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"The Swerve" by Stephen Greenblatt

Jeff Glor talks to Stephen Greenblatt about "The Swerve," the story of an Italian book-hunter whose dogged pursuit of a long-lost manuscript changed the world.

Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?

Stephen Greenblatt: Here's what inspired me: first and foremost, the astonishing contemporaneity of Lucretius' great poem, written over two thousand years ago but still speaking to us with remarkable freshness and power. And then the gripping story of its disappearance and its sudden, unexpected recovery by a supremely gifted book-hunter, a recovery that turned out to change the course of the world. That story encapsulates much of what makes the Renaissance fascinating and important.


JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?

SG: What most surprised me was the richness, complexity, and zany humor of the life of the book-hunter, Poggio Bracciolini, who constantly threatened to take over the story I wished to tell. That story required a careful balancing of the ancient world, the Renaissance, and our own times, but Poggio, immersed in papal intrigues, humanist competition, and personal restlessness, insisted that he take pride of place.


JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?

SG: I thought when I was young about being a lawyer, but having watched the lives of my father, my brother, and my son -- all gifted lawyers -- I see that I made the right choice.


JG: What else are you reading right now?

SG: I'm reading Darwin's "Voyage of the Beagle" -- in anticipation of a trip to the Galapagos at Christmas -- and a novel (also about Darwin) by Harry Thompson, called "This Thing of Darkness."


JG: What's next for you?

SG: I have several different pots bubbling. Here is one of them: I have been following the trail of "Cardenio," a play I co-authored (with Charles Mee), as it has been translated, adapted, and performed in various parts of the world, including (thus far) India, Japan, Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, Spain, Croatia, Poland, and South Africa. I've seen all of these productions, and I'm interested in what happens to a story -- on the face of things, the same story -when it moves from place to place.



MORE VIDEO:

Jeff Glor talks to Stephen Greenblatt about his book, "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern," and gets an explanation of the book's title.
Jeff Glor talks to Stephen Greenblatt, author of "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern," and one of the world's leading Shakespeare scholars, about the theory that claims the Bard couldn't have written all those plays and sonnets.
For more on "The Swerve," visit the W.W. Norton website.