Sunday, August 30, 2009
Library Loot 9: Borrowing from Afar
Last Wednesday, I blogged from Sweden about historical figures in whom my interest had been piqued by museum visits. I kept an eye out for further information on them as I browsed Stockholm's bookstores, but, being unable to read Swedish, my options were limited. So I also flipped open my trusty netbook and browsed the Toronto Public Library catalogue from afar. Sure enough, there were some tomes listed there that seemed likely to satisfy my curiosity, and I placed a few holds. Less than a week later, I arrived back home to find three of those books already awaiting me on the hold shelf. Is it any wonder that I love the library? Here are the titles and authors, along with a descriptive paragraph from each book jacket:
Finding Atlantis: A True Story of Genius, Madness, and an Extraordinary Quest for a Lost World by David King: "What do Zeus, Apollo, and the gods of Mount Olympus have in common with Odin, Thor, and the gods of Valhalla? What do these, in turn, have to do with the shades of Hades, the pharaohs of Egypt, and the glories of fabled Atlantis? In 1679, Olof Rudbeck stunned the world with the answer: They could all be traced to an ancient lost civilization that once thrived in the far north of Rudbeck’s native Sweden. He would spend the last thirty years of his life hunting for the evidence that would prove this extraordinary theory." (I'm already a third of the way into this one, and finding Rudbeck's life and his theories every bit as fascinating as I anticipated.)
Christina, Queen of Sweden: The Restless Life of a European Eccentric by Veronica Buckley: "She was born on a bitterly cold December night in 1626 and, in the candlelight, mistakenly declared a boy. On her father's death six years later, she inherited the Swedish throne. She was tutored by Descartes, yet could swear like the roughest soldier. She was painted a lesbian, a prostitute, a hermaphrodite, and an atheist; in that tumultuous age, it is hard to determine which was the most damning label. She was learned but restless, progressive yet self-indulgent; her leadership was erratic, her character unpredictable. Sweden was too narrow for her ambition. No sooner had she enjoyed the lavish celebrations of her official coronation at twenty-three than she abdicated, converting to Catholicism (an act of almost foolhardy independence and political challenge) and leaving her cold homeland behind for an extravagant new life in Rome. Christina, Queen of Sweden, longed fatally for adventure."
Strindberg: A Biography by Michael Meyer: "Called 'that greatest genius of all modern dramatists' by Eugene O'Neill, Strindberg was one of the founders of the modern theater--a prolific author whose works prefigured those of Pinter, Beckett, and Ionesco. Yet, despite their admiration by such contemporaries as Ibsen, Chekhov, and George Bernard Shaw, Strindberg's works were misunderstood and rejected by his fellow Swedes, who throughout his life considered him a crank and a failure. In this definitive biography, Michael Meyer, the foremost translator of Strindberg's plays into English, presents a full and honest portrait of Strindberg as man and artist."
So, I'm back home in Toronto, but my education on Swedish history and literature continues.