Saturday, September 12, 2015

Neo-Latin Novels

Utopia by Thomas More, published in 1516, is far and away the most famous novel ever written in Latin. So why is it so rarely referred to as a novel? Yeah, I don't know either.

As far as I can tell, the next 4 most-famous Neo-Latin novels, in chronological order, are John Hall's Mundus alter et idem, published sometime before 1610; John Barclay's Argenis, 1621; Gian Vittorio Rossi's Eudemia, 1645; and Ludvig Holberg's Iter Subterraneum, 1741. (Petronius' Satyricon, published in the 1st century AD, is probably more famous than these 4, and the 2nd most famous Latin novel of any era after Utopia, if for no other reason than that Fellini made a movie based on it.)

For some reason, all 5 of these novels, from Utopia in 1516 to Iter Subterraneum in 1741, are about journeys to exotic, faraway places, and are all satires of the authors' own times and places. Perhaps all 5 were written in Latin and not in vernaculars because their authors feared they would stir up too much controversy if they were too widely-known. There's little doubt that this was true in the case of Holberg, who published almost all of his works in Danish. Iter Subterraneum is sometimes referred to as the earliest science fiction novel. The striking resemblance between it and Jules Verne's Voyage to the Center of the Earth, published 123 years later, has often been remarked upon; whether or not Verne read Holberg's novel, I have not yet been able to determine.

Argenis and Iter Subterraneum seem to be the 2 most well-liked of these 5 by readers of Neo-Latin novels.

I also have not yet been able to find any mention of any novels published in Latin between Iter Subterraneum in 1741 and Stephen Berard's Capti, published in 2011. All I know yet about Capti is that about a half-dozen people quoted on the book's Amazon page are extremely well-pleased by it.

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