Why The Classics?

The Octavian Report
A newsletter about great works, brought to you by the Octavian Report.
Created 11 Aug 2021
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  • Telling Stories in the Face of Death
    09 Dec 2021 • 14 min read • 5 0
    The Florentine writer Giovanni Bocaccio created his witty, tragic, and raunchy masterpiece the Decameron in the aftermath of the plague that ravaged Europe in 1348. The book, a collection of 100 tales...
  • Podcast: David Wellbery on The Magic Mountain
    02 Dec 2021 • 28 min read • 5 0
    The German novelist Thomas Mann wrote his mid-career masterpiece: The Magic Mountain in 1924. This novel of disease carries traces of the violent upheavals of pre- and post-WWI Europe amid its setting...
  • Marian Schwartz on Anna Karenina
    25 Nov 2021 • 5 min read • 4 0
    Leo Tolstoy’s masterwork Anna Karenina commands a readership that defies boundaries imposed by time, space, and language. No wonder it's considered the best modern novel. Marian Schwartz, whose transl...
  • Guy Jennings on Constantin Brâncuși
    18 Nov 2021 • 4 min read • 3 0
    Solid, yet ethereal. Grounded, yet poised to take flight. Bird in Space expresses inner tensions as few other masterworks do. In this essay, noted art historian Guy Jennings explains that the sculptur...
  • Annie Jacobsen on the Temple at Cape Sounion
    11 Nov 2021 • 5 min read • 5 1
    The Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion has stood south of Athens since the Archaic period and served the Greek people as both a holy place and a garrison defending the silver mines from which Athens d...
  • Frederic Raphael on Catullus
    04 Nov 2021 • 7 min read • 4 0
    Wit, sorrow, scurrility, lust, and joy: Catullus has it all. The Oscar-winning screenwriter, novelist, critic, and classicist Frederic Raphael talked to us about why "clever Catullus" is the Latin poe...
  • Podcast: Caroline Weber on In Search of Lost Time
    28 Oct 2021 • 20 min read • 5 0
    Caroline Weber is a Proust scholar, a professor of French and comparative literature at Barnard, and the author of the excellent Proust's Duchess, a group biography of the women who inspired the great...
  • Nathaniel Philbrick on Moby-Dick
    21 Oct 2021 • 11 min read • 6 0
    Herman Melville’s masterpiece Moby-Dick is a uniquely American novel. Its seamless interweaving of philosophy, psychology, commerce, biology, and geography, its pseudonymous everyman narrator enchante...
  • Laura Cumming on Las Meninas
    14 Oct 2021 • 7 min read • 6 0
    Diego Velázquez, whose art changed the direction of painting in Europe and inspired Manet, Sargent, Picasso, and Francis Bacon (among countless others), completed his masterwork Las Meninas four years...
  • Podcast: Tom Holland on Thucydides
    07 Oct 2021 • 10 min read • 14 0
    The Athenian writer Thucydides helped lay the foundation for all subsequent enterprises in the field with his History of the Peloponnesian War. This unsurpassed account of Greek life in the 5th Centur...
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