never owned a copy myself. I really like Rilke’s Poetry, and have seen various quotations from this book floating around recently – so I thought I’d do myself the favor of revisting it.

Beowulf – A New Verse Translation, Seamus Heaney: I’ve plowed through several different versions of Beowulf in the past 25 years. So why would I buy another one? First, I have been reading some things about Heaney as a poet and philosopher that have made me think about writing and what it means to be a poet. Second, I read a few excerpts of the text on-line at Amazon, and I liked the way the verse flowed. Third, this is bilingual edition, in both modern English and Anglo-Saxon. I like bilingual editions as a rule, and really needed no excuse to add this one to the library.

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