I really admire George Steiner’s criticism, but I have trouble with it. He is polymathic, and kind of assumes you are too. So you start thinking — in order fully to appreciate this essay of his on a certain writer, I really ought to read The Brothers Karamazov first. But wait, before reading that I obviously have to read The New Testament. And before I read that I’d better learn New Testament Greek. And in order to do that I guess I’ve really ought to learn classic Greek, or I’ll be totally at sea. So you end up having to put Steiner aside in order to continue living a normal life.

Flavorwire has this list of “Classic books based on other classic books” which Shelf Awareness linked to on 16 September. A number of these are blindingly obvious, and others somewhat recherché (for instance, I don’t really think anyone’s going to miss much in Madame Bovary by failing to read Don Quixote first). The Anne Carson one though — there’s a Steinerian challenge.

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