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Collected Ancient Greek Novels av B. P.…
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Collected Ancient Greek Novels (utgåvan 1989)

av B. P. Reardon (Redaktör)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
234587,128 (4.44)3
Prose fiction, although not always associated with classical antiquity, did in fact flourish in the early Roman Empire, not only in realistic Latin novels but also and indeed principally in the Greek ideal romance of love and adventure to which they are related. Popular in the Renaissance, these stories have been less familiar in later centuries. Translations of the Greek stories were not readily available in English before B.P. Reardon's excellent volume. Nine complete stories are included here as well as ten others, encompassing the whole range of classical themes: ideal romance, travel adventure, historical fiction, and comic parody. A new foreword by J.R. Morgan examines the enormous impact this groundbreaking collection has had on our understanding of classical thought and our concept of the novel.… (mer)
Medlem:kristi_test_b
Titel:Collected Ancient Greek Novels
Författare:B. P. Reardon (Redaktör)
Info:University of California Press (1989), 835 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
Betyg:****
Taggar:classics, GR import test

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Collected Ancient Greek Novels av B. P. Reardon (Editor)

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The protagonist is unjustly accused and suffers a violent death. She is entombed but resurrects during the night. In the morning her husband visits the tomb and finds it empty, the stone moved. He is afraid and immediately assumes she has been transformed into a goddess.

This is the plot of Chaereas and Callirhoe, or ‘Q’ as I like to call it for short. It was a popular novel, the Da Vinci Code of its day. It appears to have been written in Asia Minor but copies have been found as far away as Egypt. It predates the Gospels. I was gob-smacked by what I was reading. Why would the Gospel writers base their religion on a popular novel? I find the idea astounding. God knows how I’d feel if I were a Christian. Fear, probably. The identical plot is only the beginning of the similarities. There are also themes of repentance and forgiveness.

Perhaps there are other explanations. This idea of a resurrecting god are common in the area. Not just in Egypt, but also just a few miles away from Judea in Phoenicia. Our only knowledge of these religions is from their surviving texts. Is it possible that those features of the novel that we consider to be specifically Christian, the stone and the fear, were in fact already attributes of the older religions?

Another possibility may be that our interpretation of this book as a novel is anachronistic. We read it as a novel because we have so many of them, but at the time only one or two had previously been written. Is it a different art form with superficial similarities? I’m reminded of when The Da Vinci code was published and was read by many people who did not usually read novels. Many of them struggled to see the dividing line between truth and fiction and thought that what they were reading was true.

But there are problems with these alternative explanations because Chaereas and Callirhoe also has similarities to the Acts of the Apostles. You see, while Callirhoe has been resurrected she hasn’t been turned into a goddess. She’s actually been stolen by pirates! She then travels around Asia Minor where she is mistaken for a goddess. In Acts, Paul and Barnabas travel around Asia Minor where they are mistaken for gods. This leaves us with rather a disturbing possibility. Mark wrote his Gospel, taking as his source this novel. When Luke wrote his Gospel he took Mark as his source, but when he wrote Acts he went back to Mark’s source and used that.

It’s a Mystery and a very interesting one.

As for the rest of the collection, there are seventeen works in all. Nine complete novels (novels/novellas/romances – whatever you want to call them) and fragments of eight largely lost works. There are also two summaries of entirely lost works excerpted from Photius.

I think it would be fair to say that not everything in the collection is ‘good’. You have to make some allowances. We’re lucky living in the in the heyday of the novel, but these writers didn’t have that great tradition to look back on. Some of the techniques appear childish. There’s nothing in this collection that an editor wouldn’t ask for some changes to if it were submitted for publication today. And many of their conventions seem as strange to us as I’m sure the conventions of our novels would seem strange to readers in the ancient world. That said, there is much here to enjoy.

Leucippe and Clitophon is the Greek-style novel par excellence. It has all the ingredients. Young lovers cruelly separated and subjected to a series of episodic scenes of peril before finally being reunited. I enjoyed this a lot. The author, Achilles Tatius, managed to maintain my interest despite the episodic nature and the whole thing is rather a lot of fun.

Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe is a strange, atmospheric novel, translated by no less a personage than Christopher Gill. I guarantee you’ve never read anything like it. It’s also extremely funny. It’s about these two teenagers who really want to bonk each other, but just can’t work out how to do it, no matter how hard they try. And they try really really hard.

The Alexander Romance. There’s a whole genre of these books. Apparently eight versions, translations, adaptaions and retellings in twenty-four languages. This is a translation of manuscript L of recension B. If you’re interested in the genre this may be a good place to start as it’s about as close to the author’s lost original as you’re going to get.

Artistically, it’s deeply flawed. The structure has abandoned all hope and caused Alexander to split into two distinct characters of the same name. For all its problems it’s a lot of fun and I enjoyed it very much. It’s definitely a proto-Mediaeval Romance. In places it reminded me of some of the King Arthur stuff I’ve read and sometimes had a Mediaeval feel to it. This is only the second time I’ve had that feeling from a book that predates the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Lucian True Story is a satire of the Greek novel. I’d had my eye on reading this for quite a while as a science fiction fan as I’d heard it described as proto-sf. I think that might be pushing it a bit. There are a couple of similarities. The use of a fantastical setting to comment on the contemporary world, and the idea of a trip to the moon. But this is a satire, and the idea of going to the moon is presented as a ridiculous concept, rather than something we might achieve. Lots of fun though, and if you’re read The Alexander Romance you’ll see exactly the kind of thing he’s satirising.

The only thing that has a modern feel to it is Heliodorus’ Ethiopian Story. This a piece of literature in the modern sense. For a start it appears to have been subject to more than one draft. It’s oddly progressive. The heroine is a kick-arse Ethiopian with albinism who slaughters a boat-load of pirates single-handed. I’m going to stick my neck out and call it a literary masterpiece. If Heliodorus walked into a bar full of Russian authors they’d buy him a vodka. At least Dostoyevsky would. I think Tolstoy might have been tee-total. Heliodorus has a complete command over his technique and material that the other writers in this collection could never hope to match. He opens in medias res and there follows a series of nested stories told by various characters as the sub-plots multiply. It’s like a coiled spring, and as those sub-plots resolve the main plot catapults forward, taking us to the dénouement.

The translator, J. R. Morgan, has this to say about it in his introduction:

“...a very religious, or rather religiose text. References to to supernatural agencies of various kinds abound… but in a work of fiction Providence is only Plot in disguise. I cannot find any consistency in the attribution of events to non-human agencies and am inclined to think the whole divine apparatus a literary device to give the plot a sense of direction… virtually the whole plot is motivated sufficiently at a human level...”

I’m sure Morgan is right, of course. But I think that Heliodorus, unlike the other writers in this collection, has realised that within the context of a novel the author is God. And in this novel Heliodorus is literally God and he has the control of his material to prove it. It’s worth noting when the Sun or the Sun God are mentioned. In the colophon Heliodorus claims to be descended from the Sun God. That’s your last clue, just in case you didn’t get it. The first clue is the opening sentence with it’s description of the dawn. It’s worth looking out for solar mentions as they usually come at critical moments. But as Morgan says, references to to supernatural agencies of various kinds abound. I would argue that these all refer to the god of this novel, Heliodorus. He’s playing a literary game by repurposing the deus ex machina. It seems to me that there are two ways round the problem of a deus ex machina. Like Euripides you can give the appearance of the god real emotional impact, or, like Stephen King you can tell the reader about it at the start of the book, before it’s needed. In this novel, the deus ex machina is not an ejector seat for the plot, it is disguised as the plot. And Heliodorus, being god, is the deus in the machina of the plot.

Morgan is right in saying that virtually the whole plot is motivated sufficiently at a human level. I think the character of Kalasiris is particularly interesting here. The plots are coiled in on each other and while there are a number of obvious coincidences I think that if the narrative were straightened out many more would be apparent. You don’t know it at first, but Kalasiris turns out to be be the main plot-driver. I think he represents the god-like Heliodorus’ human agent. Kalasiris kidnaps the hero and heroine just as Heliodorus, as author, is causing his characters to be kidnapped. And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Kalasiris (spoilers) dies at exactly the time the sub-plots are resolved and the trust of the main plot kicks in. Thought provoking stuff. ( )
  Lukerik | Apr 19, 2020 |
Translations of and notes about Ancient Greek romances.
  LochItes | Dec 4, 2009 |
A good collection of ancient novels. You can dispute what got included and what didn't--I wish it had dug deeper, and omitted more commonly available material—but the result is comprehensive and satisfying. Introductions are good. ( )
2 rösta timspalding | Apr 21, 2009 |
Translations of virtually all that remains of ancient Greek prose fiction. My review is at http://stromata.tripod.com/id121.htm ( )
1 rösta TomVeal | Jul 1, 2006 |
I found the general introduction mind numbingly boring, and it almost put me off from an otherwise wonderful book. ( )
  pandoragreen | Feb 10, 2006 |
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Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Reardon, B. P.Redaktörprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Anderson, GrahamÖversättaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Dowden, KenÖversättaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Gill, ChristopherÖversättaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Morgan, J. R.Förordmedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Morgan, J. R.Översättaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Reardon, B. P.Översättaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Sandy, Gerald N.Översättaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Sullivan, J. P.Översättaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Winkler, John J.Översättaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
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Prose fiction, although not always associated with classical antiquity, did in fact flourish in the early Roman Empire, not only in realistic Latin novels but also and indeed principally in the Greek ideal romance of love and adventure to which they are related. Popular in the Renaissance, these stories have been less familiar in later centuries. Translations of the Greek stories were not readily available in English before B.P. Reardon's excellent volume. Nine complete stories are included here as well as ten others, encompassing the whole range of classical themes: ideal romance, travel adventure, historical fiction, and comic parody. A new foreword by J.R. Morgan examines the enormous impact this groundbreaking collection has had on our understanding of classical thought and our concept of the novel.

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