Just read, The Power of Ideas, Isaiah Berlin

This isn’t really my usual reading material but was on a recommended reading list for a course I was quite interested in last year on cultural history/ history of ideas. Bought it last summer alongside a Michel Foucault book that I never finished (a bit pretentious I thought) and it’s been in the loo library since. It was a pretty easy and quick read, a collection of essays that I rather enjoyed. More so as quite a few were dealing with Enlightenment, Romanticism, Marx, writing of history and so on, things I have some knowledge of and reference points that I could understand. Even though the majority of essays were written about 60 or so years ago and thinking has changed since, found it pretty useful for an amateur like me.

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Balancing it out

What possessed me? I don’t know.

I came across Michel Foucault in one of my course books, remembered I had The Order of Things which I still haven’t read so I thought I’d give it a go. I am not very far into it for reasons that shall become clear shortly and so far, it has been a lot of things at the same time: poetic with some absolutely beautiful sentences and phrases; inspirational as it makes me think outside familiar and comfort zone; educational, I guess this almost goes without saying; extremely frustrating as it starts off with a very detailed consideration of Las Meninas by Velasquez which the publishers did not see fit to include and just a little pretentious maybe – not sure if that’s the translator or the author. Here is what I mean by ‘pretension’:

– propinquity, exegesis, agglutinate, adumbrate, concatenation, sagittal, volute

or:

– proximity, explanation, glue, shade, link, arrow-like, spiral/ twist

I don’t mind looking up words I don’t know but some of these are quite unnecessary. There are lots more and on one hand, I am happy to look things up if I feel I am learning something or, if a word sounds particularly good – like ‘pernicious’ for example, but on the other, is it a requirement of being an intellectual to use words that a great number of people don’t know the meaning of?

So, I thought I’d balance reading of The Order of Things with this:

This is very bad – I have never read complete Brothers Grimm before!! It is quite good reading in bed and again, not very far into it yet. What can I say about it so far – it is not as light as you’d think and some of these are not really children’s stories, some are a bit ambiguous and the morals are not as clear as you’d expect. So far, I don’t think the stories have started entering my dreams but I hope they will. This book is a lot more intriguing and unexpected than I thought it would be.

So, what possessed me? I thought it would be a nice contrast between hard = Foucault and easy = Brothers Grimm but it is not so clear cut as that. I love it already (with hundreds of pages to go)!