Belovski on Frankenstein 19/07/12 - Trailer
On Thursday 19th July, I’ll be down at the LSJS library from 8.00 – 9.30pm discussing Mary Shelley’s horror story Frankenstein.
We will look at its classic ideas, but also at existential themes such as loneliness and companionship, which the book addresses in powerful ways. To complement our discussion, I will have some thought-provoking quotes from Epicurus and the Talmud on hand.
If you haven’t read Frankenstein, then you must – in fact, I will assume if you’re coming along or listening later online that you have. Either buy a cheap copy or download it for free from here.
What I’ve Been Reading
As well as trying to complete my PhD, I managed to read a selection of books during my Sabbatical. Some I’d been meaning to read for years, others just took my fancy. By author, they are:
Yehuda Avner – The Prime Ministers
Several people recommended this book and I wasn't disappointed. It's an easy, absorbing read, packed with fascinating insights, heavy on adulation of Menachem Begin.
Eliezer Berkovits – Not in Heaven
I am a great fan of Berkovits and his ideas. The first 70% of this book is a sensitive and thoughtful description of the nature of halachah, its origins, function and development. However, I found the last section unnecessarily polemical, and much too radical in its objectives.
J. Bronowski and Bruce Mazlish – The Western Intellectual Tradition
I'd been trying to read this one since I was at university. Delightful and informative, it filled in lots of gaps in my knowledge of the period; it's a little dated, but excellent nonetheless.
Coelho's writings are at once intense and gentle. His conviction of the possibility of personal and world-wide transformation no matter the circumstances is endearing. He clearly has many influences in his understanding of human nature, including the Talmud. Thought-provoking, sometimes offensive, but always gripping.
Charles Dickens – Oliver Twist
I'd seen the film. but never read the book. I really liked it and it's encouraged me to persevere with Dickens.
Fyodor Dostoevsky – The Adolescent
The least-known of Dostoevsky's five great novels, it is as insightful and dark as his others, excepting, perhaps, 'Devils'. It's also funny and easy to read.
George Eliot – Daniel Deronda
Christian Zionism in a novel form. I'd always wondered why there's a George Eliot Street in Jerusalem. It's very slow to get going, and a little fragmented, but it offers a fascinating glimpse of a vision for Jews in the Land from the perspective of a non-Jewish supporter.
A detailed academic, yet readable, study of the development of midrashic and other texts, with a lot of emphasis on modern and post-modern developments, including opposition to and defence of traditional readings, all focused on the impact of these changes on the complexion of the modern Jewish world.
Isaac Husik – A History of Mediaeval Jewish Philosophy
A classic of 100 years ago. Not especially readable, but invaluable background for almost any modern Jewish philosophical enquiry. Not enough emphasis on more mystically-inclined mediaevalists, but a worthwhile read.
Kafka-esque, disturbing and thought-provoking. I particularly liked the former, and how it explores the nature of familial allegiances.
John Milton – Paradise lost and Paradise Regained
A bit of a struggle - just as well the Kindle has a built-in dictionary which includes references to Greek mythology. What I understood of them was rewarding, especially Milton's understanding of human character and angst, but I need to reread them with a commentary of some sort.
Friedrich Nietzsche – Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Troubling and, in places, incomprehensible. Nonetheless, his nihilism is overwhelming, as is his constant refrain of the power of humans in a godless (or god-dead) world. It's not hard to see how madmen could and have used his ideas.
Marcel Proust – Swann’s Way
I surprised myself with this one, which I rather enjoyed, even though not very much actually happens. Proust's effortless portrayal of human interactions and his representation of memory, and specially the impact of involuntary thoughts, is remarkable. I am hoping to try the other seven volumes some time soon, at least before my next Sabbatical.
Charles Taylor – The Ethics of Authenticity
Challenging and powerful attempt to place individuality into an ethical context, balancing the need for authentic self-expression with responsibility to others and society. In many ways, a very Jewish approach.