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Dialogues and Letters (Penguin Classics)

by Lucius Annaeus Seneca, C.D.N. Costa

Buy the book: Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Dialogues and Letters (Penguin Classics)

Release Date: November, 1997

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Dialogues and Letters (Penguin Classics)

Great Introduction to Seneca

Great book. This collection by penguin includes a piecemeal assortment of some of Seneca's work. This was my introduction to Seneca so I can't speak to its representation of his work.

The essays and letters read in the classic proscriptive style of stoic philosophy (see especially the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius). It was filled with succinct proverbial exhortations that are memorable and penetrating. Seneca and the stoics provide more psychological self-help than most contemporary books in that genre. There is a reason some authors are still read after 2000 years. A quick read and for a worthwhile investment in time--at least for those who are new to Seneca.

Some of my favorites:

It is better to be despised for simplicity than to suffer agonies from everlasting pretense. Still let us use moderation here: there is a big difference between living simply and living carelessly.

We should also make ourselves flexible, so that we do not pin our hopes too much on our set plans and can move over to those things to which chance has brought us without dreading a change in either our purpose or our condition, provided that fickleness, that fault most inimical to tranquility, does not get a hold of us.

The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and losses today.

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Lousy translation

Mr. Costa's translation is lousy. There are too many 20th Century colloquialisms scattered throughout the text to preserve the dignity and style of the original. This book will have to be appreciated on its intrinsic merits, not on the skill of the translator.

The book is way too short. With all the material that Seneca wrote, it's hard to figure out why so little of it got into this volume. A hundred and twelve pages???

On the up side, many of Seneca's sentiments are repeatable, brilliant and incisive. You will certainly appreciate his wisdom and character as you read through his Letter to Helvia.

On the whole, though, you'd be better off choosing another collection.

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