01-31-2008 11:25 PM
Gentlemen of the Road
They’re an odd pair, to be sure: pale, rail-thin, black-clad Zelikman, a moody, itinerant physician fond of jaunty headgear, and ex-soldier Amram, a gray-haired giant of a man as quick with a razor-tongued witticism as he is with a sharpened battle-ax. Brothers under the skin, comrades in arms, they make their rootless way through the Caucasus Mountains, circa A.D. 950, living as they please and surviving however they can. No strangers to tight scrapes and close shaves, nothing necessarily prepared them to be dragooned into service as escorts and defenders to a prince of the Khazar Empire.
An Imaginary Life
In the first century A.D., Publius Ovidius Naso, the most urbane and irreverent poet of imperial Rome, was banished to a remote village on the edge of the Black Sea. From these sparse facts, Malouf has fashioned an audacious and supremely moving novel. Marooned on the edge of the known world, exiled from his native tongue, Ovid depends on the kindness of barbarians who impale their dead and converse with the spirit world. Then he becomes the guardian of a still more savage creature, a feral child who has grown up among deer. What ensues is a luminous encounter between civilization and nature, as enacted by a poet who once cataloged the treacheries of love and a boy who slowly learns how to give it.
The Volcano Lover: A Romance
Set in 18th century Naples, based on the lives of Sir William Hamilton, his celebrated wife Emma, and Lord Nelson, and peopled with many of the great figures of the day, this unconventional historical romance touches on themes of sex and revolution, the fate of nature, art and the collector's obsessions, and, above all, love.
This poetic narrative discusses the creative life of a 9th century Indian stonecarver who is drafted at an early age to spend his entire life working on the thousands of statues that fill the niches of an Indonesian temple. Exploring the muse–artist relationship as few works of fiction have done, this novel is an intensely political work -- a parable that pits the blind cruelty of a feudal ruler against the creative expression of a single slave.
With this haunting first volume of his Into Their Labours trilogy, John Berger begins his chronicle of the eclips of peasant cultures in the 20th century. Set in a small village in the French Alps, Pig Earth relates the stories of skeptical, hard-working men and fiercely independent women; of calves born and pigs slaughtered; of summer haymaking and long dark winters of rest; of a message of forgiveness from a dead father to his prodigal son; and of the marvelous Lucie Cabrol, exiled to a hut high in the mountains but an inexorable part of the lives of men who have known her. Above all, this masterpiece of sensuous description and profound moral resonance is an act of reckoning that conveys the precise wealth and weight of a world we are losing.
Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450-1680
Southeast Asian societies, like those of East Asia, had developed greatly before European seafarers arrived. It was a region that "was subject to many of the same climatic, physical, and commercial pressures and thus developed a very similar set of material cultures." Reid gives numerous contemporary foreign accounts of life in Southeast Asia on the eve of western imperialism and colonialism in a skillful, analytical, and critical way. (Library Journal)
Jewish Life in Renaissance Italy
After the ghetto was imposed in Venice, Rome, and other Italian cities, Jewish settlement became more concentrated. Bonfil claims that the ghetto experience did more to intensify Jewish self-perception in early modern Europe than the supposed acculturation of the Renaissance. He shows how, paradoxically, ghetto living opened and transformed Jewish culture, hastening secularization and modernization.
Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and its Burmese Vicissitudes
Melford E. Spiro
A clear overview of Theravada Buddhism, Spiro explains not only it's doctrines, but how those doctrines are translated into the everyday lives of the the Burmese. The first volume to this one, Burmese Supernaturalism, concerned itself with Burmese folk religion. In the Prologue to the book, Spiro states his hopes "to use Burmese data to explore in depth certain theoretical relationships among society, culture, and personality."