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Author Topic: Literature  (Read 1293 times)
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« on: March 07, 2023 @758.07 »

Hey, I thought I'd dedicate a thread to literature!

That is, if you read books that fit that umbrella, you can be right at home here!
Share what you read recently or are currently working through, and especially your thoughts on it if you have something to say.

Because what is and what isn't literature is kind of a contentious topic, let's agree that literature is any work of written art that has been given attention by literary studies; is considered to be exemplary for its time, part of a culture's "canon", or in any other way has the aspiration to say something about art, the world or the human condition as opposed to entertainment literature.
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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2023 @774.34 »

My favourite book is the Epic of Gilgamesh. Truly a culture... no, humanity defining work of literature.
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« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2023 @836.19 »

My favourite book is the Epic of Gilgamesh. Truly a culture... no, humanity defining work of literature.

I'm not sure if this is joking, but Im gonna assume its not and say; really? I tried reading it once and from what I remember it was basically a dude going on and on about how great he is  :tongue:

It was like "I have the BEST army, and I SMASHED the other armies and then built the BIGGEST city and my city was so cool because I'm THE COOLEST and Im BEAUTIFUL and everyone loves me, and then I chopped up all the other people and fed them to my awesome dogs!! YEAH!!"

I guess in that sense it is a defining work of humanity, but not in a good way!  :drat:
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« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2023 @843.89 »

I'm not sure if this is joking, but Im gonna assume its not and say; really? I tried reading it once and from what I remember it was basically a dude going on and on about how great he is  :tongue:

It was like "I have the BEST army, and I SMASHED the other armies and then built the BIGGEST city and my city was so cool because I'm THE COOLEST and Im BEAUTIFUL and everyone loves me, and then I chopped up all the other people and fed them to my awesome dogs!! YEAH!!"

I guess in that sense it is a defining work of humanity, but not in a good way!  :drat:

I share this feeling with a bunch of other tales that fit the aforementioned description xD

The most famous variants and writers of the arthurian legend, the Silmarillion... both are conceptually very interesting to built upon but not very entertaining for me as a reading experience  :tongue:

Goethe's Elective Affinities is the only book to date that I had to stop reading because it made my literally(haha) ragequit, it was infuriating, I also really like Faust but more as a reading experience because it was translated really well rather than a great story.

I used to be really into the classics like 10 years ago or so but these days they don't hold my attention any longer, not saying they are bad or anything, just not interesting to me.
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« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2023 @853.33 »

I think most people try reading literature the same way they read entertainment books or YA novels; pointing out tropes, judging characters, expecting romance and action and "worldbuilding" and plot twists and all of these modern shapes of entertainment. I think that misses the point entirely.

In reality, literature can give us a window into society and schools of thought of the age they were written in. They can make us relate character concepts, philosophies, attitudes and types of people from things written ages ago to today, to find some common point in the human experience. You can trace all of human history, references, later literature, philosophies, political movements, back through literature. It's not meant to be entertaining with a lot of plot twists and cool worldbuilding; these were great thinkers of their times! That's not to say literature as a whole is drab and needs to be read stoically; plenty of literature is fun to read, cynical, sarcastic and timelessly wonderful, in particular Jane Austen and Fyodor Dostoevsky come to mind here.

I think it falls a bit flat to shrug off the entirety of the Epic of Gilgamesh as "just some guy celebrating himself". It is one of the earliest known instances of many myths that permeate all of our canon; including a great flood, the form of an adventure epic itself, the garden of Eden and so on; predating the age of Jesus by thousands of years! It has influenced all of human history, and many of the things that might fall flat these days in an adventure or fantasy novel written to be fun and exciting to read like a TV show are not comparable to those in the classics; that is where these tropes were birthed, not to entertain, but to lead, inspire, convince and represent entire cultures, peoples, to move and fascinate the greats in gigantic royal libraries!

Same with Faust; it gives us a first look into "radical" literature of the time: how a man of science makes a deal with the literal devil in order to date a girl, and over time loses himself more and more, breaking more and more, until he is almost entirely unrecognizable. All entirely packaged in perfectly tuned rhyme and meter, word jokes, political commentary and social criticism!
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« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2023 @863.96 »

Actually both statements can coexist and be true at the same time thus why I said some classics are interesting but not entertaining as reading experience, they don't have to be, most of them were not created to be fun as you said yourself.

Gilgamesh sure is as time-defining as it is just some guy celebrating himself.
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« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2023 @865.17 »

I'm not sure if this is joking, but Im gonna assume its not and say; really? I tried reading it once and from what I remember it was basically a dude going on and on about how great he is  :tongue:

It was like "I have the BEST army, and I SMASHED the other armies and then built the BIGGEST city and my city was so cool because I'm THE COOLEST and Im BEAUTIFUL and everyone loves me, and then I chopped up all the other people and fed them to my awesome dogs!! YEAH!!"

I guess in that sense it is a defining work of humanity, but not in a good way!  :drat:

Ah, the Epic of Gilgamesh is great. It has everything in it really, action, adventure, love, sex, betrayal, sorrow, existential crisis  :grin: Deep musings of the meaning of life and purpose of humanity!

Gilgamesh's role in the story is, of course, to be humbled by Enkidu in the first place. To stop his tyranical rule. But out of that, he finds friendship, he finds good things... But they are adventuring superhumans, so they need to test the limits a little bit. Step into the matters of gods. Sure, the god Shamash might have helped them defeat the beast Humbaba, but Humbaba was the guardian of the Cedar Forest, set there by another god, Enlil. In a way it's about humanity's domination over nature... and how destructive that can be. Humbaba puts the curse of death over Enkidu... (This is, as far as I know, the oldest surviving text describing nature and man is it beautiful).

So now Gilgamesh and Enkidu are happy about their victorious journey. Unfortunately, the goddess Ishtar has noticed Gilgamesh and wants to marry him. But Gilgamesh knows that anyone who Ishtar loves faces a horrible ending and rejects her (this part is hilarious). Now, people don't just simply REJECT ISHTAR out of all people (or gods) and she sends down the Bull of Heaven to wreck havoc in Uruk. Sure, the heroes defeat it, they have to, but this is what prompts the gods to kill Enkidu. Enkidu rages at the woman who brought him to human civilization, away from the wild animals, but in the end, blesses her after realizing being angry at her was wrong.

And now Gilgamesh is alone. The reliable axe by his side, the Enkidu he loved had died. Alone in the world, he grows afraid of his own mortality. If someone as powerful as Enkidu was no match for death, what chance did he have? So he roams in the wilderness, losing all his regal, fighting lions like a wild man, looking for, somewhere in the world, the secret of immortality. After ages of searching, he reaches the mountain through which the Sun travels and steps into the world of gods. There, he meets the alewife Siduri. Siduri is afraid of Gilgamesh, who looks haggard, and can't believe he is supposed to be king Gilagmesh. After hearing his problem, she tells him the meaning of life, the lessons for humanity: Death was given to humans by gods. Humans should enjoy their lives, eat, drink, celebrate, enjoy each other's company, take care of their young. But Gilgamesh isn't satisfied and keeps going to meet Utnapishtim and his wife, the only humans who had earned immortality as a gift from the gods for surviving The Flood. Utnapishtim said he would give Gilgamesh the secret of immortality if he could stay awake without sleeping for a week. Of course, he can't. Despite all his heroic feats, the falls asleep almost immediately.

So no immortality for him, but as a consolation prize, he learns the location of a plant that can give back youth. He goes and grabs it, but on his way home, he finally looks at the state he's in. And he looks horrible. He thinks, I can't return to my city looking like this! He goes to bathe. While at it, a snake creeps by and eats the rejuvenating plant (this is why snake's shed their skin btw). Gilgamesh is filled with sorrow, only because of his vanity did he lose his last chance of escaping mortality.

He returns to his city a defeated man. However, Utnapishtim's ferryman tries to cheer him up: look at the walls of Uruk! They are magnificent! Maybe you will not live forever, but your deeds and your legend will. And in that sort of way, Gilgamesh truly gained immortality. The story ends with the same words it began, coming to a full circle...

Of course, the story of Gilgamesh was lost for us for over a millenium. Before the spread of the Bible, it was the most widely spread "book" in the world (well, it was clay tablets). However, it was only rediscovered by archeologists in the 1800s, and they were only interested in it because it included a similar flood story as the Bible. In any case, welcome back to immortality, Gilgamesh.  :transport:

The Epic also includes information that's quite telling about early human civilization religion such as the nature of the afterlife. There is also a description of human sacrifice during the funeral of an important person, though that is something that I find disgusting personally. That part did not make it into the standard epic, but exists in earlier Sumerian Gilgamesh stories before the epic was compiled out of multiple tales. And Gilgamesh himself was deified after death as there is evidence of future kings worshipping him.

There are other things about the story I dislike, mainly having to do with Sumerian beliefs. They believed that what differentiates humans from animals is that humans feel sexual desire and animals don't. We know now that this is not true, not only are the animals who have sex for fun, but there are also humans like asexuals. But I am willing to look past this part.

Another interesting tidbit. Even back in the 1940s researchers just couldn't deny the fact that the relationship of Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the story is... kind of gay. This has resulted in some interesting as well as wild theories among Assyriologists. Gilgamesh is also pretty much the only source where the goddess Ishtar is depicted negatively; generally she was a beloved goddess.

Well, there was a little something. I could talk about this topic soooo much hahaha.
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« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2023 @884.12 »

On a side note, I am always saddened by the amount of mesopotamia, hellenistic, generally mediterranean and overall european works that are brought up on this literature discussions, I am not blaming anyone in particular for I too only mentioned works that fit into this category but it at least asks for some reflection.

So just to bring some names into the discussion that I am aware of, Genji Monogatari and Dom Casmurro comes to mind.
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« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2023 @610.03 »

Well, there was a little something. I could talk about this topic soooo much hahaha.
After reading your post I went back and listened to the whole story while I was working on some Minecraft builds, and I'll admit I had it wrong :grin: It totally has its moments, its got ups and downs and it tackles a lot of fundamental issues of human life - its worthy of a read.

It was hilarious when he's on a long journey and it just starts repeating itself over and over to emphasise the length and repetition of the journey, and the final conclusion and last few paragraphs were really haunting!
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« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2023 @702.41 »

has anyone considred forming a Book Club?? I was talking to someone on here and thought of the idea-- maybe, like every week or so members can read a certain amount of pages and people could have book discussions! :omg:  :omg: and we could encourage people to have free-digital copies or to go out and a buy a physical copy of the book themselves!

Was just curious since im not much of a literature guy but i feel like if we built a small community upon it i would feel more encouraged to read! @Commodorn and I were talking about books and he mentioned the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and I realized I bought it but never got around to reading it, or at least I only read a few chapters-- I think it would be fun for people even if they read the book before because now they could view it again in a different lens and have a discussion.. Just an idea i had!   :cheesy:  :cheesy: if people are interested i might act on it

Also, this is unrelated and more just to add to the previous conversation about literature : but i really have been wanting to read War and Peace and the Epic of Gilgamesh ! i really loved musicals a few couple years back and my favorite was based off of war and peace
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« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2023 @840.65 »

I really wish I could read more, I have a big stack of books that I want to work my way through but I start to lose focus after a half hour or so

Recently been reading a lot of JL Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I've been meaning to read more of the classics though, if I find the time and focus  :tongue:

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« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2023 @692.67 »

After reading your post I went back and listened to the whole story while I was working on some Minecraft builds, and I'll admit I had it wrong :grin: It totally has its moments, its got ups and downs and it tackles a lot of fundamental issues of human life - its worthy of a read.

It was hilarious when he's on a long journey and it just starts repeating itself over and over to emphasise the length and repetition of the journey, and the final conclusion and last few paragraphs were really haunting!

I'm actually very happy to hear you listened to it xD I do like it so much I think it's worth to do at least once in your life (tho I've read it many times)
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« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2023 @865.67 »

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I remember reading his One Hundred Years of Solitude for a project a few years ago; I loved it dearly, and that style of familial saga is something I wish was done more in modern writing.
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« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2023 @890.00 »

I remember reading his One Hundred Years of Solitude for a project a few years ago; I loved it dearly, and that style of familial saga is something I wish was done more in modern writing.

definitely check out love in the time of cholera if you like that one

I remember hearing someone complain that family sagas are too common in modern literature so there's definitely at least some out there
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« Reply #14 on: March 12, 2023 @408.81 »

What are you guys all reading at the moment? Right now I am reading The Castle of Otranto, which I have almost finished. I think after I knock that out I am going to look to read one of the books in my large stack of books I have purchased and am yet to read.
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