By Adam Roberts | December 16, 2008
Categories: Book News
Yesterday I was at a cool one-day conferencette organised by the excellent Professor Edith Hall all about the moon. See, the forthcoming 21st December (which is, this year, both the start of Channukah and my son's first birthday, doublehurrah) will be the fortieth anniversary of the launch of Apollo 8's dark-side-of-the-moon voyage, which enabled the first human eyes ever to gaze directly upon that landscape (six eyes divided equally between Borman, Lovell and Anders). Since the conference appeared under the aegis of the RHUL Classics Department the emphasis was rather on classical lunar apprehension: fascinating papers on the ancient novel, Plutarch, Lucian, Ovid and others. Tony Keen was there talking about Lucian and Wells; Karen Ni-Mheallaigh also said extremely interesting things about Lucian's True Histories, and the estimable Nick Lowe (who, yes, I agree with everybody else, really really ought to put out a collected edition of his superb film reviews) gave a reading of 2001: a Space Odyssey (also launched in 1968) that was nothing short of brilliant. Good papers throughout, fascinating discussion, and a wonderful vibe. I enjoyed.
One thing that came up (amongst many) concerned Antonius Diogenes Wonders Beyond Thule, the now-lost ancient novel known to us because Photius wrote out a fairly detailed summary of it. One thing I'd like to do before I die is restore this (as it were): write out a full-length version of it incorporating the fragments we have, stuff likely to have been in it back-formulated from likely satirical pisstaking in Lucian and elsewhere, and stuff likely to have been in it on account of Diogenes Pythagorean views. It would be most excellent. Now, I'd always thought that one of the nice things about this novel is that it takes some of its characters to the moon (described as a gên katharôtatên, which I would say meant a clean, pure, spotless land; but which Nick argued meant purged, desert, blank land). Both Nick and Karen were adamant that the characters come close to the moon (in the arctic circle) but don't actually go there: they approach, see there's nothing to see (as it were) and come home again. I disagreed, but the problem for me is that, taken together or considered individually, Nick and Karen have more classical expertise in their little toes than I in my whole body. So they're probably right. (Photius's summary doesn't say that they don't travel to the moon; but it doesn't say that they do, either). Ah well. I'd still like to write my 24-chapter Diogenean proto-novel. I could add it to my pile of eminently commercial writing projects.No tags for this post.