Ani's 2017 Log

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Re: Ani's 2017 Log

Postby reineke » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:43 am

Extracting Two Thousand Years of Latin from a Million Book Library

"The Internet Archive contains a smaller set of digitized works [than Google] (ca. 2 million), but all of them are publicly available for download, and 27,014 of these works have been catalogued as Latin from a range of authors, genres, and eras - the Classical Latin works of Vergil and Cicero, medieval religious authors such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and later scientific writings by the likes of Newton, Copernicus and Kepler. These 27,014 works contain approximately one billion words of Latin, far more than the extant corpus of Classical Latin up to ca. 200 CE (around 10 million words) and larger still than the largest existing Latin collection (J. Ramminger’s Neulateiniche Wortliste [23] at 300 million words), which includes works up to 1700 CE. These 27,014 works also span a total of twenty-one centuries, capturing not only the written native Latin of a Roman elite but also its use as a second language of writers for the two millennia that follow."

The Open Greek and Latin (OGL) Project

As of February 2017, c. 30 million words of Ancient Greek and 37 million words of Classical Latin — almost two thirds of all Greek and Latin produced through c. 600 CE...

https://classicalstudies.org/annual-mee ... -libraries
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Re: Ani's 2017 Log

Postby Systematiker » Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:57 pm

So, Reineke did better than I would have about the extent of Latin, as I wouldn't have had numbers about the corpus - I'll leave that numerical bit to those who have the resources and desire :lol:

I'd also like to note that I speak a lot about the Western Canon below, and of Western tradition. This is not to denigrate any other tradition, nor out of any desire to deny anyone a seat at the table. I am very aware of those who have been excluded from said conversation, and the problems of inclusivity (and that's a whole 'nother tangent). Additionally, there are certainly many other traditions, each of value and rich in their content. Furthermore, I recognize that any written tradition across languages is shaped by the language community - the "canon" in the anglophone world looks different than other parts of Europe (NB, this is a large part of why I learn langauges!).

Working backwards:

Regarding the role of the conversation throughout the West
Ani wrote:The discussion evolved into the assertion that the thinking and ideas most valuable to the world came through Latin and Greek. I think that is kind of a dumb statement since it is unverifiable, but it prompted a great discussion.


I think here the assertion is about the "world" that took its path through Western Europe and into the Americas. Latin philosophy considered itself the inheritors of the Greek tradition (this is why e.g. Aurelius wrote his meditations in Greek, which he considered to be more fitting for philosophy), and much of the philosophical conversation has been a series of influences from the early Greek thinkers (Whitehead, who was mentioned before, is probably one of the first who is doing something novel; the positivists could be counted here but what turned into analytic philosophy did have to go through the collapse of logical positivism prior to it. Even as late as Hegel, it's essentially "hey, look at what Plotinus wrote, let's interpret that into my scheme"). If one is talking about, say, the Western literary canon, you can't really get away from either the direct or the indirect influence of those original thinkers, and, as has been noted, the use of Latin (and Greek! Look at Renaissance work in Greek!) as a second language, as a medium of educated thought or expression. Even today, across "pure" philosophical disciplines and "philosophy of" (especially phil of science), you'll find positions influenced by (or occasionally directly those of) the ancients.

Indirectly as well, in both the anglophone world and through Europe, we have a cultural tradition of education in these "classical" languages, and "classical" works. If one were particularly interested in that tradition, the modality is through the vehicle of the original, as it's been a bit of Western culture since the Renaissance that the source text in the source language expresses more than a translation.

Does everyone need this kind of background? Nope. Is it nice? I think so.

Ani wrote:Further, for important works, you can usually find long expositions that containing all the analysis and translational considerations.

This is true, however, I'd argue that the amount of time to become genuinely conversant with the literature explaining all the bits around translation and background and influence approximates (if it is not greater than) the time to learn enough Greek and Latin to read comfortably.

MorkTheFiddle wrote:Some of what Plato has Socrates say is downright nonsense.

For sure!

MorkTheFiddle wrote:Without the intervening 2500 years of explanations and interpretations, how important would Plato be?

Well, the thing is, it's not just Plato, right? It's the Neoplatonists or the Stoics, thinking they are the authoritative interpreters of Plato. It's Augustine, who reads Plotinus and thinks he's in conversation with Plato. It's Pseudodionysius and Boethius, it's Aquinas, it's Wolff and Leibniz, Kant and Hegel, and so on, each directly in conversation with Plato as well as those who came in between (apologies for a handful of theologians there, but you get what I mean).

Regarding translations, especially of Ancient Greek and Latin
MorkTheFiddle wrote: I have read enough to believe that nothing gets lost in translation. Plato's style of writing does get lost, and he is a masterful writer, to which some of his longevity can be attributed, but not the ideas.

This is problematic. The easiest example is the US-American claim of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", intentionally formulated on a particular translation using "happiness", which has become ambiguous (and probably was then to many). There are monographs on this term (eudaimonia, by the way) alone in Aristotle and Plato, and much modern virtue ethics is built on it. The ideas are still there - if you get the background of some terms explained (another one is the virtue-art-habit-work bundle), and are willing to do the digging in the secondary literature...and if every translator uses the same terms the same way (they don't). Arguably this is very specific, and not necessary to everyone, but the plain fact is that it's probably as much work to have a deep understanding of the Ancient Greeks in translation as it is to read them in Ancient Greek. I've made a fair amount of academic hay out of "you can't just do this in translation...you keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means" :lol:

MorkTheFiddle wrote:But leave that aside, are there any ideas from Latin secular literature that we use unadulterated in their original form? Is what the Romans called a republic what we would call a republic? Haven't their ideas like the ideas of the Ancient Greeks substantially mutated with the passage of time and the application of interpretations?

I think here there's a lot of value in being able to make this distinction, and to "look behind" texts quoted in support of a position to be able to critically engage with it. Your question about the republic, sure, we can analyze that without learning Latin, but we can also get some insight by looking at the way it's spoken about, or we can learn the language and have an intuitive understanding of the concept. It's about the same work, if we're going to cast the net wide, just different starting points.


Regarding cultural signaling, comparative culture, and value by age
Ani wrote:To this end, how do we separate what is cultural signaling in educational choices from what has a quantitative value.. or is it even possible to quantify or analyze great thought across distinct cultures. And how does the idea that "the length of time a work has survived is indicative of the value of ideas it contains" relate here..?


I'm not entirely sure what cultural signaling is, to be honest. Something like virtue signaling, and the desire to belong to a specific cultural tradition?

I'm not sure great thought can be quantified at all, and even influence can be argued for anyone but the really heavy hitters. I think there's perhaps a lot in education that can't be quantified, but I tend to talk about education as both "imparting of knowledge, practical or not" and "formation" (again, something I have from not-English! :lol: ), so we may not be talking about the same thing here. My question when considering educational choices is more "what sort of person might be shaped by this" or "what sort of person might need to be exposed by this" and seeing of that (in my concept) lines up with my goal (ha, to say nothing of anyone else's goal!).

I don't think time has much to do with value, but within traditions, we do see ideas recur, and I think there's a lot of value in being able to look at a "literary conversation" across the ages, and the manner in which these ideas are taken up, modified, passed on, and have shaped our surroundings.

As one can probably tell, I have specific ideas about education and culture, and come from this viewpoint in much of the above. I've tried not to be pedantic or long-winded (which is difficult at the best of times, and more so when you figure that this is right in the middle of a conversation about stuff that I teach or discuss academically) - if I've been too unclear, or if I've offended anyone, please know I don't mean to, and I'm trying hard to have a nice conversation. My wife tells me not to go on and on and on and on, so I'm trying to not do that as well!
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Re: Ani's 2017 Log

Postby Cavesa » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:31 pm

Ani wrote:
Cavesa wrote:
YES!!! Someone took my recommendation seriously! I told you so! :-D Of course it is not high literature, that is not the intention. But Harris knows the craft, unlike most people in this genre. The constant reintroductions are annoying (really, does she think anyone would start the series from book 9?) but she weighs it out with sense of humour and lots of blood :-)

The translators have done a good job in French and Spanish, I don't know much about the others. I have started a non-Sookie Harris in German, I'll talk about it later, when I am a bit more advanced (both in German and the books)


I *always* take your recommendations seriously. I think I've gotten more media suggestions out of your log and posts then any other. I have at least another book or two you've recommended on my shelf. L'ange du chaos, I think and something else. I'm glad you're working on German. In three years or so when I'm ready to commit, I'm sure you'll have tons for me :) I just need to make some progress on Russian first....


One more reason to work harder on my German :-D
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Re: Ani's 2017 Log

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Thu Dec 28, 2017 8:07 pm

reineke wrote:Extracting Two Thousand Years of Latin from a Million Book Library

"The Internet Archive contains a smaller set of digitized works [than Google] (ca. 2 million), but all of them are publicly available for download, and 27,014 of these works have been catalogued as Latin from a range of authors, genres, and eras - the Classical Latin works of Vergil and Cicero, medieval religious authors such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and later scientific writings by the likes of Newton, Copernicus and Kepler. These 27,014 works contain approximately one billion words of Latin . . . ."

The Open Greek and Latin (OGL) Project

As of February 2017, c. 30 million words of Ancient Greek and 37 million words of Classical Latin — almost two thirds of all Greek and Latin produced through c. 600 CE...

Which prompts a question and (long-simmering sort-of-complaint): How many of these 27,000+ works are by the authors named? And have the rest been lying on shelves gathering dust since they were written? I have read some small amount of medieval texts that are collections of slightly amusing little stories. In them one can perhaps see the origins of the collections of the more substantial and more sophisticated stories of Boccaccio and Chaucer and of the collection of stories passed off as part of the life of Don Quixote in Cervantes' works. Perhaps too they served as models for the vignettes in The Divine Comedy. But as such, as far as I am concerned, they cannot hold my interest for much more than a week, and then I want something more. Oh, this is Ani's log. I'm going to shut up now. The "complaint" was that the Byzantine works Systemaiker perhaps alludes to below are not all that easy to come by.
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Re: Ani's 2017 Log

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Thu Dec 28, 2017 8:15 pm

Systematiker wrote:So, Reineke did better than I would have about the extent of Latin, as I wouldn't have had numbers about the corpus - I'll leave that numerical bit to those who have the resources and desire :lol:

I'd also like to note that I speak a lot about the Western Canon below, and of Western tradition . . . .

A thought-provoking response of much substance, Systematiker. FWIW, I, for one, am not offended by anything you said.
My motor runs a little slow these days, so give me a day or two to reply. I'll just say for now that I think a great deal of credit should go to Plato for starting the conversation, but the conversation itself is far more important than Plato.
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Re: Ani's 2017 Log

Postby reineke » Thu Dec 28, 2017 11:19 pm

MorkTheFiddle wrote:
reineke wrote:Extracting Two Thousand Years of Latin from a Million Book Library

"The Internet Archive contains a smaller set of digitized works [than Google] (ca. 2 million), but all of them are publicly available for download, and 27,014 of these works have been catalogued as Latin from a range of authors, genres, and eras - the Classical Latin works of Vergil and Cicero, medieval religious authors such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and later scientific writings by the likes of Newton, Copernicus and Kepler. These 27,014 works contain approximately one billion words of Latin . . . ."

The Open Greek and Latin (OGL) Project

As of February 2017, c. 30 million words of Ancient Greek and 37 million words of Classical Latin — almost two thirds of all Greek and Latin produced through c. 600 CE...

Which prompts a question and (long-simmering sort-of-complaint): How many of these 27,000+ works are by the authors named? And have the rest been lying on shelves gathering dust since they were written? I have read some small amount of medieval texts that are collections of slightly amusing little stories. In them one can perhaps see the origins of the collections of the more substantial and more sophisticated stories of Boccaccio and Chaucer and of the collection of stories passed off as part of the life of Don Quixote in Cervantes' works. Perhaps too they served as models for the vignettes in The Divine Comedy. But as such, as far as I am concerned, they cannot hold my interest for much more than a week, and then I want something more.


10% of 1 billion words = 100 million words or 1000 average novels. Your personal preferences are your own business but I don't think it's hard to justify the effort.

How the Romans taught Latin

"Ante lucem — before daylight/vigilavi — I awoke/de somno — from sleep/surrexi — I got up/de lecto — from the bed/sedi — I sat down/accepi — I took/pedules — gaiters/caligas — boots/calciavi me — I booted myself/poposci — I asked for/aquam — water/ad faciem — for my face/lavo — I wash/primo manus — first my hands/deinde faciem — next my face/lavi — I washed/extersi — I dried myself/deposui dormitoriam — I took off my pyjamas/accepi tunicam — I took a tunic/ad corpus — for my body/praecinxi me — I belted myself/unxi caput meum — I anointed my head/et pectinavi — and combed [my hair]/…’

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2014/12/how ... t-approve/
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Re: Ani's 2017 Log

Postby Ani » Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:04 am

So I worked on a reply for like an hour this morning.. and the computer accidentally got shut down before I managed to hit post. So I'm going to try again... It is 2am though so my thinking is a little jumbly.

Systematiker wrote:So, Reineke did better than I would have about the extent of Latin, as I wouldn't have had numbers about the corpus - I'll leave that numerical bit to those who have the resources and desire :lol:

Reineke is awesome like that :)
I'd also like to note that I speak a lot about the Western Canon below, and of Western tradition. This is not to denigrate any other tradition, nor out of any desire to deny anyone a seat at the table. I am very aware of those who have been excluded from said conversation, and the problems of inclusivity (and that's a whole 'nother tangent).

This is actually of interest to me. You can answer or consider this rhetorical musings as you prefer.. but who has been excluded and why? Whole cultures or individuals not lucky enough to live at the right place and time? Because of point in history (relative to destabilizing events), ancient biases, or present biases?
Regarding the role of the conversation throughout the West
Ani wrote:The discussion evolved into the assertion that the thinking and ideas most valuable to the world came through Latin and Greek. I think that is kind of a dumb statement since it is unverifiable, but it prompted a great discussion.


I think here the assertion is about the "world" that took its path through Western Europe and into the Americas. Latin philosophy considered itself the inheritors of the Greek tradition


Here I think I was wrong in my original thinking. I was thinking quantitatively as in - Idea #1 Cheeseburgers, Idea #2 Firetrucks, Idea #3 Presumption of innocence. But as I roll this around in my head, I can see how in retrospect, there is a sense of flow to the spread of civilization. This was sort of hit home for me when I realized the influence the Ancient Egyptians had on the Greeks. Because of the widespread lingua franca status over significant periods of time, Latin and Greek sort of bottleneck a very large portion of uhm... historical stuff.
Indirectly as well, in both the anglophone world and through Europe, we have a cultural tradition of education in these "classical" languages, and "classical" works. If one were particularly interested in that tradition, the modality is through the vehicle of the original, as it's been a bit of Western culture since the Renaissance that the source text in the source language expresses more than a translation.


Ok here is where I am interested. We have a cultural tradition. Who is "we" exactly. What do we do to gain entrance into such group. What is the value of such group that we are selecting our education path to join, and is this education path giving us something of equal or greater value when we consider the opportunity cost for not using a more modern education system.
Ani wrote:Further, for important works, you can usually find long expositions that containing all the analysis and translational considerations.

This is true, however, I'd argue that the amount of time to become genuinely conversant with the literature explaining all the bits around translation and background and influence approximates (if it is not greater than) the time to learn enough Greek and Latin to read comfortably.

Ok I'll give you this :)

Regarding cultural signaling, comparative culture, and value by age
Ani wrote:To this end, how do we separate what is cultural signaling in educational choices from what has a quantitative value.. or is it even possible to quantify or analyze great thought across distinct cultures. And how does the idea that "the length of time a work has survived is indicative of the value of ideas it contains" relate here..?


I'm not entirely sure what cultural signaling is, to be honest. Something like virtue signaling, and the desire to belong to a specific cultural tradition?

That is exactly what I mean by cultural signaling. Since this whole 'debate' cropped up because out of a discussion with friends who had decided to start teaching their very young daughter Latin. I proposed a living language as a first step, an idea they rejected off hand. DH and I were discussing WHY and we supposed it might say something about you as a parent and something about your child and their place in society rather different than if you started your child in Russian or Spanish.

(These are good friends by the way, so I am not being judgy about someones educational choices except in the I-really-enjoy-discussing-this-theory sort of way. )

I'm not sure great thought can be quantified at all, and even influence can be argued for anyone but the really heavy hitters. I think there's perhaps a lot in education that can't be quantified, but I tend to talk about education as both "imparting of knowledge, practical or not" and "formation" (again, something I have from not-English! :lol: ),

Elaborate more on this please?
The "or not" part is the one sort of unique aspect I take in educating my children. I have tried valiantly to eliminate non-practical education. I have to make a few concessions. I think I might have to eventually teach them the pledge of allegiance. Or at least what it is. And we don't spend a week each year talking about "The first Thanksgiving", making handprint turkeys and pilgrim shoes because my goal in history is to avoid teaching things that are so simplified they might as well be lies, which they'll have to re-learn in a few years.
Where do Latin and Greek fit into the "practical or not" category and do you find them practical or not? :) Or are they formation?

so we may not be talking about the same thing here. My question when considering educational choices is more "what sort of person might be shaped by this" or "what sort of person might need to be exposed by this" and seeing of that (in my concept) lines up with my goal (ha, to say nothing of anyone else's goal!).


I don't think time has much to do with value, but within traditions, we do see ideas recur, and I think there's a lot of value in being able to look at a "literary conversation" across the ages, and the manner in which these ideas are taken up, modified, passed on, and have shaped our surroundings.

So on a scale of 1-5, where would you place early exposure to Latin and or Greek for participation in "The Great Conversation"?

So excusing my hipocracy in that I am studying Latin with my 7 year old daughter, I'd say that exposure before age 10 is about a -1. That's a negative 1. Unless it is part of church service for you, in which cause this is a completely different thing. Between the ages of 12-15, for an average kid, I'd say maybe a 2, and if you think he/she is likely to be very languag-y, a doctor, a lawyer, historian, etc, maybe we move into 4-5 level importance.

Really though in comparison to learning a living language first. This is where I get really torn. I believe to learn a spoken language well is really more valuable in the sense of education of the human, but if you are going to learn a language poorly as happens in many schools in America as well as other places, it might be better to learn a dead language poorly than get off on the wrong foot with a living language. Flip flopping, I assume my friends will succeed at teaching their daughters whatever they plan to teach them and so a living language done well in that way has even more benefit.

As one can probably tell, I have specific ideas about education and culture, and come from this viewpoint in much of the above. I've tried not to be pedantic or long-winded (which is difficult at the best of times, and more so when you figure that this is right in the middle of a conversation about stuff that I teach or discuss academically) - if I've been too unclear, or if I've offended anyone, please know I don't mean to, and I'm trying hard to have a nice conversation. My wife tells me not to go on and on and on and on, so I'm trying to not do that as well!


No no I love this. And if anyone feels you have taken a biased viewpoint (or me for that matter as we keep going!) or poorly expressed something as to be offensive (ditto for me), I hope they feel free to jump in here and provide a counter consideration or clarification in the spirit of a nice conversation, because I think that is all any of us are trying to have.
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Re: Ani's 2017 Log

Postby IronMike » Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:38 am

Ani wrote:On another topic, it was my birthday a couple days ago and DH got me some books -- some of Einstein's lectures on relativity and a Gary Taubes book. But you know you're a language nerd when your DH tacks on, "but they are in English so I wasn't sure if you'd want them" lol ( I do want them. He knows me so well)

Love Gary Taubes! He is the reason I don't suffer from heartburn anymore. ;)
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Re: Ani's 2017 Log

Postby Cavesa » Fri Dec 29, 2017 4:04 pm

I am a bit hesitant to post, not sure whether I am qualified, but I would like to add a few tiny bits based on my relationship with Latin.

Wanting to belong to a specific tradition is nothing bad. It is actually an extremely important topic that has formed a large part of history and is very alive these days everywhere. The situation differs, based on region, but the desire or refusal to connect to one's roots is universal. Actually learning Latin can be an important personal step towards such a goal. It is an interesting topic today. While some language "choices" are obligatory, you still declare your identity by your attitude to them and with the rest of the choices (you can be more eager or disgusted with English, depending on your personal preference. Or in past in my country, passive resistance to learning Russian, or German before that, was a political stance). With the other choices, you are more or less declaring your values by your choices and others may judge you based on stereotypes and other stuff. I know this sounds crazy in some regions. But we count with that, we count with some of the prejudices (such as those against French learners in my country), we count with the fact speaking English or Russian can be taken too seriously by some people (what languages does a politician speak actually matters in the elections or the profile of their voters).

Latin is special. It is seen as unpractical, but mostly by people who do not value education too much, no offence meant and I don't mean you. It is an observation based on reactions of people in real life to "I chose to learn Latin at school" (but the reactions stopped after finding out I was considering medicine, that was legitimising the "foolish" choice). But for us choosing it, the fact "I want to connect with this part of my cultural heritage" is important.

Forming one's cultural identity is an important part of education. Giving the person the means to find it. My experience with learning Latin is part of my cultural identity, despite the fact I remember rather little from it now, apart from terminology, and from the practical skills of understanding lots of foreign words from various fields (Latin is actually very practical due to this!). I would never claim such a nonsense as "everything good came from Romans and Greeks", that is simply not true. I highly doubt Latin learners in general would say such a piece of rubbish. I just value the "Roman part" of my cultural heritage a lot, despite not putting down the others.

Latin is practical not just due to the vocabulary. The grammar is very logical, the way it describes things very precise and concise. It is less practical than living languages, that is true of course. But I still wonder, why do natives of huge languages worry so much about that? You already speak English, so what. A Czech parent could be worried, if their child was refusing to learn English and insisted on working hard on their Latin instead. But that is different. Yes, some people view Latin as snobbish or too exclusive. But I believe such an attitude tells much more about these people than about learners of Latin. The choice to talk down Latin and "unpractical things" and this important part of our roots is a cultural stance too.

I hope I wasn't too rude or critical by praising Latin here, in such a case I sincerely apologise, it wasn't my intention. And I wonder: if you are against unpractical things (which is a very good attitude in general, if I may say so), do your children learn music? That is another thing that forms personality, intellect, the sense of belonging to a certain tradition (depending on the kind of music). And just like Latin, it is unlikely to bring bread on the table.
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Re: Ani's 2017 Log

Postby reineke » Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:30 pm

"delle cinque lingue che compongono la nostra famiglia, ciò sono greca, latina, italiana, spagnuola e francese, s' egli non le conosce più che mediocremente tutte cinque."

"Of the ancients, Plato, the profoundest, most wide -ranging and sublime of all ancient philosophers, who ardently desired to conceive of a system that would embrace all existence and make sense of all nature, was, in his style, inventions, etc., a poet in this sense, as everyone knows."

Leopardi, Zibaldone

English translation by Antonio Negri

Translation of Giacomo Leopardi's Zibaldone published
Italians consider him one of their greatest minds, but 19th-century poet and philosopher remains somewhat unknown

Schopenhauer referred to him as his "spiritual brother"; Italians consider him one of their greatest ever intellects, and his thoughts have been said to "go beyond those of every other European man of letters, from Goethe to Paul Valéry".

Yet, despite these many accolades, the 19th-century poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi remains unknown in the mainstream anglophone world.

"If today I say to a non-Italian scholar that the Canti are no less beautiful than the poems of Hölderlin or Goethe or [Baudelaire's] Fleurs du Mal, and I insist that the prose of [Leopardi's] Zibaldone is no less unsettling than that of Nietzsche, no one believes me," wrote the writer and critic Pietro Citati recently. "And yet that is exactly how things are.

"It has been very, very challenging because it's a very long text – huge, full of quotations in Greek Latin, French, Spanish, English," said co-editor Franco D'Intino, professor of modern Italian literature at La Sapienza University in Rome."

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/ ... -published

You might think they missed another thing or two, these anglophones. Don't feel bad about it, Brazilians only recently got their first, direct translation of The Brothers Karamazov.
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