My desert island book list II

It has been brought to my notice that at the end of a long meandering account in the first post of this series, I had identified precisely one book  out of 13 that I’d be wanting to take on a sojourn onto a desert island. It was also conjectured that this would be a prime reason to send me to a desert island for an indefinite period. While I will term this an extreme view, I recognise that I have allowed my thoughts to wander and will scrupulously return to the rest of my list.

The second can only be Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus’ Meditations (Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν, Ta eis heauton, or literally “thoughts/writings addressed to himself”), a series of personal writings  setting forth his ideas on Stoic philosophy. The 12 books that comprise the work were written – in a erudite Greek – during military campaigns (thus proving Marcus Aurelius combined his mental accomplishments with being a resolute man of action)  as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement. It is not clear that he ever intended the writings to be published, so the title is but one of several commonly assigned to the collection. These writings take the form of quotations varying in length from one sentence to long paragraphs.

Marcus Aurelius often stresses avoiding indulgence in emotion, a skill which, he contends, frees a man from the pains and pleasures of the material world. The only way a man can be harmed by others is to allow his reaction to overpower him, he says and also postulates an order that permeates existence and how rationality and clear-mindedness allow one to live in harmony with it. In short is an invaluable book every discerning man should read. I often dip into it at times of mental anguish and even at other times to see what the last of the “Five Good Emperors” would advocate and believe me, it has helped.

The third on my list has to be a collection of Voltaire’s works, so long as it contains Zadig ou la Destinée (Zadig or The Book of Fate), which tells the story of Zadig, a philosopher in ancient Babylonia, presenting human life as in the hands of a destiny beyond human control. It is a story of religious and metaphysical orthodoxy, both of which Voltaire challenges with his presentation of the moral revolution taking place in Zadig himself. Voltaire does not attempt any historical accuracy, and some of the problems Zadig faces are thinly disguised references to social and political problems of Voltaire’s own day.  If this Voltaire anthology also contains the short parable The Way of the World – and lets say the Dictionnaire philosophique and La Princesse de Babylone (in English certainly… I just wrote the French names to bolster my IS image) and some of the plays and histories, my day will most definitely be made.

I guess that will be enough philosophy I will need. Let us pick something form other genres too, but in the subsequent posts. I must note that I have mentioned two books here, thus making a total of 3 and this was the easy part. At most, Gentle Readers, you will just come to know and not experience the heart-wrenching decisions I will have to make in selecting the remaining 10….. but then since I have started this venture, I will see it to the bitter end, just taking solace that this is a hypothetical measure and I will earnestly supplicate to any god who might be listening that it should never come to pass, or if it is destined, should be with a greater number.

Till the next post, which I promise will follow soon and see me reach the halfway mark at least.


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