When to stay MIA

From Sebastian Faulks’ review of Stuart Kelly’s The Book of Lost Books:

One of the best stories in Stuart Kelly’s excellent account of all the great books that have been lost to posterity concerns the 4th-century BC Greek dramatist Menander. He was revered by Julius Caesar and Quintilian among others as second only to Homer — a sort of early realist, witty, humane and profound. He was the source of the only non-scriptural quotation in St Paul’s writing, and, although all his work had been lost, he enjoyed a holy place in the critical pantheon for more than two millennia.
Then, in 1905, fragments of five of Menander’s plays, including Dyskolos, turned up in Egypt; 50 years later the rest of Dyskolos surfaced in Geneva. The masterpiece was lovingly pieced together, translated and, finally, produced and broadcast by the BBC in 1959. It was awful.


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One response to “When to stay MIA”

  1. tyger Avatar

    I’ve read the book and while it makes great cases for literature as entertainment — ipso facto making lost literature lost entertainment, one wonders whether such a list shouldn’t also try to convey some of the passion that “lost” texts might inspire a la Aristotle in “The Name of the Rose”…

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