Following Jacke’s discussion with Stephen Mitchell about the first Christmas, Jacke takes a look at a special letter by Rainer Maria Rilke (which Stephen Mitchell translated). In this letter, written in Rome on December 23, 1903, the famed poet explores the difference between childlike wonder and grownup concerns, working his way toward a poetic vision of God. It is, quite simply, one of the most astounding letters in literature.
Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg (1916-1991) lived a fascinating life full of politics, war, exile, tragedy, love, loss, and literature. In her novels, short stories, poetry, plays, and essays, she drew upon her experience and her keen capacity for observation and invention to create some of the twentieth century’s most arresting and enduring works. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the political courage shown by Ginzburg and her family – and in particular her husband Leone Ginzburg, who at the tail end of World War II was tortured and killed in Rome’s famous Carcere di Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven Prison) – and how it helped to shape Natalia Ginzburg’s life and career.
What makes a city a great literary city? Having a tradition of famous authors? A culture of bookstores and cafes and publishing houses and universities? Inspiring great books? Host Jacke Wilson is joined by Mike Palindrome, President of the Literature Supporters Club, for a discussion of the cities where literature finds itself most at home – including their choices for the world’s ten greatest literary cities.
I haven’t read the latest book by Mary Beard yet, but this NY Times review is certainly enough to whet my readerly appetite:
How on earth did they do it? The Greek historian Polybius, writing in the second century B.C., was the first to ask the question: “Who could be so indifferent or so idle that they did not want to find out how, and under what kind of political organization, almost the whole of the inhabited world was conquered and fell under the sole power of the Romans in less than 53 years?” It was not as if Rome was a promising spot: a swampy piece of ground up a barely navigable river surrounded by scrubby hills, its few thousand inhabitants alternately flooded out and ravaged by malaria….
In “SPQR,” her wonderful concise history, Mary Beard unpacks the secrets of the city’s success with a crisp and merciless clarity that I have not seen equaled anywhere else.
For those of you not familiar with Mary Beard, she’s worth checking out. She’s one of my favorite guests on the In Our Time show (with Melvyn Bragg) and one of my favorite reviewers in the New York Review of Books. When it comes to the ancients, she’s as consistently excellent (and reliable) as we have.