Archive for January, 2011

“Platon” von Gottfried Martin

January 22, 2011

Das Gute an diesem Buch ist, dass man es relativ schnell durchgelesen hat, selbst wenn man es (so wie ich) nur häppchenweise auf dem Klo liest. Ich fand es ziemlich langweilig und altväterlich geschrieben. Es ist durchaus ein bisschen informativ: Man lernt, was Platon so getrieben hat, welche Bücher er geschrieben hat und worum es in denen etwa geht. Aber es wird nicht (jedenfalls nicht erfolgreich) versucht, einem modernen Leser die philosophischen Fragen, die Platon beschäftigt haben, nahezubringen, und erst recht nicht, seine Antworten kritisch zu hinterfragen. Vielmehr riecht der Text nach Heldenverehrung: Da ist einmal Platon, der Genius; und zum anderen taucht noch dauernd Wilamowitz-Moellendorff auf, der Platon-Übersetzer und -Herausgeber, für Martin der zentrale Gewährsmann bei der Platon-Interpretation. Das Buch enthält ungefähr auf jeder zweiten Seite ein Bild, aber die meisten davon haben keinen besonderen Bezug zum Text und erfüllen keinen nützlichen Zweck: alte Münzen, Tempelruinen, Bilder auf Tonscherben, irgendwo rausgenommene Landkarten, noch ein rauschebärtiger Philosoph oder Politiker … Im Interesse derer, die sich für Platon und seine Philosophie interessieren (eine altruistische Motivation in meinem Fall), hoffe ich, dass es bessere Bücher zum Thema gibt.

‘Surface Detail’ by Iain M. Banks

January 20, 2011

Finally I get around to writing about a book by Iain M. Banks, one of my favourite authors. I love almost all of his science fiction novels (the exceptions being Excession and maybe The Algebraist, which were still a lot of fun to read). Those novels which he has written as “Iain Banks”, a very mixed bunch, are another matter. I don’t want to say that some of those are bad; however, there were quite a few I didn’t enjoy much (but try The Crow Road, Espedair Street or The Steep Approach to Garbadale for example, if you prefer mainstream to SF!).

This book is another “Culture” space opera. In it there is a young woman who wants to kill the man who murdered her; another woman who goes through hell (literally) and then becomes an angel of death; a trigger-happy, borderline-psychopathic Ship; and a mercenary who fights again and again, in different incarnations, rising up through the ranks. That about sums it up. (Just joking.) Great colour and detail, great imagination, great adventure, great book!

This is another case where the escapism charge looms. If I am any judge, however, it is unfounded here. Many of the Iain M. Banks novels implicitly deal with issues like, should technologically advanced societies interfere with less advanced ones? how far should they tolerate practices they consider unenlightened or even barbaric? can realpolitik and a clear conscience go together? does idealism make for good politics? (I cannot promise that you will find each of these topics addressed in Banks’s novels. I’m not even sure whether I would, on rereading them …)

Why do I worry about escapism so much? I guess it’s a vestige of my adolescent days (long gone; though I still feel adolescent sometimes), when indulging in escapism seemed to mean that you were politically lazy; and that was frowned upon by my friends. But I just am politically lazy, and inept. There are people who are better at politics, and more interested in practicing it; and mostly I leave politics to those among them who share my inclinations, while I do the things I am good at. Thus it might be considered as a kind of division of labor. — Furthermore, when someone tries to tell other people what kind of books they should like and read, doesn’t that show us that he or she is somewhat imperialist about literary taste — and thus isn’t 100 per cent trustworthy in his/her political pronouncements either (e.g., regarding escapism)? (I, of course, am someone who tries to tell other people what kind of books they might like.)