Nostradamus: A Life and Mythby John Hogue
Pocket Prophecy: Nostradamus gives:
Nostradamus is probably the most famous prophet, or seer, of all time. For 400 years his writings have captured and baffled the world as one after another of his predictions have come true. At no other time has interest in Nostradamus been greater, as we approach the end of this century and the beginning of the next.
Pocket Prophecy: Nostradamus gives:
-- a pocket sized overview of the prophet and his predictions
-- An authoritative interpretation of his most famous prophecies.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.57(w) x 9.80(h) x 1.44(d)
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John Hogue's new biography of Nostradamus is better than I expected - but not much. As a literary biography, it is much more literary than it is a biography. The 16th century French prophet's cultural and historical background is indeed extensively and lovingly described, but the rest of the book seems merely to consist of huge clouds of elaborate, typically Hoguean speculations about Nostradamus - 'he may have', 'he could have', 'perhaps', 'we can imagine that', 'it is possible that' - interspersed with relatively brief factual extracts from the seer's known life-story. Hogue (a self-confessed 'rogue scholar' - p. 124) starts his book by rubbishing the purely factual approach. It is a wise precaution. For, despite his frequent professions of scepticism, various of the usual hoary myths and Old Wives' Tales - the famous stories of the Wrong Pig, the Surprised Future Pope, the Lost Dog - are duly trotted out, as are the fake Prophecies of Orval. Hogue doesn't actually insist that they are all true. In fact he describes them as 'apocryphal'. But we are still left with the distinct impression that we really ought to take such undocumented later inventions seriously, or at least to consider them as possibilities. Otherwise why mention them in the first place? As a result, the newcomer to the subject is left not really knowing what to take as fact and what as fiction. And then there are his translations. I don't know where Hogue learned his French, but several of his most recent original translations of Nostradamus's prose in particular just don't correspond to any edition of the French originals that I have ever seen. Whole chunks are omitted without acknowledgement, whole sentences at best paraphrased and at worst misparaphrased. As for his translations of the prophetic verses, most of these are frankly grotesque, and some are not even in comprehensible English. Which leaves, I'm afraid, all the other fallacies and factual errors in the book. Here are just a few of the more obvious ones: · Nostradamus's secretary Chavigny (who wasn't mayor of Beaune - even though I, too, have made that error in the past) didn't start work in 1554 (pp. xv, 162, 165): contemporary documents make it perfectly clear that he didn't arrive until 1561. · No contemporary evidence, least of all in his own writings, suggests that Nostradamus ever supported the ideas of Copernicus (p.27). · There is no evidence whatever that his known expulsion from the Medical Faculty at Montpellier for having been an apothecary occurred before his enrolment for courses: in fact, the entry is undated (p.57). · Nostredame (as he then was) cannot have been lectured in anatomy by 'Dr.' Guillaume Rondelet (p.58), because the latter, a mere fellow-student of his, enrolled in the self-same year (1529) and didn't gain his doctorate until 1537, long after Nostredame had left. · He didn't Latinise his name from 'Nostredame' to 'Nostradamus' (p.63) at the time of his lavishly-described doctorate ceremony (of which absolutely no record in fact exists): it occurs for the first known time on his Almanac of 1550. · There is no contemporary record that he was ever a member of the Montpellier medical faculty (pp. 64, 67). · It is surely stretching it a bit to call Nostradamus's quoted prescription of no food at all for plague-suffers a diet 'sparing in fatty meats' (pp. 97, 370)! · Hogue praises Nostredame for 'healing so many people' during the plague-outbreak at Aix (p.106), despite quoting the Frenchman's own words to the effect that none of his cures worked 'any more than nothing at all' (p.101). In the same passage, Nostredame points out that bleeding was indeed tried, despite Hogue's resistance to the idea. And he certainly didn't say that his rose-pills worked 'for a month' - merely that they preserved 'un monde' (a whole lot of people). · Nobody in 1559 read verse I.35 as forecasting the death of King Henri II (p.181), and neither Nostradamus nor his adoring secre