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176 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 a translator into EngJish, a wordier language, into clumsy periphrasis. More subtly, the writing of a versatile author like al-Ghazall contains a wide rang~ of tones and references; these include blunt, ad hominem polemics, abstract, finely nuanced philosophical terms, :interspersed Qur'arnc verses, and concrete factual examples drawn from medicine or astronomy or jurisprudence . In philosophical Arabic, sentences can be long and convoluted; it is often hard to ascertain the referents of pronouns. Tone of voice, especially in so pugnacious a work as this, varies from the sarcastic to the sublimely transcendent. Finally, as Marmura himself astutely notes in his introduction, al-GhazalI is often difficult to translate just because he is so good a writer. Marmura succeeds admirably in rendering al-Ghazali's arguments and shifts ofvoice and he gives a vivid sense of his peculiar style, a rare feat. He does not disdain the colloquial, as when he translates al-Ghazalrs stated purpose: 'When I perceived this vein of folly throbbing within these dimwits , I took it upon myself to write this book in refutation of the ancient philosophers, to show the incoherence of their belief and the contradiction of their word in matters relating to metaphysics.' But when al-GhazalI speaks of God, or the 'Pirst,' Marmura rises with him to the heights: 'nothing is absolutely free from every evil except the First. For He is the Pure Good. To Him belong the most perfect splendor and beauty.' Through his skilful and scrupulous translation, as well as his introduction and notes, Michael E. Marmura has made accessible to historians of philosophy as well as Islamicists a text of the first importance that will be indispensable both to students and advanced researchers. This is a work of outstanding scholarship and style. (ERIC ORMSBY) Alexander Callander Murray, editor. After Rome's Fall: Narrators and Sources ofEarly Medieval History. Essays presented to WaIter Goffirt University of Toronto Press. xii, 388. $55.00 Readers seeking to be informed about post-Roman and early medieval Western Europe and the state of scholarship in this field could do worse than read this book of essays. Each author, by way of defining his or her contribution, refers to an aspect or aspects of Walter Goffart's work. More is at stake than a polite rhetorical device, for these references highlight the thematic range both of the essays themselves and of Goffart's own scholarship . Goffart concluded his Narrators of Barbarian History (1988) by observing that the historians discussed in the book merit study not only for 'the information [that can be] wrested from their pages,' but also for the opinions and ideas they communicated'about the age they lived in.' A distinguishing feature of Goffart's own work is that he has accomplished a great deal by way of wrestinghard information from all manner of sources, HUMANITIES 177 while at the same timebeing an acute, imaginative, and very learned reader of opinions held by historians of many periods down to the present. Abrief biography of Goffart by Murray and a bibliography of his writings to date open the volume tmder review. The bibliography brought to this reader's attention a crowd of old friends among Goffart's writings and also a welcome host of friends still to be met. Some essays in the collection focus on issues raised by a specific documentary or textual nucleus. Andrew Gillett interprets the Variae of Cassiodorus not in the familiar way as propaganda on behalf of the Ostrogoths, but as a monument to imperial and Ostrogothic administrative practice, and to the writer's own career. Ian Wood, examining the Vita Columbani by Jonas of Orleans, finds there also issues dear to the author, which shed light on Jonas's subject precisely because he did not write dispassionately and objectively. Roger Collins distinguishes distinct components in the text of the Frankish Annals and of the revised version of these annals. Another essay addressing textual matters, along with questions of historiographical Tendenz, is by Michael 1. Alien, who writes about the manuscripts of Claudius of Turin's Chronicle, which he will be editing, while Giles Constable discusses and reproduces a short text of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 176-178
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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