Bringing mythology closer

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Bringing mythology closer

By Héctor Mellinas

Young people find some of the most essential classic texts to be a difficult, confusing and complex read and rarely finish them. But perhaps if they were given an enlightening insight as they read them they would not only finish the texts, but even enjoy them.

It’s no secret (and it shouldn’t come as a surprise) that the best-selling and most widely translated book in history is the Bible; putting to one side its theological content, the holy scriptures are an inexhaustible source of literature (in its most basic form, when viewed merely as legend), and one of the most striking chapters of Genesis is The Great Flood (illustrated with clever and inspiring use of colors in the edition by Barbara Fiore Editora).

The chapter featuring Noah is one of the most memorable and sensational in the entire Old Testament; it is a literary tale in which the flood is depicted as a universal catastrophe, a divine punishment for the degenerate behavior of man and, even more importantly, as the rebirth of a pure and fertile civilization.

Many authors have returned to the symbol of the flood as a torrent of water to purify the negative behavior of mankind (Après moi, le déluge (After me, the flood) by Lluïsa Cunillé, the finest piece of theatre in this country so far this century, uses it to show the cathartic effects of recognizing the invisible Africa); however, if we read the text carefully we discover the underlying paradox of divine punishment.

Man, created in the image and likeness of God, must be exterminated from the face of the planet because the wickedness of man was great on the Earth and spreading amongst men (Gen 6:5); how can it be that contact with the Earth corrupts if it was also created by God? So is God the creator of evil and, therefore, was it unfair to punish His creatures, who are acting out God's creation? Thus, in this passage we find a romantic interpretation, avant la lettre, of nature as an entity in itself, reflecting the inner spirit of man, capable of awakening the evil in every individual.

In contrast, Virgil chose a very different natural setting for the Eclogues (illustrated in this edition by Tura Sanz, in black-and-white illustrations that enhance the concentric reading of the cosmogony of the text), pleasant and peaceful settings despite the dose of pain, which does not arise from nature, but from the inner world of man, incapable, like Corydon, of overcoming despair to fulfill his amorous desire for Alexis.

Unlike nature in the Bible’s Genesis, in Virgil’s classic text it is akin to the Greek Arcadia, an earthly paradise for civilized and pure men who are able to put aside negative impulses which, whether it be divinely ordained or at the will of nature, must be eradicated so that peace can reign across the world.

Photographs from the staging of Après moi, le déluge, starring Vicky Peña and Jordi Dauder.

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Keywords in this post: Classical Literature, Nature, Old Testament Latin classics , flood

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