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Leopard

Leopard

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Taiga?s True Views: The Language of Landscape Painting in Eighteenth-Century Japan by Melinda Takeuchi (1994-06-01)
Melinda Takeuchi
The History of England, Vol 2
David Hume
The History of Scepticism: From Savonarola to Bayle
Richard H. Popkin
Cicero: On Moral Ends (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy)
Marcus Tullius Cicero, Raphael Woolf, Julia Annas
Das Goldene Vlies: Dramatisches Gedicht in Drei Abteilungen
Franz Grillparzer
Euripides IV: Rhesus / The Suppliant Women / Orestes / Iphigenia in Aulis
Charles R. Walker, Frank William Jones, William Arrowsmith, David Grene, Euripides, Richmond Lattimore
Notes from Underground & The Double
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jesse Coulson
The World of Thought in Ancient China
Benjamin I. Schwartz
The Last Generation of the Roman Republic
Erich S. Gruen
The Legend of Gold and Other Stories
William J. Tyler, Jun Ishikawa, Ishikawa Jun
A Time in Xanadu - Lars Gustafsson, John Irons

I generally like Gustafsson's writings, which are quite varied: novels, autobiographical prose, essays and poetry. As I have no more than a superficial grasp of Swedish and because I lived in Germany when I first discovered Gustafsson, I know his work primarily in German translation. Some of his books I have in both German and English and can make some comparisons, but A Time in Xanadu I have only in English, and the translator, John Irons, is new to me. In other words, I have little basis for determining the accuracy of this translation; but Irons has rendered natural-sounding English poems.

 

This collection of relatively recent poems is rather wide-ranging, from somewhat lengthy, ambitious poems like "Kublai Khan Departs from Xanadu" through brief observations, memories, epiphanies, to a handful of prose poems at the end of the book. In the longest poem in the book, "Kublai", Gustafsson tries to bring together Kublai Khan, Alfred Einstein, Gottlob Frege (a man who worked in the intersection of mathematics, logic and philosophy and came up with the, I believe, first logical foundation of arithmetic, which served as a model for much of the subsequent work in mathematical logic) and Charlie Chaplin, rather unsuccessfully in my view. The poem then proceeds without further name-dropping to some more felicitous sections, including the following lines:

 

I sometimes dream

a strange dream

that everything is not as it should be.

 

I am living in a house

that is not mine.

 

It is much too big

and has floors

that I have never dared visit.

 

Something holds me back from doing so.

 

[.........]

 

So I stay here

in these few rooms of a palace far too large

 

which I manage to keep

at a reasonable temperature.

 

During the time that was my life.

 

I hope it is clear even from this edited excerpt that he is not talking about a literal house here.

 

I don't find any "great" poems in this collection, but if you enjoy listening to a sensitive, observant, intellectual older man who is trying to tell you some of the things that are important to him without any posturing (I am soooooo tired of the poses(*) taken by some twenty- and thirty-something authors), you will probably enjoy this book.

 

(*) To be fair, I know that (1) they are still trying to find themselves and/or (2) these poses are often adopted for marketing reasons, but I am still weary of it.