"Strike me dead, the track has vanished,
Well, what now? We've lost the way,
Demons have bewitched our horses,
Led us in the wilds astray.
"What a number! Whither drift they?
What's the mournful dirge they sing?
Do they hail a witch's marriage
Or a goblin's burying?"
"And there was one herd of many swine feeding on this
mountain; and they besought him that he would suffer them to
enter into them. And he suffered them.
"Then went the devils out of the man and entered into the
swine; and the herd ran violently down a steep place into
the lake and were choked.
"When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and
went and told it in the city and in the country.
"Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus
and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed,
sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind;
and they were afraid."
Luke, ch. viii. 32-37.
Demons (Russian: Бесы, Bésy) is an 1872 anti-nihilistic novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Although titled The Possessed in the initial English translation, Dostoyevsky scholars and later translations favour the titles The Devils or Demons.
An extremely political book, Demons is a testimonial of life in Imperial Russia in the late 19th century.... read more
The story of Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics who makes a bet with his friend Colonel Pickering that he can successfully pass off a Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, as a refined society lady by teaching her how to speak with an upper class accent and training her in etiquette. In the process, Higgins and Eliza grow close, but she ultimately rejects his domineering ways and declares she will marry Freddy Eynsford-Hill – a young, poor, gentleman.
PREFACE TO PYGMALION.
A Professor of Phonetics.
As will be seen later on, Pygmalion needs, not a preface, but a sequel, which I have supplied in its due place. The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their ren to speak it. They spell it so abominably that no man can teach himself what it sounds like. It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him. German and Spanish are accessible to foreigners: English is not accessible even to Englishmen. The reformer England needs today is an energetic phonetic enthusiast: that is why I have made such a one the hero of a popular play. There have been heroes of that kind crying in the wilderness for many years past. When I became interested in the subject towards the end of the eigh -seventies, Melville Bell was dead; but Alexander J. Ellis was still a living patriarch, with an impressive head always covered by a velvet skull cap, for which he would apologize to public meetings in a very courtly manner. He and... read more
The Iliad is, together with the Odyssey, one of two ancient Greek epic poems traditionally attributed to Homer. The poem is commonly dated to the late 9th or to the 8th century BC, and many scholars believe it is the oldest extant work of literature in the ancient Greek language, making it one of the first works of ancient Greek literature. The existence of a single author for the poems is disputed as the poems themselves show evidence of a long oral tradition and hence, possible multiple authors .
In the tenth year of the Trojan War, tensions are running high among the Achaians (a super-ancient name for the Ancient Greeks). First, the priest Chryses comes to ask their leader, King Agamemnon, to release his daughter, whom Agamemnon was holding captive. When Agamemnon refuses, the priest prays to the god Apollo to send a plague against the Achaians.
After nine days of plague, the Achaians assemble again and demand that Agamemnon give the girl back. Agamemnon eventually agrees, but only if he gets to take Briseis, the girlfriend of Achilleus, the greatest warrior of the Achaians. Even though Achilleus gives her up, he becomes so enraged that he refuses to fight any more. That and he prays to his mother, Thetis, who happens to be a goddess, to pull some strings with the other gods so that the Achaians will start getting defeated in battle and realize how much they depend on him.
Achilleus's mom definitely spoils him. She gets Zeus, the king of the gods, to agree to Achilleus's request. Sure enough, the next day the Trojans make a successful counterattack, led by Hektor, their greatest warrior. Several days of violent fighting follow, at the end of which the Trojans have the Achaians pinned against the beach, and are threatening to burn their ships. At this point, Achilleus's best friend Patroklos asks for permission to go into battle in Achilleus's place. Achilleus grants Patroklos's request, and even lets him wear his armor. Patroklos's gambit is successful – when the... read more
The Diary of a Nobody is the fictitious record of fif months in the life of Charles Pooter, his family, friends and small circle of acquaintances. It first appeared, serialised in Punch magazine and might be regarded as the first ‘blog’; being a record of the simplicities and humiliations in the life of this mundane, but upright, city clerk, who had an incontestable faith that a record of his daily life was worth preserving for posterity.
Set in about 1891 in Holloway, which was then a typical suburb of the impecuniously respectable kind, the authors contrive a record of the manners, customs and experiences of the late Victorian era. The bare record of facts, simply recorded, manages to be humorous rather than dull, no doubt because of the... read more
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain creates an entertaining adventure of Middle America in the 1800’s – afloat on a raft on the Mississippi River. Huck escapes his civilized life when he arranges his own “murder” and turns back into the backwoods, downriver yokel he started as, and in the process springing a slave, Jim, from bondage.
Huck and Jim experience life as a series of tableaus as the river sweeps them through small towns on their way South. At each stop, Huck engages his talent for mixing fact with bald-faced lies to endlessly get himself out of situations… and of course, putting him into others!
Much has been written about the statement Twain is making about slavery in this book, but it’s really secondary to the story. The facts of how black people were treated in this period give Huck and Jim their license for life on the run. Modern listeners will be intrigued by the unencumbered life of the pair; they make do with coffee, fish from the river, and little else (but of course, when they do need something extra, they don’t mind helping themselves to it without recourse to money!)... read more
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev (1818-1883) was a great Russian novelist and playwright. His novel Fathers and Sons is regarded as one of major works of 19th-century fiction. After the standard schooling for a of a gentleman's family, He studied for one year at the University of Moscow and then moved to the University of St Petersburg, focusing on the classics, Russian literature and philology. Turgenev was impressed with German Central-European society, and believed that Russia could best improve itself by imitating the West. Like many of his educated contemporaries, he was particularly opposed to serfdom. He first made his name with A Sportsman's Sketches, also known as Sketches From a Hunter's Album; or, Notes of a Hunter. He wrote several short novels like The Diary of a Superfluous Man, Faust and The Lull. In them Turgenev expressed the anxieties and hopes of Russians of his generation. Amongst his other works are Liza: A Nest of Nobles, The Jew and Other Stories, On the Eve, A Reckless Character and Other Stories, The Torrents of Spring,... read more
Macbeth is among the best-known of William Shakespeare's plays, and is his shortest tragedy, believed to have been written between 1603 and 1606. It is frequently performed at both amateur and professional levels, and has been adapted for opera, film, books, stage and screen. Often regarded as archetypal, the play tells of the dangers of the lust for power and the betrayal of friends. For the plot Shakespeare drew loosely on the historical account of King Macbeth of Scotland by Raphael Holinshed and that by the Scottish philosopher Hector Boece. There are many superstitions centred on the belief the play is somehow "cursed", and many actors will not mention the name of the play aloud, referring to it instead as ... read more
Hard Times, the shortest of Dickens’s full-length novels, is set in the fictitious Victorian-England city of Coketown, where facts are the rule and all fancy is to be stamped out. The plot centers around the men and women of the town, some of whom are beaten down by the city’s utilitarian ideals and some of whom manage to rise above it. The novel was written in 1854 and was a scathing attack on then-current ideas of utilitarianism, which Dickens viewed as a selfish and at times oppressive philosophy. Perhaps the novel’s best features are its clever, ironic narration and the larger-than-life characters that push the plot forward, such as the upper-class banker and hypocritical braggart, Josiah Bounderby, and the fact-driven schoolmaster, Thomas Gradgrind. (Summary by Rosalind Wills).... read more
Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground is set in nine th-century Russia and reflects some of the prevailing philosophical discourses of the times. As Russia struggles to identify its future, the novel’s unnamed narrator—the Underground Man—presents arguments that are meant to dissuade his audience (probably Russian intellectuals) from leaning toward European scientific and mathematical solutions to human problems. The narrator champions the concept of free will, and he takes his argument to the point of absurdity to make his opinion heard. The narrator is not a very likable character. In fact, he has been dubbed the first literary antihero. The entire novel is told through the Underground Man’s eyes and experience. Although his tale is not always comfortable to hear, the story of the Underground Man showcases Dostoevsky’s deep understanding of psychology and ... read more
Walden by Henry David Thoreau is one of the best-known non-fiction books written by an American. Published in 1854, it details Thoreau’s life for two years, two months, and two days around the shores of Walden Pond. Walden is neither a novel nor a true autobiography, but a social critique of the Western World, with each chapter heralding some aspect of humanity that needed to be either renounced or praised. Along with his critique of the civilized world, Thoreau examines other issues afflicting man in society, ranging from economy and reading to solitude and higher laws. He also takes time to talk about the experience at Walden Pond itself, commenting on the animals and the way people treated him for living there, using those experiences to bring out his philosophical positions. This extended commentary on nature has often been interpreted as a ... read more