Author Topic: What are you currently reading?  (Read 553760 times)

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Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8320 on: August 08, 2017, 10:51:46 AM »
On the suject this is quite a nice read



Amin Maalouf was elected at the french academy a couple years back.  He wrote the libretti of many K. Saarahio operas

Haven't read it but I have read and enjoyed many of his books. He has an eminently readable style and touches upon interesting cultural, historical and social topics, wrapping them in adventure-and-mystery sort of novels. Recommended.
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.Victor Hugo

Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8321 on: August 08, 2017, 11:43:56 AM »
Haven't read it but I have read and enjoyed many of his books. He has an eminently readable style and touches upon interesting cultural, historical and social topics, wrapping them in adventure-and-mystery sort of novels. Recommended.
I have read it and liked it.
Give a man a fire and he is warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he is warm for life.

Offline Christo

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8322 on: August 08, 2017, 11:34:55 PM »
Haven't read it but I have read and enjoyed many of his books. He has an eminently readable style and touches upon interesting cultural, historical and social topics, wrapping them in adventure-and-mystery sort of novels. Recommended.
Read it and did'nt like it at all.  ;) Of course his sources are very much worth reading, but everything is commented in the most stereotypical fashion ('what the West doesn't know nor will ever understand'). The only other historian I ever encountered with such an extremely naive perspective is the member of the Knights of Malta, Desmond Seward, who writes about the Crusades in similarly apologetic terms - but from the opposite perspective.

Haven't read it but I have read and enjoyed many of his books. He has an eminently readable style and touches upon interesting cultural, historical and social topics, wrapping them in adventure-and-mystery sort of novels. Recommended.
You would be appalled by the political correctness that informs his whole account - and wouldn't like this one at all (whatever the merits of his artistic writings).  8) If ever there was an 'ideologically distorted' book on the crusades, it is this over-naive and amateurish paraphrasing of Arab sources without any analytical merit. A pity, because these sources are of course very much worth knowing.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2017, 03:46:02 AM by Christo »
… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline aligreto

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8323 on: August 09, 2017, 07:40:14 AM »


Not long begun.
The ability to talk comes with knowledge. The ability to listen comes with wisdom.

Offline Christo

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8324 on: August 10, 2017, 03:19:54 AM »
Promised to return on the stunning book - yes, it is - by Oxford historian Peter Frankopan and will do so in a few lines. I read a review in The Guardian by William Dalrymple, himself the author of From the Holy Mountain, the most inspiring and eye-opening account of the world the Christian minorities of the Middle-East that I ever read (visited many of these forgotten places myself over the years and wish I'd written as he did, though I wrote a few articles). Fully recommended to start with:
     

Now on The Silk Roads. Dalrymple, who's certainly as well at home in the subject, writes that Frankopan is the true heir to the legacy of Steven Runciman. Now that read Silk Roads myself, I can fully support his findings on this 'brilliant history of the world as seen from the east':
    Runciman’s great insight was that the real heirs of Roman civilisation were not the crude chain-mailed knights of the rural west, but instead the sophisticated Byzantines of Constantinople and the cultivated Arabs of Damascus, both of whom had preserved the Hellenised urban tradition of antiquity long after it was destroyed in Europe: “Our civilisation,” he wrote, “has grown … out of the long sequence of interaction and fusion between Orient and Occident.”
   This is history on a grand scale, with a sweep and ambition that is rare. I learned a huge amount about subjects I thought I knew well: who would have guessed that Indian Buddhist monasteries once reached as far as Persia, Syria and the Gulf; that the Romans sent embassies as far as China; that Kashgar had a Christian cathedral before Canterbury; that the Chinese were the first to use toilet paper; that the “exceedingly savage” Huns wore robes made of field mice and ate raw meat “partially warmed by being placed between their thighs”; or that the Roman emperor Diocletian’s proudest achievement was the size of his cabbages?
   Undaunted by the complexity of the material, and the scale of the subject he has taken on, Frankopan marches briskly through the centuries, disguising his erudition with an enviable lightness of touch, enlivening his narrative with a beautifully constructed web of anecdotes and insights, backed up by an impressively wide-ranging scholarly apparatus of footnotes drawing on works in multiple languages.

IIR correctly, some here responded negatively (without actually having read the book) for two reasons:

- the factual errors that are mentioned by some reviewers, Dalrymple including.
Re: True, and I observed a few myself that were not mentioned yet; e.g. Frankopan mistaking the badly documented revolt of North-African Jewish communities under Trajan (115-117, the so-called Kitos War) with one of the two well-known revolts in Roman Palestine. But on the whole, these slips of the pen dwindle in the light of the overwhelming abundance of the story, and, as often, ‘factual errors’ mostly serve the self-esteem of jealous, out-classed reviewers (and readers).  :)

- what Jeffrey Smith calls the ‘political’ and tendentious scheme underlying the story, in his eyes.
Re: I can see the point, but, with your permission, largely disagree. The book is certainly not as one-sided or apologetic as your first impressions suggest. Of course this is far too big an issue to discuss here, but reading Ken’s response it became clear to me that it’s probably rather the other way around: some readers will not endure too much history. Because it would not fit into a political scheme of the world that’s being promoted with remarkable ease in some circles nowadays, namely one in which good and evil are simply identified as ‘us’ versus ‘them’, Mani redivivus. In the case of JS, I’m well aware that the sensitivity lies in things related to Jewish history and for good reasons (that I share myself). However, I read to many factual errors in the few lines you devote to the theme to be completely convinced.  ;) Hope people will be able to read Silk Roads with less ideological ballast and more joy of discovery.

BTW, here's the Guardian review by William Dalrymple: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/nov/06/silk-roads-peter-frankopan-review
… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8325 on: August 10, 2017, 03:32:18 AM »
Re-reading this, because it is good fun.

Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8326 on: August 10, 2017, 04:41:56 AM »
Hope people will be able to read Silk Roads with less ideological ballast and more joy of discovery.

You read the book and are familiar with it so I have two questions, if I may.

1. Is “Europe’s distinctive character as more aggressive, more unstable, and less peace-minded than other parts of the world now paid off.” (emphasis mine) in Frankopan's own words?

2. Is this claim from the WaPo review Ken cited true?

[H]e dismisses European art of the 17th and 18th centuries as having been “forged by violence,”

As for the historical trivia, I knew about Romans getting as far East as China, Huns warming their raw meat under their saddles, and Diocletian and his cabbages. I was not able, though, to find online anything about a cathedral in Kashgar. Apparently, the first Christian missionaries (Swedes) arrived in the Xinjiang province in 1892. What sources does he cite for this claim?
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Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8327 on: August 10, 2017, 05:27:15 AM »
Quote
who would have guessed that Indian Buddhist monasteries once reached as far as Persia, Syria and the Gulf; that the Romans sent embassies as far as China; that Kashgar had a Christian cathedral before Canterbury; that the Chinese were the first to use toilet paper; that the “exceedingly savage” Huns wore robes made of field mice and ate raw meat “partially warmed by being placed between their thighs”; or that the Roman emperor Diocletian’s proudest achievement was the size of his cabbages?

Actually I knew all that, except about Kahsgar (I don't even know where Kashgar is, but I know Canterbury as not an early church in European terms) and this is not an area I know a lot about.

Quote
Of course this is far too big an issue to discuss here, but reading Ken’s response it became clear to me that it’s probably rather the other way around: some readers will not endure too much history

Yes, we ignoramuses like our ignorance.

Addressing JS:
Quote
I read to
  • many factual errors in the few lines you devote to the theme to be completely convinced.
Since I have seen those same errors identified by professional historians of the period, I must demur.

Let's take a step back. You recommend a book. Jeffrey relates flaws he found reading, and details some of them. I found reviews by historians who agree with Jeffery. Then I conclude I don't want to read it. I don't suggest no-one else read it, and I don't call it a bad book. I say it doesn't sound like I want to read it, and I say why.  Your response is to insult me and Jeffery in a snide, smug, self-serving post.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2017, 05:28:47 AM by Ken B »
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Online Jeffrey Smith

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8328 on: August 10, 2017, 05:35:12 PM »
From Wikipedia on Kashgar
Quote
At around the same era, Nestorian Christians were establishing bishoprics at Herat, Merv and Samarkand, whence they subsequently proceeded to Kashgar, and finally to China proper itself.

To be honest, I knew about the Nestorians (and Jews and Moslems) in China c 500 CE long ago.

I didn't know about Diocletian's cabbages, but now that I do, I can suspect the source from which Voltaire took the ending of Candide.

I actually think the book's actual thesis is a good one, and deserves a better author.

BTW, Frankopan was not wrong about the Kitos War. The primary fighting was elsewhere, but did include a rebellion in Judea itself.

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8329 on: August 11, 2017, 12:41:01 AM »
From Wikipedia on Kashgar
To be honest, I knew about the Nestorians (and Jews and Moslems) in China c 500 CE long ago.

Yes I had read that,  but there is no mention of any cathedral.

I suspect that by cathedral he means simply a big church, but this would be another factual error. A cathedral is a church (large or small, doesn't matter) where a bishop officiates and that implies the existence of a bishopric. While the Herat, Merv and Samarkand bishoprics are nominally mentioned in Wikipedia, there is no mention of a Kashgar one.

Now, to the claim that the hypothetical Kashgar cathedral was older than the Canterbury one. Says Wikipedia:

Buddhist scholar Xuanzang passed through Kashgar (which he referred to as Ka-sha) in 644 on his return journey from India to China. [...]

At around the same era, Nestorian Christians were establishing bishoprics at Herat, Merv and Samarkand, whence they subsequently proceeded to Kashgar, and finally to China proper itself.


It can be safely inferred from the above that the founding of any church / cathedral in Kashgar is subsequent to 644. But the oldest Cathedral of Canterbury was founded in 597, when St. Augustine (not the famous one) was consecrated as Bishop and took as his seat a church which is still extant and in use (https://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/heritage/history/cathedral-history-in-a-nutshell/). That was indeed the first Cathedral of Canterbury and it predates the hypotethical Kashgar one by at least 50 years.






Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.Victor Hugo

Offline Jo498

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8330 on: August 11, 2017, 12:42:39 AM »
To cultivate the garden was the original pre-Fall purpose of Man in Genesis, so I am not sure if Voltaire needed Diokletian (I didn't know about his cabbages either) ;)
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Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8331 on: August 11, 2017, 08:19:57 AM »
Yes I had read that,  but there is no mention of any cathedral.

I suspect that by cathedral he means simply a big church, but this would be another factual error. A cathedral is a church (large or small, doesn't matter) where a bishop officiates and that implies the existence of a bishopric. While the Herat, Merv and Samarkand bishoprics are nominally mentioned in Wikipedia, there is no mention of a Kashgar one.

Now, to the claim that the hypothetical Kashgar cathedral was older than the Canterbury one. Says Wikipedia:

Buddhist scholar Xuanzang passed through Kashgar (which he referred to as Ka-sha) in 644 on his return journey from India to China. [...]

At around the same era, Nestorian Christians were establishing bishoprics at Herat, Merv and Samarkand, whence they subsequently proceeded to Kashgar, and finally to China proper itself.


It can be safely inferred from the above that the founding of any church / cathedral in Kashgar is subsequent to 644. But the oldest Cathedral of Canterbury was founded in 597, when St. Augustine (not the famous one) was consecrated as Bishop and took as his seat a church which is still extant and in use (https://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/heritage/history/cathedral-history-in-a-nutshell/). That was indeed the first Cathedral of Canterbury and it predates the hypotethical Kashgar one by at least 50 years.

One minor correction. That IS the famous Augustine. I say that because people routinely conflate them. Being believed the same Augustine, he shares the same fame. :)
Give a man a fire and he is warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he is warm for life.

Offline Christo

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8332 on: August 11, 2017, 09:20:50 AM »
Re those here showing their sincerest interest in the Christians of Kashgar, I'll quote what Frankopan's The Silk Roads actually states, p. 55:

'By the middle of the sixth century there were archbishoprics deep within Asia. Cities including Basra, Mosul and Tikrit had burgeoning Christian populations. The scale of evangelism was such that Kokhe, situated close to Ctesiphon, was served by no fewer than five dependent bishoprics. Cities like Merv, Gondēshāpūr and even Kashgar, the oasis town that was the entry point to China, had archbishops long before Canterbury did."

So, according to Frankopan, it was (1) an archbishopric, (2) middle of the sixth century, (3) based on a whole series of sources of which I read only one: P. Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity (at my office, will check later). But his main source appears to be: S. Moffett, A History of Christianity in Asia, 2 vols. (USA 1998). BTW there's no other mention of the 'most famous' of both St. Augustines in the book.

I have two questions, if I may
You're more than welcome! Will respond later, with your permission.  :)
… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline bwv 1080

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8333 on: August 11, 2017, 09:42:31 AM »


Currenly up to the 1830s, being a time period I dont know much about, a few takeaways

- hard to overstate Napoleon's influence in shaping the liberal movements that swept across Europe after the wars

- the Greek revolution looked much like the 1990s Yugoslav civil war with widespread massacres of women and children by both the Greeks and Turks

- Romania had slavery, primarily of gypsies, until the mid part of the 19th century

- the internal political dynamics of the major european powers - attempted coups by mid level officers, multi-year swings in tide between liberalism and autocracy look alot like recent experience in the developing world
Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8334 on: August 11, 2017, 12:26:19 PM »
Re those here showing their sincerest interest in the Christians of Kashgar, I'll quote what Frankopan's The Silk Roads actually states, p. 55:

'By the middle of the sixth century there were archbishoprics deep within Asia. Cities including Basra, Mosul and Tikrit had burgeoning Christian populations. The scale of evangelism was such that Kokhe, situated close to Ctesiphon, was served by no fewer than five dependent bishoprics. Cities like Merv, Gondēshāpūr and even Kashgar, the oasis town that was the entry point to China, had archbishops long before Canterbury did."

I'll give him Merv and Gondēshāpūr, but I'm still unconvinced about Kashgar.

Plus: Nestorianism was condemned as heretical at Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451), two Ecumenical Councils which both the "Roman Catholic" and the "Eastern Orthodox" Churches  --- both of them misnomers --- acknowledge as valid. So, establishing a heretical bishopric in some Far East town "long before" establishing an orthodox one in Canterbury has only minor importance with respect to the subsequent development of the Christian theology and civilization in Europe.

Quote
You're more than welcome! Will respond later, with your permission.  :)

Take all the time you need, and thanks!
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Offline Alberich

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8335 on: August 12, 2017, 08:05:20 AM »
Continuing on Dune. This Baron Harkonnen seems deliciously evil character. I can see why Wanderer voted for him as a nominee for the greatest scifi villain. I see it unlikely that Harkonnen ever could beat Darth Vader, in my opinion, due to certain nostalgic feeling and that impressive bad-assery Vader has in the original trilogy (which of course was tried to demolish entirely by prequels). But who knows. So far I can well see why Herbert is called Tolkien of Science fiction. The sheer lore he has created is impressive.
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Online SimonNZ

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8336 on: August 14, 2017, 03:33:42 AM »



Offline Todd

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8337 on: August 14, 2017, 06:19:58 AM »



Generally well-written, with a snappy, contemporary prose style, and chock full of useful facts, factoids, and quasi-case studies on water policy, this book is something of a page turner.  I'm about halfway done, and expect to complete it shortly.  Changes to water supply management could offer some juicy returns to investors in the right companies.  I need to do me some more research in that area.  The only company mentioned in the book to this point is Nalco, which is now part of Ecolab.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8338 on: August 14, 2017, 09:39:30 AM »


Currenly up to the 1830s, being a time period I dont know much about, a few takeaways

- Romania had slavery, primarily of gypsies, until the mid part of the 19th century

Until 1866 there was no Romania.

Quote
- the internal political dynamics of the major european powers - attempted coups by mid level officers, multi-year swings in tide between liberalism and autocracy look alot like recent experience in the developing world

The major European powers in the timeframe 1815-1830 were France, England, Russia, The Austrian Empire, and Prussia. I am not aware of a single instance of attempted coups by mid level officers in any of these countries. If he means Spain, it had ceased to be a major European power ever since the War of Spanish Succession, 1700-1714. If he means the Decembrist Revolt in Russia, then it was not a coup.
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.Victor Hugo

Offline bwv 1080

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8339 on: August 14, 2017, 11:26:40 AM »
Until 1866 there was no Romania.

Used the term as it is more recognizable than Moldavia and Wallachia, which were the actual political entities.  Used the same way historians use the word 'Germany' to collectively describe the various German states prior to unification

Quote
The major European powers in the timeframe 1815-1830 were France, England, Russia, The Austrian Empire, and Prussia. I am not aware of a single instance of attempted coups by mid level officers in any of these countries. If he means Spain, it had ceased to be a major European power ever since the War of Spanish Succession, 1700-1714. If he means the Decembrist Revolt in Russia, then it was not a coup.

True about the coups, my term and badly used.  The author's point was that mid-level army officers were a significant pro-liberal political force in most European countries at that time.  There was significant opposition to the Bourbon restoration within the French military and the Decembrist Revolt fits this.
Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum

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