The Ingenious Language: Nine Epic Reasons to Love Greek

Andrea Marcolongo, trans. from the Italian by Will Schutt. Europa, $15.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-78770-183-0
In this compact but substantive volume, Marcolongo (The Heroic Measure), a journalist who worked as a speechwriter for former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, persuasively argues for tackling the difficult, complicated, and exhilarating task of learning ancient Greek. For her, undertaking it allows for an intellectually rewarding engagement with a language very different from most of those that exist today, and provides direct access to the poetry of such writers as Sappho and Aeschylus (“one of the most intimate and profound uses of the Greek language”). Along the way, Marcolongo rebukes rote and elitist teaching methods that strip Greek of its magic, muses on the art of translation, and theorizes about gender and language, using her own first name (a man’s in Italian, and moreover derived from the ancient Greek for “male”) as an example. Prior knowledge of the language and how it is taught will intensify one’s identification with Marcolongo’s experiences, and also help when she lingers in murky grammatical depths—perhaps the book’s one drawback for a general audience. But anyone who values the study of language will delight in this spirited defense of the effort being worth the reward. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 09/06/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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