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The Really Old Classics Challenge (and an update on Spice of Life)

October 31, 2009

really-old-classics-bg_3-sm1In addition to finishing four challenges, I’m adding two more: this is the first!

The always wonderful Rebecca is back for a second round of the Really Old Classics Challenge from November through February, and this time she’s co-hosting with Heather of Age 30+…a Lifetime in Books. You only have to read one book written before 1600…but there’s also an option to get a ‘classicist’ certificate by reading three more books (so four total), and I have a tiny little pool of possibilities for that:

  • Arabian Nights trans. by Hussain Haddawy: I read most of this earlier this year and loved it, but then I lost it for a month or two, and now that I’ve found it again I haven’t gotten around to picking it back up (I blame the library books, lol). Eek! So I’m putting it on my list to ensure that I’ll finish it this year.
  • The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio: I bought this over two years ago with the best of intentions and still haven’t read it!
  • The Romances of Chrétien de Troyes: I got this one out from the library earlier this year for the Classics Challenge but didn’t get to it in time. de Troyes was a poet in the 12th century, and I can’t resist tales of courtly love!
  • Silence: another epic poem from medieval France, about a girl raised as a boy since her parents didn’t have a son. My library doesn’t have this one, but Jason is sending it to me! Isn’t he nice? :)
  • If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho translated by Anne Carson: I’ve been wanting to read some of ancient Greek Sappho’s poetry for awhile now, and this is the perfect reason. Jason recommended this edition, and it looks marvelous-it’s dual language and published by Knopf!
  • The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon trans. by Meredith McKinney: I’ve always felt really intimidated by this book (written in 11th century Japan), but Jenny’s review has me wanting to try it.
  • The Travels of Ibn Battutah trans. by Tim Mackintosh-Smith: Rob of RobAroundBooks makes this 14th century travelogue sound irresistable. And the editor, Tim Mackintosh-Smith published his own book that’s a travelogue through both Battutah’s book and his actual route Travels With a Tangerine that I’d read along side it.
  • Bhagavad Gita trans. by Stephen Mitchell: I loved Mitchell’s translation of Gilgamesh, and I’ve been wanting to read The Bhagavad Gita ever since I was a little girl reading the stories of Indian gods in A Little Princess (of course, I didn’t know what the book was called then!). I listed this in my Classics Challenge pool, and someone commented that this is a religious text, not just a book. So I’d just like to say that I fully respect Hinduism, and I’d like to read one of its founding stories, the same way I’ve read large chunks of the Bible and Qaran.
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight trans. by Simon Armitage: when I was 10, my mom took an English Lit class, and she read this story. She loved it so much, she had me read it too out of her Norton Anthology and loved it as well! I think it’s about time for a reread, and I’d like to try out a different translation (I really wanted the Tolkien translation, but my library doesn’t have it). And the cover of this is AWESOME, hehe.
  • The Sagas of Icelanders: a Selection by Ornolfur Thorsson: reading Kristin Lavransdatter really put me in a Norse mood! Emily’s review makes this sound awesome, and even though my library doesn’t have it, a lot of nearby ones do, so I should be able to ILL it.
  • The Book of My Life or Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Avila: I’ve never read anything by Saint Teresa, but I want to. :) I don’t know which of these I should start with, so if y’all have suggestions, please let me know!

And then I saw on the blog that we could read retellings for extra credit! And Psyche and Cupid is one of my very favourite stories, so I’m tossing C.S. Lewis’ version Till We Have Faces into the mix.

Also, I’ve decided to up my involvement in Rebecca’s other challenge (The Spice of Life) from a taste (2 books) to a feast (6-8 books). Look for a couple reviews of cookbooks coming soon, as well as of course some nonfiction food-y goodness! ;)

11 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2009 2:56 pm

    I’ve been looking forward to St Teresa too! I was going to read her autobiography, but I honestly don’t know enough to recommend one over the other…

  2. October 31, 2009 3:31 pm

    Enjoy. I say go for that certificate!

  3. October 31, 2009 3:38 pm

    I want to read the Sappho book, but don’t know when I’ll get to it so I’m sort of leaving off this challenge.

  4. October 31, 2009 3:53 pm

    Good luck!

  5. October 31, 2009 4:09 pm

    I really love St. Teresa. I hope you enjoy her writing too! I read part of the Decameron in college, and I remember finding some of the stories delightful. And some awful, like the story of Patient Griselda, and half the people in my class said if a husband beat his wife that was just her cross to bear. Ugh.

  6. October 31, 2009 9:19 pm

    Jason, I’ll probably go for her autobiography first.

    Charley, I intend to!

    Amanda, lol; I don’t think you love challenges the way that I do. ;)

    BermudaOnion, thank you!

    Jenny, ick to wife beating-and what were your classmates thinking?!

  7. November 1, 2009 6:33 am

    I wish I was brave enough to join this challenge. Oh well, not like I don’t have enough other challenges to fail at already. ;)

    But yes, I must agree with you…Jason is about as nice as they come, isn’t he?

  8. November 1, 2009 7:24 am

    Yeay! I’m so excited your joining up and what a great list of books.

    I’ve read the first few pages of The Pillow Book and it is NOT SCARY at all. One blogger referred to it as a blog written 1000 years before it’s time. Random jottings, etc. from a court lady. I’m excited about it!!

    I love to see what people are reading — but then I want to read those too!!

  9. November 1, 2009 10:32 am

    You’re killing me! I wasn’t going to join this because I have a REALLY hard time with lit this old (not sure why…I used to love it). I adored Gawain and the Green Knight when I read it in college, and I have several others on your list. You really got me when you mentioned Till We Have Faces!!! No one has EVER read that book, and I LOVE IT. I read it several years ago–early 2000’s methinks–and I would dive in for a re-read in a heartbeat. Good stuff.

  10. November 1, 2009 12:59 pm

    I’ve read The Decameron, all of Chretien de Troyes’ work, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I loved all of them, so I think you’re in for a treat! I have to investigate several of the others on your list – I love really old classics, although I don’t read them as much as I should.


  1. Really Old Classics Challenge Wrap-Up « A Striped Armchair

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