Thursday, August 16, 2007

Musings on a reading list

As I've blogged on my own site before, if there's anything I am it is curious. For a curious reader, the incidental stumble upon the brief mention of the Vatican's Prohibited Books list, in this book, was like finding a "X" mark over buried treasure. (Buried it is, or at least partly. I have the resources of three university library collections at my finger tips and not one has a complete bibliography in English.) The Roman Catholic censors had varied and enviable taste (if misguided intentions) and over the centuries compiled an overwhelming list of intellectual marvels. Here was an opportunity to tackle some of the fiction and philosophy I always meant to, and to be introduced to authors I knew little or nothing about. From internet resources alone I've been able to make good ground -- as far as making a list goes, anyway.

I made the challenge a year long because I plan to read both fiction and philosophy, and I take absolutely forever with non-fiction reads that aren't assigned. I also expect to be back in school come January, which is sure to curtail what time I have for leisure reads. Finally, I'm a huge proponent for the slackest sort of rules when it comes to reading challenges. I was rather horrified at myself for a few seconds after I made the three countries quota because I realised that it forced participants to choose at least three books, contradicting my free-wheeling stance. Still, it is a year long challenge, and it serves the higher purpose of diversity and exposure, so I try not to feel too bad about that.

Here is my rough preliminary list. Choices will be restricted by availability, reported quality of translations and whether they pass the middle-of-the-book test. I also plan to go to the library to take a look at its copy of the Index. The plan is for me to complement the largely incomplete or unusable internet resources by providing more specific information as to which particular works were banned (though the church made it easy for many by simply banning authors' entire output) and mentioning less familiar but potentially interesting writers. I imagine it will be an ongoing project.

1. John Milton (England) -- Paradise Lost
2. Voltaire (France) -- Candide
3. Simone de Beauvoir (France)
4. Auguste Comte (France)
5. Anatole France/ Jacques A F Thibault (France)
6. Victor Hugo (France) - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
7. Nikos Kazantzakis (Greece) - Alexander; Christ Recrucified; The Last Temptation of Christ
8. Maurice Maeterlinck (Belgium) - Pelléas et Mélisande; The Blue bird; Treasure of the Humble
9. Spinoza (Netherlands, Portugal)
10. George Sand (France)
11. Gerard Walschap (Belgium) - Adelaide
12. Marquis de Sade (France)
13. Gustave Flaubert (France)
14. Honore de Balzac (France)
15. Alberto Moravia (Italy)
16. Giovanni Boccaccio (Italy) - Decameron
17. Nicolaus Copernicus (Poland) - On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres

The predominance of France on my list is part of what's driving me to see if any other countries match its shocking overflow of immorality. It may just be my instinctive attraction to their literature: most of the authors were ones I considered or intended to read before I came upon the Vatican's list. That's probably why I was so impressed with it: why, the popes of the past were just like me!

Rachel D. has her list ready as well:

1. Stendhal (France) - The Red and the Black
2. Edward Gibbon (England) - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Vol. I
3. Giovanni Boccaccio (Italy) - Decameron
4. Alexandre Dumas (France) - The Count of Monte Cristo


Stephanie said...

Hi there Imani!! I would love to join your challenge!! It sounds like fun....and maybe a little educational!

Imani said...

That's great, Stephanie. Your invite is waiting for you in the mail. Welcome!

Dark Orpheus said...

I saw a copy of Kazantzakis's St Francis in the library yesterday. I was tempted to read with back to back with Chesterton's St Francis of Assisi.

Anonymous said...

I guess you can add the Count of Monte Cristo to my list, as I am doing it for another challenge as well.

Rachel D.

Imani said...

Did it, Rachel! My roommate has been reading that books for months and seems to be enjoying it. We watched the movie, which diverted from the book so much to the point where parts of the plot didn't even make sense. Funny, though.

Rachel D. said...

Thanks Imani! Hope it doesn't take me that long. First I have to read Don Quixote. Eye strain for a good cause. :)

Rachel D.