Last February GRANTA BOOKS launched a new series of short introductions or guides to the works of those who have influenced man's development. As Simon Critchley, the series editor, put it, the books are not biographies or summations of famous works, but guides to the works themselves. 'Each book', he writes, 'is a master-class in reading'. Authors choose, on average, ten extracts which they then examine in detail to enable readers to see how the chosen writer sets about what he has to say. These are prefaced by a general introduction. In addition there are short biographical chronologies and suggestions for further readings. The first six titles chosen are mainly from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries but actually start with How to Read Sade by Prof. John Phillips who claims that the Marquis de Sade was 'a profound and radical thinker, and an author of considerable intellect and erudition'. In chronological order the next is Mark Ridley's How to Read Darwin, Josh Cohen's How to Read Freud, Keith Ansell Pearson's How to Read Nietzsche, Neil Gregor's How to Read Hitler and, finally, Ray Monk's How to Read Wittgenstein. All the men included in this first batch, fall into two groups. Those such as Sade and Nietzsche said something about the human condition, however unpleasant that was. Those such as Darwin, Freud and Wittgenstein, brought their intelligence to bear on aspects of man's life and left behind philosophic, scientific or medical schools. Those such as Hitler influenced British and European history and for that reason their writings need to be considered. This will prove an extremely useful series and each title is reasonably priced at [pounds sterling]6.99. We look forward to new titles in due course.
In addition to scholarly guides readers are also dependent on translators to bring texts alive. The oldest literary text is the Gilgamesh epic composed in Mesopotamia in about 1700 BC but only discovered in 1853 when eleven clay tablets were found in the ruins of Nineveh. In a new translation by Stephen Mitchell which is published in the U.K. by PROFILE BOOKS ([pounds sterling]14.99) we have, for the first time, a translation that aims to be 'as startlingly alive today as it was three and a half millennia ago'. Mr Mitchell has based his 'version'--as opposed to 'translation'--on literal translations by seven linguists which he first rendered in a prose version and then transformed into verse in non-iambic, non-alliterative tetrameter.
GRANTA BOOKS scores again with The Stories of Hans Christian Andersen selected and translated by Diana Crone Frank and Jeffrey Frank ([pounds sterling]15.00). The two translators have translated twenty-two of Andersen's stories including his most famous: 'The Princess and the Pea', 'Thumbelisa', 'The Little Mermaid', 'The Emperor's New Clothes', and 'The Ugly Duckling'. The selections were made 'to give modern readers an essential Andersen' and to reveal 'an original and important literary legacy'. The translators were also keen to stick as closely as possible to the original Danish and to the author's colloquialisms. These stories have become part of the English-speaker's literary heritage by incorporation and reading this new translation is like seeing a treasured antique newly cleaned by the experts.
We also have from Granta two new additions to their series of works by the great Austro-Hungarian novelist and writer, Joseph Roth. The first is The White Cities: Reports from France 1925-39 ([pounds sterling]14.99). In 1925 Roth left Weimar Germany for Paris where he spent the rest of his short life. These pieces, translated and edited by Michael Hofmann, are his impressions of life in France and complement his other collection, What I Saw: Reports from Berlin, 1920-33. …