But I just read a few lines by Italo Calvino (1923-1985) which express so clearly what I'd been hoping to express in some future post, that I can't resist quoting him for you here. The lines I'll quote are from the 1981 essay 'Why Read the Classics?', now the title essay in a posthumous compilation translated by Martin McLaughlin, and they form the ninth of Calvino's 14 definitions of 'a classic':
Classics are books which, the more we think we know them through hearsay, the more original, unexpected and innovative we find them when we actually read them.Calvino puts his finger on the strange commingling of (supposed) familiarity and unheard-of-ness that, for me, is so characteristic of my experience of 'classic' works of whatever era.
We're far removed from 'Read this--it's good for you', 'Read this--after all, I [or: your parents, your grandparents, everyone…] had to read it', or 'Read this--it's really quite well done'.
|Gustave Doré, The Death of Abel|
I'd appreciate hearing from you about this experiment, or about similar experiences you've had with other texts…