An Imperfect Classic

C. K. Scott MoncrieffThe subject of literature in translation always fascinates me. Remember what Ezra Pound said,

English literature lives on translation, it is fed by translations, every new exuberance, every new heave is stimulated by translations, every allegedly great age is an age of translations, beginning with Geoffrey Chaucer.

I believe this but I also believe my daughter who is a professor at a large university when she insists that you should read literature in the original language: reading a translation is hardly better than not reading. This seems very much in line with an article appearing in The New Yorker by Adam Gopnik. The subject C. K. Scott Moncrieff as exposed in a new biography by Jean Findlay which, of course, also deals with Moncrieff’s greatest triumph, his translation of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust.

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I See Dead People

Michael Shermer and Pat Linse published a concise outline in a recent Skeptic titled, Why People See Ghosts (and Gods, Angels, Demons, and Why They Float, Fly, and Travel Out of Their Bodies). You really have to read it so here is the link.

13 Ghosts 500 years ago demons haunted our world, and incubi and succubi tormented their victims as they lay asleep in their beds. 200 years ago spirits of the departed made bedside visits. More recently green and grey aliens began to molest people in their sleep. What is going on here? Are these mysterious visitors in our world or in our minds? They are in our minds. All experience is mediated by the brain, which consists of about a hundred billion neurons with a thousand trillion synaptic connections between them. No wonder the brain is capable of such sublime ideas as evolution and big bang cosmology. But it also means that under a variety of conditions the brain is apable of generating extraordinary experiences that are not real.

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