Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Swerve: how the world became modern

A common theme in fiction, and we find it occasionally in non-fiction, is how the actions of one person can have an effect on their surroundings that can last for a short time, or a long time.  Stephen Greenblatt’s book, The Swerve: how the world became modern, is such a book.  He writes about how one action changed the course of human history.

In 1417 a renaissance book hunter came across a forgotten text, Lucretius’ ancient poem, On the Nature of Things, which had been lost for more than a thousand years.  It was a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas concerning the universe, religion, virtue, and science.   This discovery was the catalyst for modern thought.   This is a broad examination of the circumstances around the poem's initial writing, its rediscovery, the papal courts’ attempt at suppressing it, and its influence on the great thinkers like Galileo, Einstein, Darwin, Freud and Thomas Jefferson.

Adam Gopnik writes, “Full of weird Latin lore, vivid Renaissance characters, and startling new stories, this is truly the book that puts the epic back in Epicurean”.  This book has been awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.

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