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Long Live Latin: The Pleasures of a Useless Language

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A lively exploration of the joys of a not-so-dead language

From the acclaimed novelist and Oxford professor Nicola Gardini, a personal and passionate look at the Latin language: its history, its authors, its essential role in education, and its enduring impact on modern life—whether we call it “dead” or not.

What use is Latin? It’s a question we’re often asked by those who see the language of Cicero as no more than a cumbersome heap of ruins, something to remove from the curriculum. In this sustained meditation, Gardini gives us his sincere and brilliant reply: Latin is, quite simply, the means of expression that made us—and continues to make us—who we are. In Latin, the rigorous and inventive thinker Lucretius examined the nature of our world; the poet Propertius told of love and emotion in a dizzying variety of registers; Caesar affirmed man’s capacity to shape reality through reason; Virgil composed the Aeneid, without which we’d see all of Western history in a different light.

In Long Live Latin, Gardini shares his deep love for the language—enriched by his tireless intellectual curiosity—and warmly encourages us to engage with a civilization that has never ceased to exist, because it’s here with us now, whether we know it or not. Thanks to his careful guidance, even without a single lick of Latin grammar readers can discover how this language is still capable of restoring our sense of identity, with a power that only useless things can miraculously express.

ISBN-13: 9781250758149

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Picador

Publication Date: 12-01-2020

Pages: 256

Product Dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

Nicola Gardini is Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at the University of Oxford. A novelist, poet, critic, translator, and painter, he is the author of numerous books. One of his recent novels, Lost Words, was awarded the Viareggio-Rèpaci Prize and the Zerilli-Marimò / City of Rome Prize for Italian Fiction. Long Live Latin was a bestseller in Italy and has been translated into several languages. Todd Portnowitz is the translator of the poetry collections Go Tell It to the Emperor by Pierluigi Cappello and Midnight in Spoleto by Paolo Valesio, and the recipient of a Raiziss/de Palchi Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Table of Contents

Ode to a Useless Language
1. A Home
2. What Is Latin?
3. Which Latin?
4. A Divine Alphabet
5. Understanding Latin with Catullus
6. Cicero’s Star-Studded Sky
7. Ennius’s Ghost
8. Caesar, or the Measures of Reality
9. The Power of Clarity: Lucretius
10. The Meaning of Sex: Back to Catullus
11. Syntactic Goose Bumps, or Virgil’s Shivering Sentences
12. The Master of Diffraction, Tacitus, and Sallust’s Brevity
13. Ovid, or the End of Identity
14. Breathing and Creaking: Reflections on Livy
15. The Word Umbra: Virgil’s Eclogues
16. Seneca, or the Serenity of Saying It All
17. Deviances and Dental Care: Apuleius and Petronius
18. Brambles, Chasms, and Memories: Augustine’s Linguistic Reformation
19. The Duty of Self-Improvement: Juvenal and Satire
20. The Loneliness of Love: Propertius
21. More on Happiness: The Lesson of Horace
22. Conclusion as Exhortation: Study Latin!
Index of Names