Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Home | Patricia Greer and Eva Brann
Home continues the story begun in Gilead, a tale of a pious and not so pious family in a small farming community in Iowa. By ordinary standards, nothing much happens—externally. But the “nothing much” is gripping since the motions of remarkable souls provide the action and the half-hidden lives supply the suspense. Who can understand America without trying to see religion from the inside? As a bonus, there is Marilynne Robinson’s prose: the American analogue of Jane Austen’s non-boring perfection.
Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace | Mike Peters and Steve Isenberg
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is a true epic and regarded as one of the most important works of world literature. It is historical in scope, detailing the events surrounding the Napoleonic Wars and the French invasion, and their impact on Russian government, society, and culture. It is also an intimate study in character as well as a philosophical treatise on the relationship of the individual and history. The novel does all this through the lives of three of the most well-known figures in literature: the illegitimate son Pierre Bezukhov, the noble and principled Andrei Bolkonsky, and the beautiful and willful Natasha Rostov.
Xenophon’s The Education of Cyrusǀ Richard McCombs and Janet Dougherty
Cyrus, the founder of the monarchy of Persia, excelled in ruling human beings to such an extent that Xenophon remarks, “no one attempted anything against him.” In The Education of Cyrus, Xenophon explores the nature, education, and actions of this extraordinary man. This work illuminates how it is possible for a leader to make human beings, who usually wish to govern themselves, willingly abandon themselves, willingly abandon their judgment and submit to authority to such a degree that they become slaves. The Education of Cyrus was a seminal work for Machiavelli, who cites it several times in The Prince, and a great but too often neglected classic of ancient political thought.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro |William Fulton and Andy Kingston
Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro – 1786) was his first collaboration with his most gifted librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte. Based on the play by Beaumarchais, it is a story of class conflict on the eve of the French Revolution. Perhaps more importantly, it gives us insights into human nature and relationships, enhanced and deepened by Mozart’s brilliant and beautiful music. Some describe this work as the finest opera ever written. No prior experience or knowledge of music or opera is required. Participants are encouraged to attend the performance of this opera at the renowned Santa Fe Opera.
Marguerite Yourcenar’s The Memoirs of Hadrian | Natalie Eliot and John Cornell
Marguerite Yourcenar is one of the most distinguished writers of historical fiction in the 20th century. The first woman to be elected to the prestigious Académie Française, Yourcenar first received acclaim for her epistolary novel, Memoirs of Hadrian. “My dear Mark,” it begins: Hadrian addresses his eventual successor, the young Marcus Aurelius, philosopher-emperor to be. The emperor’s letter of fatherly advice gradually turns into the intimate record of his life. A masterpiece of historical irony and poetic sensibility, these memoirs of Hadrian seem to refute the Stoic ideas of Marcus Aurelius long before Marcus inscribed them in his famous Meditations. Readers will find in this fanciful ancient document a genuine modern classic, a timeless expression of philosophical life.
Stendhal’s Charterhouse of Parma | James Carey and Frank Pagano
The Charterhouse of Parma is a novel of politics, intrigue, and love. Stendhal centers his narrative on the life and exploits, romantic and military, of a young Italian aristocrat. The novel is set in the first half of the 19th century, and it contains, among other things, a close up depiction of the Battle of Waterloo that was greatly dmired by Tolstoy. Stendhal writes with irony and dry wit, but with sympathy for his characters as well. Nietzsche had particularly high praise for Stendhal’s psychological insight. The Charterhouse of Parma is an early example of literary realism. Balzac, a master of the genre, judged The Charterhouse of Parma to be the finest novel of its time.