Skip to product information
1 of 1

Awake - Harald Voetmann (tr. Johanne Sorgenfri Ottosen)

Awake - Harald Voetmann (tr. Johanne Sorgenfri Ottosen)

New Directions Publishing Corporation

Regular price €14,95 EUR
Regular price Sale price €14,95 EUR
Sale Sold out
Shipping calculated at checkout.

Our take

This novella by a Danish writer and translator of Latin classical works explores the life and work of Pliny the Elder, a Roman scholar who lived in the 1st century AD. Pliny published a 37-volume work entitled ‘Naturalis Historia’, or Natural History, that aimed to catalogue knowledge on everything that was known to man at that time. This work was the primary source of scientific information for many generations of Western scholars and went unchallenged till 1492. However, this treatise contained multiple unsupported claims and exaggerations, rooted in magic and superstition, and deeply affected science and medicine in the subsequent years. Harald Voetmann’s work juxtaposes the realities of Pliny’s life and his titanic and futile attempt to encompass nature. Featuring passages from Naturalis Historia and the voices of Pliny the Elder, his nephew and his slave, this novella is an exciting exploration of man’s desire to ‘reign in’ nature.

Publisher's description

In a shuttered bedroom in ancient Italy, the sleepless Pliny the Elder lies in bed obsessively dictating new chapters of his Natural History to his slave Diocles. Fat, wheezing, imperious, and prone to nosebleeds, Pliny does not believe in spending his evenings in repose: No—to be awake is to be alive. There’s no time to waste if he is to classify every element of the natural world in a single work. By day Pliny the Elder carries out his many civic duties and gives the occasional disastrous public reading. But despite his astonishing ambition to catalog everything from precious metals to the moon, as well as a collection of exotic plants sourced from the farthest reaches of the world, Pliny the Elder still takes immense pleasure in the common rose. After he rushes to an erupting Mount Vesuvius and perishes in the ash, his nephew, Pliny the Younger, becomes custodian of his life’s work. But where Pliny the Elder saw starlight, Pliny the Younger only sees fireflies.

In masterfully honed prose, Voetmann brings the formidable Pliny the Elder (and his pompous nephew) to life. Awake is a comic delight about one of history’s great minds and the not-so-great human body it was housed in

Praise and awards

Awake is original, piercing, and richly exhilarating. Voetmann’s text is a sharp reminder of how powerfully and succinctly well-chosen words can create a world, render experiences, and express thoughts—in short, transport us, to places and in ways we could not have imagined.

— Claire Messud, Harper's

This strange novella concerns Pliny the Elder and his drive to catalog all of nature. The fluid prose owes much to translator Ottosen. One thematic thread is the contrast between the intellectual effort to rein in nature’s extraordinary variety and man’s ugly, ignorant cruelty…An interesting work and a good introduction to this unusual writer.

— Kirkus

Vivid, earthy, by turns hilarious, gross, and tragic, but always powerfully engaging. Reading and rereading this book remains a rare pleasure.

— Susanna Nied

Shipping & Returns

This book will be shipped within 3-5 working days

You can return any book within 14 days of delivery. Unfortunately, as a small business we cannot cover any shipping costs associated with returning an item nor do we refund the delivery costs you paid when ordering the book.

View full details
Carbon-neutral shipping with Shopify Planet
Carbon-neutral shipping on all orders
Powered by Shopify Planet