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Maybe I shouldn't have drunk that last coffee...

There seems to be a books that changed your life meme floating around...

* E. M. Forster; nothing all that earth-shattering maybe, but his insistence on the importance of personal honesty struck a lasting chord with me.

* William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, mostly. Maybe I was ready for it at that time, but it changed my view of religion a lot, helped me step away from the dogmatic, vaguely angsty catholicism I'd chosen for myself then. (Of course soon after I started to study archaeology and discarded religion in its entirety...)

* Mary Renault, I guess, with her Alexander trilogy. Seeing as I ended up with a M.A. thesis on macedonian royal iconography and then for my not-meant-to-be diss more or less 'changed sides' into the Achaemenid empire, it'd be hard to maintain that she was no influence whatsoever, even if by then I hadn't picked up her books in years. It's not even so much her (perhaps romantically over-idealistic) portrait of Alexander, but the way she brought the Persian side to life for me...

* Marguerite Yourcenar. My then best friend gave me Memoirs d'Hadrien in German translation, later I got myself the French original. Trivial as it may seem, her portrayal of both Hadrian, and Zenon in L'oevre au noir managed to jerk me out of a Dorian Gray-esque gloom about growing older in my early twenties. Both books of course are great novels in every respect, but to me the perhaps most lasting influence was that I started thinking about age in terms of experiences to be gained rather than youth lost.

* Norbert Elias, Die höfische Gesellschaft, Über den Prozess der Zivilisation: In terms of sheer change of perspective maybe the most influential books on the list. Recommended to me by Prof. B. for my M.A. thesis, they made me reconsider my view of history as something strictly personal, introduced me to concepts like cultural relativity... Ultimately made me question my own place in the world. As far as their impact on my life was concerned, in some respects it was maybe not the best thing for me to read, because it allowed me to withdraw even further into the position of the ideally impartial observer, but the bools widened my horizon enormously and I wouldn't want to miss the experience.

* Clive Barker. Three or four years ago Trent Reznor in an online chat mentioned him, and good little nin fan that I was, I trudged to a bookshop and randomly bought Sacrament the next day. I badly needed a balance then for all the depression and negativity in my life, a shift of perspective perhaps; and he strongly emphasises the importance of imagination, something I'd too long neglected between too much academic reading and little else, and there's a positivity and warmth, perhaps also spirituality, to his novels even at their darkest that I found inspiring.

(* I've been reading a lot Thomas Mann recently, and would without hesitation put him among my favourite authors - perhaps he's the writer I'm most in awe of - but strangely enough it's hard to determine whether he's been an actual influence so far... )


solitary summer

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