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Monday, March 30, 2020

The Lusiad (1572) by Luis Vaz De Camoes

Book Review
The Lusiad (1572)
 by Luis Vaz De Camoes

Replaces:  Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett

  The original 1001 Books project was weakest when it came to entries before the 18th century.  First off, there hardly were any- and almost of all of those were from ancient Greece and Rome, with no entries from Japan or China, let alone the other European countries.  I imagine one of the criteria was leaving off books that the editors had assumed everyone had read- no Odyssey or Iliad.  Another criteria must have been the omission of books with a religious background- no Old Testament, New Testament, Koran, Upanishads, etc.

  The Lusiad is an epic poem a la the Odyssey or the Aeneid, substituting the Portuguese voyage of discovery to the Indies for the exploits of ancient heroes.   The combination of cutting-edge Christian v. Muslim v. African conflict with the ancient Gods of Rome is a little awkward.  The deeply Catholic sailors are of abiding interesting to the Roman-era gods who intervene directly in the action.  Camoes doesn't explain, or feel the need to explain, the conflict.  Also included are flashbacks which tell of the conquest of Portugal from the Muslim caliphate, and subsequent battles between the nascent Portuguese state and would-be Spanish conquerors.   Originally written in rhyming poetry, the Penguin Classics English language version uses prose instead.  

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