And though I have done some “light reading,” i.e., short new books and some slightly longer classics (Doris Lessing’s The Four-Gated City being the longest, at 672 pages), the titles have not been as varied as usual.
I finally managed to squeeze in some Roman history, just to feel serious. In June I read Tacitus’s Annals, in Latin, of course. Though I can’t recommend J. C. Yardley’s stilted English translation (Oxford), the Latin prose is elegant, dramatic, and engrossing. (N.B. My sympathies are with Yardley, since reading and understanding Latin is one thing, translating it on paper into a differently-structured language and capturing the stylistic effects is altogether more demanding.)
Tacitus is also an eloquent composer of well-wrought speeches, allegedly delivered by the historical characters. This is one of the more charming aspects of Greek and Roman histories. Tacitus’s speeches fall somewhere between the delightful effects of Herodotus and the fascinating dialogue of Robert Graves’s I, Claudius. And I was spellbound by the eloquence of the sympathetic character Germanicus, as he tries to get the troops under control. And I was utterly astonished that one of the main agitators was the former leader of a claque in a theater.
Tacitus and I will meet again–but not yet!