Valentine's Day for Bookworms

Saturday February 2, 2013

By Guide Biography: Patrick Kennedy

If you've been to a coffee shop, a supermarket, or just about anywhere this week, you've probably noticed that the world is getting ready for yet another Valentine's Day. But don't let this be "just another Valentine's Day." Make it count. Splurge on that five-star restaurant, buy that sports car, go on that trip to Venice! Or, at the very least, read some really good books.

Fortunately, Classic Literature in Translation can give you plenty of help with the last of these. (The trip to Venice, alas, is all up to you.) Over the next week or two, I'll be profiling some of the world's finest love stories and love poems. In some cases, you'll get a new perspective on books I've already discussed: Dante's La Vita Nuova, Dumas's The Lady of the Camellias, Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Neruda's poems. But you'll also get a look at romantic writings by Catullus, Petrarch, Goethe, Pasternak, and other authors new to my site.

Yet before you start reading, a few words of caution. Some of the books I'll be talk about can be morbid, tragic, and cruelly ironic. For instance, Goethe, Flaubert, and Tolstoy all love to discuss love and death together. But all these authors depict the power of romance in ways that are both heartfelt and convincing. Part of the thrill of reading their work is wondering, on a page-by-page basis, whether love or pessimism will win out. And even at their most pessimistic, these fellows are seldom as bleak as Kafka or Beckett.

Have you picked out any books in anticipation of Valentine's Day? Let me know. After all, you'll need something to talk about during that fancy dinner. The weather, not so great. But Chekhov or Victor Hugo or Gabriel García Márquez? That's more like it!


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