I, Claudius, by Robert Graves

This is a confidential history. But who, it may be asked, are my confidants? My answer is: it is addressed to posterity.

The Persian Expedition, by Xenophon

It was now midday and the enemy had not yet come into sight. But in the early afternoon, dust appeared, like a white cloud, and after some time a sort of blackness extending a long way over the plain

Meno, by Plato

‘And now I think you are bewitching and beguiling me, simply putting me under a spell, so that I am quite perplexed’

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, By Salman Rushdie

Do you understand why you are still alive? she asked Jimmy Kapoor, as, blushing, he pulled a bed sheet around himself. ‘Yes’ he replied, his eyes filled with wonder. ‘Because you saved my life’. That is so, she conceded, inclining her head. But you would have been dead before I reached you, crushed to bits in the great Urn, if it wasn’t for the other reason.

Metamorpheses, by Ovid

His look still grim with glaring eyes, and every kind of way
His cruel heart in outward shape doth well itself bewray.

Kalevala, by Elias Lönnrot

From the sea her head she lifted,
And her forehead she uplifted,
And she then began Creation,
And she brought the world to order.

Civilisation, by Kenneth Clark

However complex and solid it seems, civilisation is actually quite fragile. It can be destroyed. What are its enemies?

The Fortune of the Rougons, by Émile Zola

And now Silvere, whose head was turned away from her, who no longer seemed even conscious of her presence, had eyes only for those strangers whom he called his brothers.

Night Letters, by Robert Dessaix

Long, grey brown hair, a brownish cardigan – the boutiques and salons of Locarno were clearly not her stamping ground. Owlish is the word that comes to mind, perhaps because of the slightly hooded eyes. You never know what an owl has in mind until the very last moment.

Phaedo, by Plato

In my own case the flow of tears quite overwhelmed me, so that I covered my head and wept – for myself, not for Socrates, and for my own ill fortune, such was the man whose friendship was now lost to me.

Napoleon The Great, by Andrew Roberts

Although he probably never said ‘an army marches on his stomach’, as legend has it, he was always deeply conscious that it indubitably marched on its feet.

Oaxaca Journal, by Oliver Sacks

There are huge, compacted towers of chilies, like bales, or castles – bright green yellow, orange, scarlet, these seem very characteristic of Oaxaca.

Elegies (II), by Theognis

You’re like a horse, boy, who has had his fill
Of barley elsewhere, then comes back to me,
Wanting a gentle rider, a cool spring,
Soft meadows to run in, and some shady woods.

Taliesin, from The Mabinogion

And she went forth after him, running.
And he saw her, and changed himself into a hare and fled.
But she changed herself into a greyhound and turned him.
And he ran towards a river, and became a fish.

Elegies (I), by Theognis

This city’s pregnant, Kurnos, and I fear
She’ll bear a man to crush our swelling pride
The people still have sense, but those in charge
Are turning, stumbling into evil ways.

Works and Days, by Hesiod

Defend yourself against the evil days
Lenaion brings, all of them days which pierce
The hides of oxen; guard against the frosts
That kill, when Boreas blows on the earth.

The Estate Manager, by Xenophon

We judged that agriculture is the best work and the best branch of knowledge for a truly good person, because it supplies people with the necessities of life. We decided that it is the easiest work to learn and the most gratifying to do; that it makes people physically as attractive and fit as possible;…

Memo from David O. Selznick

You do not have to be concerned about Marlene’s lines. We carefully considered each of the points she brought up. Some of them we met and some we did not. She knows that we gave every consideration to each objection and, I think, appreciates it.

Candide, by Voltaire

Le souper fut comme la plupart des soupers de Paris, d’abord du silence, ensuite un bruit de paroles qu’on ne distingue point, puis des plaisanteries dont la plupart sont insipides, de fausses nouvelles, de mauvais raisonnements, un peu de politique, et beaucoup de médisance; on parla même de livres nouveaux. The supper was like most…

The Dinner Party, by Xenophon

Must not those whose affection is mutual look at each other with pleasure and converse in amity;
must they not trust and be trusted, be considerate to each other, share pleasure in their successes and sorrow if anything goes wrong.

Gilgamesh

Sweet-voice Aruru, mother of men, Screamed out, like a woman in childbirth: “If only that day had never been, when I spoke up for evil in the council of the gods! How could I have agreed to destroy My children by the Great Flood upon them? I have given birth to the human race, only…

The Hero With A Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES, by Joseph Campbell   The Hero…

Paradise Lost, by John Milton

Sight hateful, sight tormenting! thus these two
Imparadis’t in one anothers arms
The happier Eden, shall enjoy their fill
Of bliss on bliss, while I to Hell am thrust…

The Second Coming, by W.B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. Surely some…

The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five, by Doris Lessing

When Al:Ith first heard of the Order, she believed it to be a joke. She and her sister laughed. All of Zone Three heard how they laughed. Then arrived a message that could only be regarded as a rebuke, and people came together in conferences and council all over the Zone.

Journey of The Magi, by T.S. Eliot

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’

Memorabilia, by Xenophon

‘Tell me, Xenophon, have you not always believed Critobulus to be a man of sound sense, not wild and self-willed? Should you not have said that he was remarkable for his prudence rather than thoughtless or foolhardy?’ ‘Certainly that is what I should have said of him.’ said Xenophon ‘Then you are now to regard…

Who The Devil Made It by Peter Bogdanovich

‘I remember meeting Reagan at a Hollywood party in the seventies (after had been governor, before he became president); when I mentioned knowing Allan Dwan, Reagan’s face transformed completely: from pleasantly bored to excited, compelled: ‘How is Alan? Give him my best, will you? I remember him very fondly.’ By now Reagan’s eyes had glazed…

Burning Your Boats, by Angela Carter

‘My mother said: “Child, if such folks awe you, then picture them on the lavatory, straining, constipated. They will at once seem small, pathetic, manageable.” And she whispered to me a great, universal truth: “THE BOWELS ARE GREAT LEVELLERS.“ BURNING YOUR BOATS, by Angela Carter BURNING YOUR BOATS: THE COLLECTED SHORT STORIES (1995) is a posthumously-published collection of Angela Carter’s short…

The Symposium by Plato

Apollodorus, I’ve just been looking for you to get the full story of the party at Agathon’s, when Socrates, Alcibiades and the rest were there for dinner: what did they say in their speeches on love?

Shikasta, by Doris Lessing

This is the point, you see, this is always the point which they must remember: that every child has the capacity to be everything. A child was a miracle, a wonder!