Apples and Oranges: In Praise of Comparisons

Apples and Oranges: In Praise of Comparisons

Apples and Oranges: In Praise of Comparisons

Apples and Oranges: In Praise of Comparisons


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What does it mean when people say “You can’t compare apples and oranges”? Are comparisons across genres inherently invalid, or can they be insightful and illuminating? In this brilliant and provocative collection of essays, Dutch author Maarten Asscher maintains that comparisons can be the highest form of argument.

Asscher makes his case with examples drawn from classical to contemporary history, art, and literature: Hamlet in Ithaca and Telemachus in Elsinore, the Mediterranean and the North Sea, writing from a prison cell and writing from a room at home, the “suicide” of Primo Levi and Japanese Kamikaze pilots, and so on. With graceful erudition and idiosyncratic wit, Asscher demonstrates how the comparative method can provide insight not only into two subjects simultaneously, but also into fundamental issues they may have in common.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781940423067
Publisher: Four Winds Press
Publication date: 04/28/2015
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Maarten Asscher studied law and Assyriology at Leyden Universityin the Netherlands. He started his career in literary publishing in 1980 and became the Dutch publisher of writers such as Carlos Fuentes, Primo Levi, Amos Oz, and Wislawa Szymborska. In 2004, after six years as a cultural policy advisor at the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, he became an independent bookseller. He is presently director and co-owner of the Athenaeum Bookshop in Amsterdam. He has written and published poetry, short stories and novellas, a novel and several books of essays, among them an aquatic history of the Netherlands. Most of his books have also appeared in German translation. Asscher has translated poetry by such diverse poets as Paul Valéry, Albrecht Haushofer and Fernando Pessoa. Maarten Asscher lives in Amsterdam with his wife and daughter. He has two adult daughters from a previous marriage.

Brian Doyle-Du Breuil studied Hebrew and the Hebrew Bible in Dublin and the University of Leuven (Belgium) where he presently teaches courses in biblical Hebrew. In addition to his university work, he has translated a variety of genres from Dutch into English over a period of more than twenty years, including several academic monographs, novels, literary nonfiction, and poetry.

Table of Contents

Apples and Oranges 1

In Praise of Comparisons

A Tale of Two Seas 13

Kees Fens and Predrag Matvejevic

The Cleveringa Scale 25

Two Ways to Be a Lawyer

Hamlet and Telemachus 41

Two Sons

The Questionable Problem 49

On the Logic of Suicide

Napoleon and Me in Alkmaar 63

A Shared Footnote

Three Ways to Become a Jew 73

On Identity and Freedom

The Ship and the Cargo 83

The Frigate Johanna Maria as Novel of Ideas

A False Dawn 91

Oscar Wilde Before and After May 20th, 1897

Neutrality Versus Engagement 101

Writers as Soldiers

The Consciousness of Italy 111

On Heinrich Schliemann and Sigmund Freud

A Dancing Father 119

On the Difference between Black and White

The Laterveer Box 131

Tour Own Family and Other People's

Not the Bars But the Door 137

Writing in a Prison Celt and in a Study

The Village and the World 153

On Hel Uur van de Rebellen - The Rebel's Hour Lieve Foris

Ernest Dowson and Francis Donne 159

What It's Like to Die

The Big Picture and the Small 171

Generalists and Specialists in Art History

The Marchioness Took the Nine O'clock Train 181

Paul Valéry's Cahiers as Antinovel

Photography and Autobiography 191

Kousbroek's Photosynthesis as Blending with the Reader

To Wed Or Not to Wed 199

The Marital World of Delmore Schwartz

The Opposite of Art 213

On the Parallel between Commerce and Bureaucracy

The Dove Fancier and the Doctor 223

The Shoah in Facts and Stories

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