A rather large spider has taken up residence in the living room. Well, it is not so much that the spider is large as that it has, shall we say, presence: one notices this spider. Indeed, it notices one right back, turning and glaring (if indeed spiders may be said to glare) when one comes within a yard or so – easy enough to do when the spider is strolling along the doorframe and one wishes to pass through the door. Its forelegs are prominent (compared to most spiders’) rather as though it has been lifting weights in addition to its living room patrol, and this adds menace to its glare. This spider, in fact, seems to have more assurance and higher self esteem than anyone else in the household, so we call it Jones and think of it as a roommate. Jones is most active during the day, so we tend to avoid the living room during daylight hours – which is a pity as that is where most of the books are. Still, Jones has staked a claim – and we dare not deny it: Jones is formidable. And we are scared.
bears with swords
In the same sense that The Need for Roots is primarily concerned with finding reasons for the fall of France and the Vichy government, Mavrogordato’s introduction to Digenes Akrites – while still an entertaining and enlightening excursion through the manuscript tradition and historical context of the poem – is less about Byzantine poetry than it is about the decay of empires, particularly those of Mediterranean: the moral questions of Cyprus and Algiers (among others) form an uneasy resonance with the heroic (but not at all admirable) predations of Basil the border guard.