Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
T. S. Eliot
Four Quartets
Briunt Norton

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Martin Seymour-Smith's List of the 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written

At the time of his death in 1998 the New York Times described Martin Seymour-Smith as, "a British literary critic, biographer, editor and poet whose more than 40 books ranged from an annotated compilation of Shakespeare's ''Sonnets'' in the original spelling to stylish, opinionated biographies of Rudyard Kipling, Robert Graves and Thomas Hardy."
His list is at this link.It is a good guide. The inclusion of Beauvoir and Mao demonstrate that such lists inevitably suffer from the temporal provincialism that no human can escape. Except for the inclusion of the Koran the Muslim world is mostly left out. That world is given much attention by Aquinas and Gibbon and maybe that world is too exclusive and monomaniacal to create much of value in science, history or political philosophy. But I suspect that there are many hidden treasures of poetry and fiction there. I would recommend Naguib Mafouz's Cairo Trilogy to anyone desiring a peek into the world of Islam. Mafouz knows the Western tradition but is always Egyptian to the core and is not ashamed of his Muslim roots.

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