The frame story about Poggio’s career as a Papal bureaucrat, his quest to recover manuscript copies of lost Latin classics, the accidents and coincidences, the Papal politics and the persecution of subversive ideas… all these make The Swerve an interesting read.
But I was most taken with the chapter on the philosophy of Epicurus, which I have photocopied so that I can really make a study of it. (If you have read earlier blogs, you know that I read with a pencil in my hand, and generally make a mess of the texts I find most exciting and valuable. This is one of them!)
There is a great deal of material about the book online, so I don’t need to write a summary, and to attempt a review would be presumptuous, given my lack of scholarship in this field.
But I can recommend it, most highly, as a book worth reading… both entertaining and thought-provoking, and very much a current topic of conversation among those who take ideas seriously.
So here are some links to whet your appetite:
An interview with Charlie Rose.
This reading describes Poggio as he approaches the location of the great discovery.
In this talk on BIG THINK, Greenblatt explains why the rediscovery by Poggio of the ideas of Epicurus as presented in Lucretius’ great lost poem were so important, both then and now.