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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book Review: Mesopotamia: Reason, Writing and the Gods by Jean Bottero

Sumerian/Akkadian figures
Sumerian/Akkadian figures

Books Discussed

History Begins at Sumer by Samuel Kramer
Mesopotamia: Reason, Writing and the Gods by Jean Bottero, translated by Zainab Banhrani and Marc Van De Mieroop

I think in terms of cheap hipster points, ancient Mesopotamia is under-developed. Who occupies the field? A couple of death metal bands and the Vice documentary film about contemporary heavy-metal Iraqi guys? It's fertile ground, simply because a) there is a lot of it b) it's really strange c) no one has heard of it. Meme gold.

However there are pot holes on the road to wisdom, and History Begins at Sumer, previously reviewed here, is one of them. What a boring book! I found it excruciating. History Begins at Sumer is the academic equivalent of a decades old Readers Digest: Dumbing it Down American Style. History Begins at Sumer is dated and not worth reading.

On the other hand, Bottero's Mesopotamia, published in 1995 by the University of Chicago, is literally a breath of fresh air, and is clearly aware of History Begins at Sumer's popularity, and basically mocks it, which is awesome, because he's right. Even though it is translated from the French, the simplicity and clarity of Bottero's argument is more akin to the Annalist movement of French history then the stinking wasteland of French cultural theory/philosophy.

Which all goes to say: READ BOTTERO'S BOOK AND NOT HISTORY BEGINS AT SUMER!!!

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