I am SJ Barnard, a blogger and writer obsessed with antiquity. It is with great joy I present to you today the 12 Classic Loves Collab w/ Samantha! Sam is a fellow blogger who can be found residing at Bookshire on Blogger, which I have invaded been invited to for which she will be showered with everlasting glitters of goodwill from me.
Okay, enough nonsense and let’s get down to the list! (And please don’t run away screaming Classics aren’t your cups of tea. There’s a variety in there, I promise.)
1. Paradise Lost
“Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.”
“Solitude sometimes is best society.”
“All is not lost, the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and the courage never to submit or yield.”
Right off the bat is my personal favourite, a tried and true Christian epic about the Creation and the Fall. *screams A7#*
If you can’t tell, I’m somewhat obsessed with this book and just reading some of the quotes from Paradise Lost makes me want to go back and read it.
Also, a funny story: I first read a book titled Paradise Lost in Japanese which had nothing to do with the original story but everything to do with the Japanese Imperial Army, WWII, and a fictional (or not) spy division. I realised I should probably read the original book, and I did, and now I’m obsessed with all forms of Paradise Lost. (Except, I hadn’t gotten around to Paradise Regained yet. I know, sacrilegious.)
2. Till We Have Faces
“I was with book, as a woman is with child.”
“It was when I was happiest that I longed most...The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing...to find the place where all the beauty came from.”
“Are the gods not just?"
"Oh no, child. What would become of us if they were?”
I know, I did promise no major C. S. Lewis works, but. *cough* I have a funny feeling Till We Have Faces isn’t a major Lewis work even though C. S. Lewis himself considered it his best work yet. *cough, cough, end of excuse*
What’s so fascinating about this work is that it takes place in an absolute pagan world of mythology and philosophy, yet manages to be so rich in theological themes and truths. If you have loved (or liked) C. S. Lewis at all, you must read it. You don’t know what you’re missing out on.
3. The Divine Comedy
“All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”
“The more a thing is perfect, the more it feels pleasure and pain.”
“There is no greater sorrow than to recall happiness in times of misery”
If I mentioned Milton, I must mention Dante. (Please ignore the glaring logical error.)
For the longest time I wanted to read The Divine Comedy, and I even bought a book published in the early 1900s. I ended up borrowing a more “modern” translation and read it instead. Go figure.
Another funny story: I first heard about The Divine Comedy via one of my favourite Vocaloid artists, R Sound Design. His 「神曲」was what led me to actually read the book, even though it’s only loosely connected to the actual story. I know, weirdness.
4. The Aeneid
“If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.”
“The descent into Hell is easy”
“Through pain I've learned to comfort suffering men”
And If I mentioned The Divine Comedy, there is absolutely no way I won’t mention The Aeneid. After all, without Virgil there is no way through the first two parts of TDC.
What’s funny about this book is that while I avoided Homeric works as much as possible, I’ve been drawn into The Aeneid much easily. I don’t know, maybe it felt shorter? (I did end up reading The Odyssey. I need to read The Iliad this month…)
5. The Song of Roland
"If God wills that I should return from there,
I'll take such great vengeance on you
That it will last you all your life."
“Heroism tempered with common sense is a far cry from madness;
Reasonableness is to be preferred to recklessness.”
"I'd rather die than be disgraced."
First of all: “MONJOY!!!” (Sorry, had to do that.)
This is a very gory and heart wrenching tale with an anonymous author. My siblings can describe me reading this book as “Oh, she’s finally gone insane.” But that’s that. On a completely different note, I’m trying to name my viola and computer after one of the weapons that come out in TSOR, but can’t decide between “Halteclere”, “Maltet”, and “Almace”.
6. East of Eden
“All great and precious things are lonely.”
“There's more beauty in truth, even if it is dreadful beauty.”
“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice [...] For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.”
This is the first book I don’t really remember why I read or decided to read, maybe I was doing the Read All of Nobel Literary Prize Winners Challenge or something along the lines. (In case you’re wondering, there’s Pulitzer version, C. S. Lewis version, and Akutagawa Prize version.)
But I am glad to have read this. It’s the exact sort of stunning “modern” classics that I think offers great insight into North American philosophy (it’s not western, trust me), freedom, and free will.
7. Crime and Punishment
“The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!”
“It takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently.”
“I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity.”
There are four authors I’m obsessed about, and Dostoyevsky is one of them. For one thing, I read his biography before his works and twelve-year-old-me was fascinated by someone who was almost executed by a shooting squaldron. For another, I love the Russian vibes. (Hence my love for Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, and whoever else along that line.)
I also wrote a detailed novel research paper on this book, so it’s one of the memorable ones. It’s simply fascinating that Dostoyevsky came up with his novels mainly by journaling.
8. The Theban Plays of Sophocles
“All men make mistakes.”
“And if my present actions strike you as foolish, let's just say I've been accused of folly by a fool.”
“The dead alone feel no pain.”
If there’s one thing you might have noticed from this list is that I have a fascination with Greek mythology. I grew up reading them in Japanese, then in English as I learnt the language. So Sophocles and his Oedipus is someone I feel I knew, yet found out there were more to his story than outlayed in Oedipus Rex.
It’s a tragic tale (like many Greek myths are prone to be) with a beautiful breathe in it. It’s one of those works that’s better read aloud.
9. No Longer Human
“Mine has been a life of much shame. I can't even guess myself what it must be to live the life of a human being.”
“Now I have neither happiness nor unhappiness.
“The weak fear happiness itself. They can harm themselves on cotton wool. Sometimes they are wounded even by happiness”
Dazai Osamu has been my favourite Japanese author since grade five. Now, before you go off into a tandem thinking I’m kind of a morbid person, hear me out: The first work I read by him was Run, Melos! (And Other Stories), which is the story about no greater love than a man laying his life down for a friend. (I don’t remember the other stories.)
But Ningen Shikkaku--No Longer Human--was written shortly before his death. One can almost think about King Solomon’s earlier works (Proverbs) and his later one (Ecclesiastes). It’s an Ecclesiastes and it’s bleak because there’s no Salvation, and you’re reminded of how wrong a life can go without God.
“Life ... is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
“Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!”
“Look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under it.”
My absolute favourite Shakespearean play is Macbeth, followed closely by King Lear. I’ve seen three Shakespeare works performed, two comedies and a tragedy--and yes, you guessed it, the tragedy was Macbeth.
When I was younger I was a fan of The Merchant of Venice, but later when I did a more detailed study on Shakespeare, I realised Macbeth was my cup of tea. It’s another one of those works to read out loud, and you get a lot of enjoyment doing Lady Macbeth’s part. Or not. (Also, I got to listen to Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth orchestrated version at a concert. It’s a different work inspired by yours truly and just as ominous.)
11. The Republic
“The object of education is to teach us to love what is beautiful.”
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”
“Nothing beautiful without struggle.”
Although we have to admit there are many problems with Socratic dialogues and Plato’s philosophy, this is one of the most important philosophical works out there. Because of the manner in which it’s written, it’s more of a conversation than someone one just reads, which I think is one of the benefits of this book. I also loved reflecting on society block by block, and the significance of the Greek Republic model.
“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us.”
“I live in my dreams — that's what you sense. Other people live in dreams, but not in their own. That's the difference.”
“One never reaches home,' she said. 'But where paths that have an affinity for each other intersect, the whole world looks like home, for a time.”
TBH, I debated if I should put this book on the list. Then I went back to look at some of his other works and was surprised to find I read his short stories in middle grade. And I ended up adding him to the list as well.
This is another philosophical story that should be read with a grain of salt, since Hesse is a more “modern” German thinker. But his prose is just breathtaking and so is the imagery and composition. So hats off to Herr Hesse, and that’s that.
Wow, that was kind of long. I do apologise about that.
(Oh, quick note--I'll be doing a post about my favorite classics on SJ's blog on Sunday! So head on over there if you'd like to see that. --Samantha)
Thank you for reading! What did you think about the list? What are some of your favourite classics? Were there any classics you love in the list I created? Let me know your thoughts; I’d love to chat with you!