Now they appear for the first time in English

October 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Over the course of his more than 90 years, during which his career ranged from World War II partisan to a classics professor at an ancient university to a minister of culture, P.K. has written more than thirty books.  In Poland, his books are a phenomenon:  though they all are dedicated to subjects from Greco-Roman antiquity, they have remained in print for over forty years, proving as popular with each successive generation as they have been with the last.  Aiimed at a well-rounded generalist, they are are neither academic — their style is delightfully conversational and witty; nor exactly what one would call popular:  in their deceptively easy-going style they take on serious and ever-relevant subjects carefully avoiding the temptations of the middle-brow dumbification which mars so many similar projects.  P.K.’s books have been translated into many foreign languages.  Now they appear for the first time in English.

SAT narrates two stories in parallel — that of the first expedition of seven against Thebes — one of the most popular myths of antiquity, once subject of a great Homeric epic now lost, and numerous subsequent retellings and renderings in art in antiquity; and the third — the overthrow of the oligarchic tyranny in Thebes in the year 379 B.C. as told by Plutarch.  In the course of the story, the author discusses ancient archeology, mythology, and religion; the role of tradition and repetition both in literature and national identity; the relationship between literature and politics; practical and theoretical life; the enormity of changes brought about by passage of time; and the universal traits of human nature which remain the same; all in a series of short chapters, in a delightfully small book which will leave the reader reflecting on its topics on many warm afternoons.

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