Everything in this book may well seem both to lovers of poetry and to classical scholars an unnecessary gloss upon the Odyssey. In one sense it is, for it is clearly unnecessary to attempt to trace the voyage of Ulysses when millions of people, for thousands of years, have been quite happy to read the Odyssey as if it was only a fable…
I do not think that anything is lost by attempting to find a skeleton – however magnificent the cupboard that hides it. I have seen coral formations disguising the old bones of ships, but I did not feel less amazed by the beauty of the coral just because I had found the timbers and iron frames which the polyps had disguised and decorated.
In 1981, the Italian writer Italo Calvino wrote an essay titled Why Read the Classics?. It’s less than ten entertaining pages, so I recommend you read it if you can lay your hands on it. (It’s been published in a book form, in a collection of his essays, bearing the same title.)
What follows here is the 14 definitions of what classics are as put forward in the essay – 14 definitions worth thinking about:
Hace mucho tiempo el escritor argentino, Jorge Luis Borges estaba enseñando literatura inglesa en la universidad de Buenos Aires. Un día dijo a sus estudiantes:
A long time ago the Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges taught English Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. One day he said to his students:
La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:
Si Shakespeare les interesa, está bien. Si les resulta tedioso, déjenlo. Shakespeare no ha escrito aún para ustedes. Llegará un día que Shakespeare será digno de ustedes y ustedes serán dignos de Shakespeare, pero mientras tanto no hay que apresurar las cosas.”
(Jorge Luis Borges: Curso de literatura inglesa en la universidad de Buenos Aires)
If Shakespeare interests you, that’s fine. If you find him tedious, leave him. Shakespeare hasn’t yet written for you. The day will come when Shakespeare will be right for you and you will be worthy of Shakespeare, but in the meantime there’s no need to hurry things.
It was evening when we made our way back to the cove. The sun was setting fire to the headlands west of us, and the sea had become absolutely still. Not even a cat’s-paw trailed across the purple water. The sea was truly like wine to look at. The professors who had decried Homer’s adjective and invented other meanings for it, had never been sailors.