Tag Archives: classics

selections from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

‘I think,’ said Anna, toying with the glove she had taken off, ‘I think . . . if there are as many minds as there are men, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.’ Continue reading

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selections from Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

HANNAH: ‘I had a dream which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air . . .’ (79) Continue reading

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selections from Oedipus the King and Antigone by Sophocles

sure, i’ve read them before, but this one has a different translator (Peter D. Arnott), so here are some of my favorite selections.


For city walls without their men are nothing,
Or empty ships, when once the crew has gone. (56-7)

Words will not scare a man when actions do not. (286)

My strength is in my truth. (345)

I am what I am. (425)

It takes men and money to make a revolution. (523)

I prefer not to talk about things I do not know. (550)

For time alone can tell an honest man
While one day is enough to show a villain. (595-6)

Hasty thoughts are dangerous. (598)

OEDIPUS: “Kings must still be obeyed.”
CREON: “Kings, but not tyrants.” (608-9)

And man turns his face away from heaven. (876)

When a man is old his life hangs by a thread. (927)

What has a man to fear, when life is ruled
By chance, and the future is unknowable?
The best way is to take life as it comes. (943-5)

Oh, oh, then everything has come out true.
Light, I shall not look on you again.
I have been born when I should not be born,
I have married where I should not marry,
I have killed whom I should not kill; now all is clear. (1144-8)

Time sees all. (1174)

Tears, ruin, death, disgrace, as many ills
As there are names for them; not one is lacking. (1243-4)

Oedipus is no more. (1301)

Nothing can kill me now. (1409)

There must be moderation in all things. (1468)

When I do not know, I do not speak. (1473)

That is why we wait until we see the final day,
Not calling anybody happy who is mortal
Until he has passed the last milestone without calamity. (1481-3)


Anything is better than to die a coward! (99)

Nor have I time for anyone who puts
His popularity before his country. (176-7)

The state keeps us afloat. (183)

CHORUS: No man is fool enough to ask for death.
CREON: That is what you would get. But hope of gain
Has often led men on to their destruction. (214-6)

Of all the institutions of mankind
The greatest curse is money. It destroys
Our cities, it takes men away from home,
Corrupts men’s honest minds, and teaches them
To enter on disreputable courses.
It shows them how to lead immortal lives
And flout the gods in everything they do. (290-6)

It’s in the hands of fortune now. (323)

The world is full of wonderful things
But none more so than man,
This prodigy who sails before the storm-winds,
Cutting a path across the sea’s gray face
Beneath the towering menace of the waves.
And Earth, the oldest, the primeval god,
Immortal, inexhaustible Earth,
She too has felt the weight of his hand
As year after year the mules are harnessed
And plows go back and forwards in the fields.

Merry birds and forest beasts,
Fish that swim in the deep waters,
Are gathered into the woven nets
Of man the crafty hunter.
He conquers with his arts
The beasts that roam in the wild hill-country,
He tames the horses with their shaggy manes
Throwing a harness around their necks,
And the tireless mountain bull.

Speech he has made his own, and thought
That travels swift as the wind,
And how to live in harmony with others
In cities, and how to shelter himself
From the piercing frost, cold rain, when the open
Fields can offer but a poor night’s lodging.
He is ever-resourceful; nothing that comes
Will find him unready, save Death alone.
Then he will call for help and call in vain,
Though often, when cure was despaired of, he has found one.

The wit of man surpasses belief,
It works for good and evil too;
When he honors his country’s laws, and the right
He is pledged to uphold, then city
Hold up your head; but the man
Who yields to temptation and brings evil home
Is a man without a city; he has
No place in the circle of my hearth,
Nor any part in my counsels. (327-64)

Nothing makes you happier than to get yourself
Out of trouble; but it’s quite another thing
To get friends into it. But there’s nothing
I wouldn’t do, to keep myself from harm. (425-8)

CREON: And yet you dared to go against the law?
ANTIGONE: Why not? It was not Zeus who gave the order,
And Justice living with the dead below
Has never given men a law like this.
Nor did I think that your pronouncements were
So powerful that mere man could override
The unwritten and unfailing laws of heaven.
These live, not for today and yesterday
But for all time; they came, no man knows whence.
There is no man’s resolve I fear enough
To answer to the gods for breaking these.
I knew that I must die–how could I help it?
Even without your edict; but if I die
Before my time is up, I count it gain.
For when a person lives as I do, in the midst
Of evils, what can death be but gain?
And so for me to happen on this fate
Is grief not worth a thought; but if I had left
My mother’s son to lie a homeless corpse,
Then had I grieved. I do not grieve for this.
If what I do seems foolish in your sight
It may be that a fool condemns my folly. (437-58)

In his wisdom, someone coined the famous saying
That when a god leads a man’s mind on
To destruction, sooner or later he comes
To believe that evil is good, good evil,
And then his days of happiness are numbered. (607-11)

Two heads are sometimes better than one. (670)

So wear an open mind; do not suppose
That you are right, and everyone else is wrong.
A man who thinks he has monopoly
Of wisdom, no rival in speech or intellect,
Will turn out hollow when you look inside him.
However wise he is, it is no disgrace
To learn, and give way gracefully.
You see how trees that bend to winter floods
Preserve themselves, save every twig unbroken,
But those that stand rigid perish root and branch,
And also how the man who keeps his sails
Stretched taut, and never slackens them, overturns
And finishes his voyage upside down.
Let your anger rest; allow us to persuade you.
If a young man may be permitted his opinion
I should say it would be best for everyone
To be born omniscient; but otherwise–
And things have a habit of falling out differently–
It is also good to learn from good advice. (688-706)

There is no state, when one man is its master. (720)

Love, whom we fight but never conquer,
Love, the ravager of proud possessions
Who keep eternal vigilance
In the softness of a young girl’s cheek,
You go wherever the wide seas go
And among the cottages of country-dwellers.
None of the immortal gods can escape you,
Nor man, whose life is as a single day,
And, to whoever takes you in, comes madness.

The minds of honest men you lead
Out of the paths of virtue to destruction.
Father is at odds with son
And it is you who set this quarrel in their hearts.
One glance from the eyes of a ready bride
Bright with desire, and a man is enslaved.
On the throne of the eternal laws
Love has a place, for there the goddess Aphrodite
Decides men’s fates, and there is no withstanding her. (764-81)

To err is human,
But when we err, then happy is the man
Who is not stubborn, and has sense enough
To remedy the fault he has committed. (974-7)

No human being can defile the gods. (994)

Truth is always best. (1230)

I am crushed beneath my fate. (1268)

To be happy it is first of all necessary
To be wise, and always remember
To give the gods their due.
The measure of a proud man’s boasting
Shall be the measure of his punishment
And teach him late in life
The nature of true wisdom. (1269-75) Continue reading

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my favorite Metamorphoses

And now the measure of my song is done:
The work has reached its end; the book is mine,
None shall unwrite these words: nor angry Jave,
Nor war, nor fire, nor flood,
Nor venomous time that eats our lives away.
Then let that morning come, as come it will,
When this disguise I carry shall be no more,
And all the treacherous years of life undone,
And yet my name shall rise to heavenly music,
The deathless music of the circling stars.
As long as Rome is the Eternal City
These lines shall echo from the lips of men,
As long as poetry speaks truth on earth,
That immortality is mine to wear. Continue reading

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spring film festival ’09 [archive]

what a cinematic weekend. it’s mid-sunday and since thursday night i’ve watched six movies. thursday night, as i wrote before, katelyn, elaina, and i watched Amadeus (8/10). friday was a gorgeous day, but instead of taking advantage of the sun, right in the middle of the day i burrowed into the hole of my apartment for the 3.5 hour epic that is Ben-Hur (6/10). i really couldn’t get into it. i may have even liked Spartacus better, because it at least seemed to try to uphold some virtue: freedom. Ben-Hur, on the other hand, made no real sense to me. the only awesome part came in the form of a ten minute chariot race:

i actually watched the chariot race twice. when the movie had about 45 minutes left, Elaina came over and watched the end with me, but she unfortunately arrived just after the race scene. after the movie ended, i just went back and watched the scene again with her. at this point, i was pretty sure how i wanted my weekend to play out, so i asked her to pick a movie on my desktop to watch. ten minutes after Ben-Hur, i was sitting on my bed watching The Wrestler (8/10) with the punk. i had torrented this film immediately after Chris highly recommended it to me, just a few weeks ago, so i’m glad i finally watched it. plus, i don’t watch enough contemporary movies. it was solid. the movie tells its whole story, i felt, in the first five minutes, yet it still proved worth watching all the way through. for those who have seen it, my favorite parts = deli scenes.

done with movies for the day, Elaina started trying to convince me to want to go out with her and everybody else. a bottle of wine later, i caved. we went out with xanthe, zoe, and her new Greek boyfriend to a chill bar in monastiraki, where the boy introduced to this warm alcoholic drink. xanthe and i thought it was delicious, contrary to the opinions of the other two girls. it was a weird night. Xanthe and i were definitely in a zone together. from Elaina’s apartment, to the taxi ride, to the bar, we unstoppably reminisced about beautiful California. i felt bad because it kind of put Elaina in a bad place. she mostly just missed home and, without me or xanthe even noticing, left us at the bar.

what can you do? party. Xanthe and i had big plans, mostly jokingly laughing and discussing going to omonia square to score some drugs. how ridiculous. i later found out that zoe’s boy was originally very worried that zoe smokes weed (she does), but she promised him that she doesn’t. love, love, love, love, whatever: to each their own. and Xanthe and i did actually go on our own. we bought beers at a kiosk and walked through omonia and onwards to exarhia, the neighborhood of Athina where all those recent riots started. tons of kids spilled out of bars, drinking on the sidewalk, on the corner, just hanging out all over. most dressed in black and a few showed off their spiky heads. totally where i wanted to be. Xanthe and i picked up another couple beers and just hung out there for an hour or maybe more. gossip music love girls boys life everything is what we talked about. Xanthe has concluded that i’m going to marry her friend Donni. esta loca. at one point, as the crowds were thinning, i tried to talk to one of the friends of the mohawked dudes. he was not friendly, but he was not friendly. he did not ignore us, but he did not seem to want to talk to us. he acted perfectly respectable, but he looked like he wanted to start another riot right then and there. he said he hated Athens because of the corruption. i feel you, man, but i’ll keep my mouth shut because i don’t know anything about it, except that it seems to be the norm everywhere you go.

after hanging outside long enough, Xanthe and i hit up some bar for our last couple beers for the night, around 4am. we rocked out maybe a little too hard to Killing in the Name and a couple other not-so-good tracks (but then, what can follow Killing in the Name?), but promptly passed out on a chair nearby. seriously, Xanthe sat in my lap and i held her like a baby in my arms, and we passed out. after waking up and walking out in the middle of a Joy Divison song, we caught a taxi home to get to sleep by 6am. what a fucking crazy night. definitely the craziest i’ve had in this city and the craziest i’ve had, period, in a very long time. i’m glad it happened with my California girl here, aint nuthin but a g thang, baby, two doped out niggaz going crazy, unfadable so please don’t try to fade me.

ouch, saturday. it’s like this and like that and like this and uh, you go to heaven only to fall to hell. only one of the worst hangovers in awhile can follow one of the most fun nights in awhile. Elaina tended to me with toast and water, even though i was the reason she didn’t go to the beach with her roommates. i felt pretty awful. “fuck.” i said it like i was expelling demons. fuck. fuck. fuck. fuck. it’s kind of like saying, love love love love. different demons, though. eventually i recuperated enough that Elaina and i could go out into the world for lunch. we explored a little bit, finding this pitta place, where i ate a pitta omelette. so good. so so good. eating outside on a bench, i fed some of my pitta to a couple pigeons. fatties. perfectly content, i lay on the bench next to a sitting Elaina and enjoyed the air, before getting a sudden impulse to climb a little tree nearby. i sat in it for a few minutes, just to get it out of my system, even while old men stared at me the whole time they walked past. what? you don’t like climbing trees? crazy.

we picked up some delicious ice cream for the walk back to my apartment, discussing what movie to watch when we got back. later, when my mom called me, i asked her to guess what movie i showed to Elaina: “2001?” no, but good guess. “8 1/2?” nice. why can’t i be friends with people without trying to stuff my favorite works of art down their throats? no, it’s not so bad. i tried to warn her with words like “confusing” and “pretentious,” but she still wanted to watch it. so we did. god i love this movie. perfect 10/10, duh. my favorite line in the movie: “You know, I’ve figured out what you’re trying to talk about … Man’s inner confusion. But you’ve got to be clearer.” AHHHHHHHHHHHH. PERFECT. and the ending! the ENDING. i just cannot not smile, as the man brings everybody from his life into an open field with circus music playing and makes them all hold hands and dance in a circle. it is CRAZY, but PERFECT. when the movie ends, i just roll around and smile and laugh and cry and i can’t stop thinking about it for the rest of the night.

but that can sometimes be bad. Elaina invited everybody over for pizza: zoe, hannah, zack, me, xanthe, maddy, elaina. what a party! but, stupid me, let Fellini put me in a i-want-to-stare-and-just-think trance. it was so utterly obvious that at one point, hannah asked me directly, “are you ok, ronny? you’re being awfully quiet.” oh, i’m so alright. too alright.

inevitably i got what i wanted: Elaina and i walked back to my apartment ’round midnight to watch another movie. first we watched the half hour Life Pursuit performances i ripped from Adam’s deluxe edition copy, while we tried to decide what to watch after it ended. eventually we flipped a one euro coin to decide between Interstella 5555 (10/10) and Baraka (9/10). map of Europe, Baraka. owl (oh, Athena), Interstella. flip, owl, Interstella. i felt ridiculous continuing the pushing of my obsessions on the poor girl, but she seemed to actually want to watch them. 5! 5! 5! 5! %!%!%!%!%! instead of having a funeral, i want my body to be placed in a movie theatre right underneath the giant screen, as all my family and friends watch Interstella 5555 play. when it ends, i get tossed in the sea by a bum while my family and friends go to the afterparty where all my favorite music gets played all night. one can dream.

now it’s sunday, and the only two things i’ve done today is eat cheese pie and watch Baraka with Elaina. she’s gone home now and i’ve got some reading to do for class. Elaina told me that one of her friends from home asked her to one day take photos all throughout the day in order to sketch some sort of picture of her life here. i think that’s a pretty nice idea and might try it sometime in the next few days, so i can post it here before i leave for spring break. Continue reading

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