The Swerve

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

Stephen Greenblatt

Everything about The Swerve hits the right places for me – mysterious documents, Renaissance treasure hunters, the humanist movement – and it’s a real pleasure to read. Inspired into reading this book by attending the fantastic Renaissance exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia and it’s little cousin Handwritten at the National Library nearby, I was not disappointed.

More than anything, reading The Swerve evoked memories of reading Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, minus the murderous activity, but with no less intrigue, church suppression and attempt to control the intellectual agenda. I’m now more than tempted to track down a good translation of LucretiusDe rerum natura and read it, just to see what all the fuss is about.

You’d have to imagine a professor of English literature can turn a word, and in Stephen Greenblatt we have someone who can do just that. He tells a rollicking tale, exploring not only the search and emergence of Lucretius’ epic, but also of the intrigue and harshness of the Papal curia and those in orbit about it.

If the Renaissance, history, literature or humanism are at all your bag, I commend The Swerve to you unequivocally.

It’s worth noting that there are extensive notes in the book, referenced back to the text. However, my copy had no forward referencing or footnotes, so they stand somewhat isolated in the physical book. The Kindle edition, however, uses extensive hyperlinking throughout; both forward to notes and back to the text.

Oh, and if you are in Canberra, I cannot recommend highly enough that you visit both Renaissance at the National Gallery of Australia and Handwritten at the National Library.

I can’t recommend it highly enough. 5/5.

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