Guus Bosman

software engineering director

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Books & literature


Sophocles I

This book contained the full Oedipus cycle, in three plays. Sophocles wrote them through his life -- they were written 10 years apart or more, interestingly. I read the summary of the Oedipus myth when I read Seven Against Thebes. This book was beautiful. It's a sad story obviously, so it was a dark type of beauty but Sophocles could write drama, for sure. The slow realization of Oedipus in the first part is well done.

The translation by David Grene was good, but I like Richmond Lattimore's translation of Aschylus even better.


Aeschylus I

Well, I'm getting pretty disgusted by some of the things in the book. A father sacrificing his young daughter, really awful.

That said, this is a beautiful translation and now I'm getting more comfortable reading these plays I start to enjoy the language more and more. Take lines 91-96, just gorgeous:

the altars blaze with oblations
The staggered flame goes sky high
one place, then another,
drugged by the simple soft
persuasion of sacred unguents,
the deep stored oil of kings

The third part describes how the main character is chased by the Furies. It's cool to see where our word "fury" comes from and these are indeed some angry characters. They are transformed at the end of the play -- a move from never-ending blood revenge to a society where there is a court of justice.

I read this book around a business trip to Chicago.



Histories by Herodotus is a 700+ page book and I was daunted by it at times. It is not a difficult read but it does get repetitive to read about all the military campaigns. It was interesting to read about the customs and believes of all the various countries -- so many, such a variety.

Over-all, it describes a pretty terrible time to live -- so much cruelty. It's pretty horrifying to read how many wars there were. Pretty much all the time, it seems, and with gruesome outcomes too. Also, if you were invited to a "victory banquet" in those days, be careful -- lots of people got slaughtered after getting drunk, it seems.

Herodotus was familiar with a large geographical area. Interesting how he often he described connections to the Greek: "..they were descendants from the men of Troy" or that everyone believed in Zeus, he's clearly looking at the world from his own perspective.

War with Persia

The second half of the book, about the war between Persia and Greece, reads very nicely. Even though the characters are for the most part unsympathetic psychopaths ones gets a decent feeling for the time and era. Really cool that this book was written at that time -- and preserves so well. It was only at the very end of the book that I realized that a common meme, "this is Sparta", is related to the one of the battles described in the book, Battle of Thermopylae. We I watched the 300 film last night. The movie is not great but it was interesting to watch and see how they brought this ancient story to leave. King Xerces is depicted quite effeminate, one of the attributes assigned to him by Rawlinson.

I skimmed several scientific articles that spoke about the challenges of translating The Histories from the many manuscripts that were preserved (most from the 10th century). Pieces of papyrus that were more recently found indicate that the Medieval manuscripts were pretty faithful to the ancient editions.

I've learned quite a few things from this book. Now I understand the "law of Medes and Persians" expressions better as well as the linguistic connection between Philistines and Palestine. Pheidippides, the runner who ran the first marathon is mentioned in the book too, though not that particular story. I liked the story, apocryphal, about a tribe of barbarians who raise their kids communal and only when the kid turns 18 they all try to see who the father was.

Time travel
There was a part in the book that would fit in nicely in a time travel science fiction book where modern warriors go back in time: "...they also witnessed other supernatural sights. Two armed warriors, they said, of a stature more than human, pursued after their flying ranks, pressing them close and slaying them [Phylacus and Autonous]" (viii, 38-39). Later there was the following scene during a sea battle: "It is also reported, that a phantom in the form of a woman appeared to the Greeks, and, in a voice that was heard from end to end of the fleet, cheered them on to the fight [...]" (viii 84)


There were several references to Thracia in the book. When searching more about that, I learned that the old Greek name for the Maritsa river, which goes through Plovdiv, is Hébros -- perhaps a name-giver to Europe? A good story, even if not true. There's a reference to the Rodopi mountains also, and later Пердика -- a king of Macedonia makes an appearance. It said that many roses were growing there.

The edition I read was translated by George Rawlinson in 1858. As such it gives some insights in the outlook and biases of a 19th century man. The footnotes were a good source of information and cross-references, they really added value to the book.I didn't realize the age of the translation at first until I saw a a footnote about the Delphi oracle stating: "she was possessed by an evil spirit", with an reference to a Bible verse.


Aeschylus II

I had never heard of Aeschylus before. Turns out he is the first known playwright, living around 500 BC, and seven of his works (partially) survive. I first read part II of the David Greene edition, next on my list is part I with the remaining, complete play -- the Oresteia.


Gutenberg's Great Book List

I hope to read all books from this list:


Faust I & II

What a fantastic story! I can't believe I have never read Faust before. I had always assumed this to be a dry and boring book but I loved it. In a review in a Dutch newspaper: "Faust is much loved but not often read", haha, that was true for me to.

A tragic story of course, especially the storyline about Gretchen, but lots of humor too and very modern in its outlook. I liked the explanation for the introduction of paper money in act II: Mephistopheles argued that the money is backed by all the undiscovered gold buried under the ground (which by default belongs to the Emperor), and that it's not really necessary to dig it up!

Act II reminded me of Dante, a story where many famous people make their appearance. Much to my amazement I saw a reference to Galatea, a character from a Dutch book I'm currently reading to the kids, De Kleine Kapitein. Both Goethe and Paul Biegel referenced a Greek story.

Two funny quotes:

The new burgomaster will raise taxes

Grumphy Nereus 8095

I read the book in English. Somewhat against my own rules -- but reading this in German would have taken me many weeks, and the translation by Stuart Atkins was excellent. I used Wikipedia and several other online sources to get more background on book.



After reading The Case For God I wanted to read some ancient literature, and Gilgamesh fit the bill nicely. It was a beautiful story to read.

The translation by Stephen Mitchell is considered an easy one, it is written in contemporary English. It was indeed easy to read and the introduction was very good. But why the references to the Iraq war? Very strange and it dates the book unnecessarily.

Stephen Mitchell


It's been many years since I read something by Jan Wolkers. In high school I read a few of his works and didn't like it -- vulgar, coarse, not beautiful. The coarseness is still there, but this book, Winterbloei was a nice book to read. I loved the story of his stay on the Rottumerplaat; the full book about that might be worth a read.

Jan Wolkers

De levens van Jan Six

Geert Mak is an master storyteller and this topic, the story of the Six family over the past 400 years, is a perfect match for Mak's skills. I loved this book.

Jan Six

Year Zero: A Novel

I really wanted to love this book, and it started very strong, but ultimately it was a bit disappointing.

The copyright aspect is nice and the lawyers are witty and funny, but the aliens are disappointing -- not really funny.

Still, I read this right after I reread the Hitchhiker's Guide and it was nice to have references to modern pop culture for a change, as opposed to 1970 references. That was cool.

Overall, I'd probably rate it 3 stars.

Robert Reid
Robert Reid


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