Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia's Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane

A few centuries prior to dawn of renaissance in western Europe, one part of the old world, central Asia, experienced an intellectual awakening unparalleled in breadth in that region till these days.  

Almost all of those intellectuals from central Asia and that period is called "Arabs" and "Arab renaissance", respectively, due to the fact that their works and frequently their names too were [in] Arabic.
Why "Arabs"? Because starting from the middle of 7th century AD (or CE) people from Arab peninsula began a successful proselytizing conquest that within next hundred years covered territories from Spain to India and China. Central Asians became a literally central players in Arab history and its renaissance.
It is hard to imagine that 1000 years ago when most of Europe was living in the "dark ages", people living in today's Afghanistan, for example, were producing scientists and writers who excelled in mathematics, astronomy, medicine and literature.
Names such as Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Al-RaziOmar Khayyam, Al-Biruni, FerdowsiAl-Khwārizmī (and many, many more), all came from central Asia and Iran. 
In this book, S. Frederick Starr provides a concise history of these "Arabs" and the world inhabited by them.   
posted by David Usharauli

Saturday, June 4, 2016

John Spurling's "Arcadian Nights: The Greek Myths Reimagined"- review

I really like John Spurling's novels. His "The Ten Thousand Things" about 14the century China was simply marvelous. His new book "Arcadian Nights: The Greek Myths Reimagined" did not disappoint either. 

Many of us heard about Greek myths (Zeus, Hercules, Perseus, etc). Even legendary Trojan war is part of Greek mythology. It is simply astonishing how sophisticated and detailed are these Greek myths. In comparison to Greek myths "Game of Thrones" feels like a knockoff. 

In "Arcadian Nights" John Spurling revisits some of the famous myths and provides funny and down-to-earth interpretations of events described in those stories. Greek myths are great tragic, human stories. 

You read this book without effort. It just flows. Mastery of language and writing style are so good that it feels as if you are reading children's book.

posted by David

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Historical Jesus in Context

This is another book about Jesus and early Christianity that was available to read. Previously I read few books about this subject and still I felt that I needed more to better understand the topic. 

One reason I decided to read this particular book was the fact that I thought it would have "explanations" and "interpretations" of the numerous archaeological and historical facts about 1st century Jewish state and environment where Jesus grew up.

In fact 1st chapter of the book where one of the authors summarizes the whole topic is truly excellent and I was very excited to continue reading.

However, after first chapter, the rest of the book was a total disappointment. Basically, other chapters are about translations of newly found ancient texts that could have influenced Jewish people thinking about world or religion in 1st century AD. 

These chapters contained none or very limited "interpretations", so their value was lost to someone like myself.

posted by David