Classical historian Mary Beard answers Prospect's "Brief Encounter" questions—and tells us why she wouldn't want to find Aristotle's lost book on comedyby Prospect Team / September 12, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
- What is the first news/historical event you can recall?
The Kennedy assassination. I remember reading “Assassinated” in the headlines of my grandmother’s newspaper and not knowing what the word meant.
- What is the most over-rated book of all time?
Well that is tough. I am tempted to say Aristotle’s lost book on comedy. It wouldn’t live up to the hype it has had simply because it is lost, and so we wrongly imagine it would solve all the problems about ancient comedy. Among the slightly better preserved specimens, I have never been a huge fan of Walter Benjamin’s Arcades project or at least I have never been a fan of all the (self-)congratulatory hype that surrounds it.
- What is the book you are most embarrassed you’ve never read?
It used to be Middlemarch, but I rectified that. Now I tend to be a bit vague about how far through the Elena Ferrante series I have got.
- One bit of advice you’d give to your younger self?
A day in the library is sexier than you think.
- What is your favourite saying or quotation?
Tacitus on conquest: “They make a desert and call it peace.” I remember reading this in Latin lessons at school and it was the first bit of Latin literature that really spoke to me. I was amazed that someone so long ago should hit the nail on the head so very sharply. The best line on military conquest ever.