Friday, March 1, 2024

Books I read in February 2024 - if there is truth in poets' prophesies, then in my fame forever will I live

Persian literature in March: the epic Shahnameh in Dick Davis’s mostly prose translation, plus the classical poets he translated in Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz, plus some Rumi and at least one contemporary Iranian novel, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi’s The Colonel (2009).  Maybe The Conference of the Birds.  That’s a nice syllabus.

As for the past month:


Metamorphoses (8 / 1567), tr. Arthur Golding

Metamorphoses (8 / 2004), tr. Charles Martin – those are Ovid’s and Martin’s last lines up there in my title.

Ovid and the Metamorphoses of Modern Art from Boticelli to Picasso (2014), Paul Barolsky

Many thanks to everyone who read along, commented, corresponded, etc.  A great pleasure.


Nones (1951), W. H. Auden

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (2018). Terrance Hayes


The Return of the Soldier (1918), Rebecca West

Brideshead Revisited (1945), Evelyn Waugh – muted compared to his great earlier novels, although it has some outstanding scenes.

The Folded Leaf (1945), William Maxwell

Mendelssohn Is on the Roof (1959), Jiří Weil – a fellow Twitterest told the story about how the Nazis wanted to pull down the statue of Mendelssohn from the Prague opera house, but instead demolished Wagner’s statue because he had the biggest nose.  A terrific story but obviously false, although internet searching revealed that Prague tour guides tell it all the time.  The source, I discovered, is Jiří Weil’s grim, ironic novel Mendelssohn Is on the Roof, about the workings of the Final Solution in Prague.  The Nazis are ridiculous, even stupid, but they are also relentless and thorough, so guess which statue, in the novel, gets it in the end.  The tour guides have tidied up the story a little too much.  Through the awful subject, a distinctly Czech ironic stance, like Kafka or Čapek, was visible.

Gray Ghost (2007), William G. Tapply –The French title of this detective novel is Casco Bay – hey, that’s where I live.  Londoners and Los Angelenos are used to fictional characters passing right by their home, but I am not. 

The Guest Lecture (2023), Martin Riker



Le bureau des affaires occultes (2021), Éric Fouassier – a historical mystery guest-starring Vidocq, the great super-criminal turned super-detective, best known now as Balzac’s recurring mastermind Vautrin.  I will reserve comment until Emma of Book Around the Corner reads the novel in July, except to say that it was good for my French.

I have a little Portuguese novel going, too, slowly, but it is not finished yet.


  1. I can't believe you live in Casco Bay! I loved the 3 Tapply novels I read and I was so sad to learn he died before writing more books of this series.

    I'm looking forward to reading the Fouassier, D. really enjoyed it.

  2. Yes, I do not live on the water but I am quite close. If you ever visit the area, I will show you the sites of the book. A couple of them, at least. Maybe I will get to the other Tapply novels by then.