Yet for all the attention that the equivalency between science and magic seems to take, it was not to me really what drove this book or made it enjoyable. I think this book was really all about perspective and communication, and the evidence is in the very structure of the book. It is written primarily from two perspectives: the “magic” perspective and the “science” perspective, and it is the contrast between the two that makes this book distinct from any number of other riffs on the interaction between more and less “advanced” civilizations.
We’ve posted a few times about how sometimes it is what is left out of a story, as much as what is put in, that can make it compelling, and how that void can fire the imagination. If that is a measure of how compelling a story is, that we keep thinking about it and imagining what was not explicitly told after we have finished it, then the Epic of Gilgamesh certainly qualifies. If only its omissions were more intentional.
Despite the title, Poetics should not be thought of as applying exclusively to poetry. Rather, it is equal parts literary criticism, and one of the world’s earliest “how to write fiction,” books. Much like Art of Rhetoric, there were pieces that have become outdated, but much has remained surprisingly relevant to modern literature. All that is required is a bit of translation.
If there is any truth to the postulate that a culture is reflected in its art, then I thought surely a collection of Chinese “fairy tales” would offer some fascinating insights into Chinese culture. It’s true that I learned something from this collection of short stories, but I’m not sure what it is yet.
Well, I did it again. When I consulted my reading list to pick a new book to read after finishing Meditations With Cows, instead of picking a new or well-known or at least commonly approachable book that people actually would search for and by extension perhaps find my site, I picked another ancient text that only a few people have heard of and fewer decide to read. Let it never be said that I am a slave to the search engine algorithms. That being said, it does continue my tour of historic pieces of world literature (we recently reviewed The Bhagavad Gita, and The Story of Burnt Njal, checking off (roughly) India and Iceland, plus the Middle East with the Babur-Nama), and I have legitimately been interested in reading this for awhile, it being one of the few historical autobiographies from that region of the world. In truth, doing a sort of world-tour of ancient literature is proving a very fascinating exercise, and one that I would wholly recommend (as long as you have some patience).
The title translates from Sanskrit to mean The Song Celestial, and the original was a poem or song featuring a discussion between Prince Arjun and an entity called Krishna, which is a deific being. It has been cited as influential and/or inspirational by many who study or come from India, so I decided a few years ago to add it to my reading list, and am finally getting around to it. One of my goals for some time now has been to familiarize myself more with the culture and history of this region, as it is not something I have previously studied extensively, and reading this poem seemed a better place to start than with the entirety of the Mahabharata.