Respice Futurum: Some Reading Plans for 2018

Henricus Respicit Futurum.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, The Woodstock Academy where I have had the privilege of teaching Latin and Classics for many years now, is one of the oldest public schools in the United States and has a simple yet profound Latin motto which reflects and respects this tradition: Respice Futurum–-translated literally as “Look back at your future.” These two simple Latin words capture the idea that one moves towards the future while also reflecting on the past— it is the equivalent of moving forward on a train while sitting in a seat that is facing backward.   Respice Futurum is an fitting description for thinking about my reading plans for 2018

Respicio in Latin means more than “looking back.” One of my favorite translations of this word is “to have regard for another person’s welfare.” The Stoic philosopher Seneca, for example, applies respicio to the idea of self-improvement in his work De Clementia: sapiens omnibus dignis proderit et deorum more calamitosos propitius respiciet. (A wise man will offer help to those who are worthy and, in the manner of the gods, he especially will have regard for those in need.”) A good person, Seneca argues, always looks towards his future but uses experiences from the past to inform his decisions.  So as I look forward to books I intend to read in 2018, I can’t help but consider which literary selections in 2017 have influenced my choices.  Which books, based on previous choices, will give me a chance for deep reflection and even self-improvement?

Based on my past experiences, there are a few of my favorite publishers that put out spectacular books year after year.  A few of these titles I am looking forward to are:

Seagull Books:

Villa Amalia, Pascal Quignard
Eulogy for the Living, Christa Wolf (trans. Katy Derbyshire)
The Great Fall, Peter Handke (trans. Krishna Winston)
Monk’s Eye, Cees Nooteboom (trans. David Colmer)
Lions, Hans Blumberg (trans. Kári Driscoll)
Requiem for Ernst Jandl,  Friederike Mayröcker (trans. Rosalyn Theobald)

NYRB Classics:

The Juniper Tree, Barbara Comyns
Berlin Alexanderplatz, Alfred Döblin (trans. Michael Hofmann)
Kolyma Stories, Varlam Shalamov (trans. Donald Rayfield)
The Seventh Cross, Anna Seghers (trans. Margot Bettauer Dembo)
Anniversaries, Uwe Johnson (trans. Damion Searls)

Yale University Press:

Packing my Library, Alberto Manguel
A Little History of Archaeology, Brian Fagan
Journeying, Claudio Magris (trans. Anne Milano Appel)

I am also looking forward to more publications from Fitzcarraldo Editions, New Directions, Archipelago Press, Ugly Duckling Presse, Persephone Books (whose bookshop I hope to visit in the spring) and the Cahier Series. I’ve also heard that new books by Kate Zambreno and Rachel Cusk will be coming out later in 2018 and I am eager to read new titles by both of these women.

While I am waiting for the books listed above to be published, I will dip into German and British classics which I have loved reading over the last year. Here is what I have sitting on my shelf awaiting my attention in 2018:

German Literature:

Hyperion, Holderlin (trans. Ross Benjamin)
The Bachelors, Adalbert Stifter (trans. David Bryer)
The Lighted Windows, Heimito von Doderer (trans. John S. Barrett)
brütt, or The Sighing Gardens, Friederike Mayröcker (trans. Roslyn Theobald)
On Tangled Paths, Theodor Fontane (trans. Peter James Bowman)

British Literature:

Marriage, Susan Ferrier
The Voyage Out, Virginia Woolf (I’d also like to continue reading her volumes of essays and diaries)
To the Wedding and G., John Berger
Pilgrimage, Vols. 3 and 4, Dorothy Richardson

Russian Literature:

I was disappointed this year not to get around to this stack of Russian literature in translation books as well as Russian history books I have sitting on my shelves—

Gulag Letters, Arsenii Formakov (ed. Elizabeth D. Johnson)
Found Life, Lina Goralik
City Folk and Country Folk, Sofia Khvoshchinskaya (trans. Nora Seligman Favorov)
Sentimental Tales, Mikhail Zoshchenko (trans. Boris Dralyuk)
October, China Mieville

(I’ve toyed with the idea of starting War and Peace as well, but who knows where my literary moods will take me)

And for some Non-fiction:

I am very eager to read more George Steiner: Errata, The Poetry of Thought and Grammars of Creation are all on my TBR piles.
I am teaching a Vergil/Caesar class and an Ovid (Metamorphoses) class in the spring and in preparation for these authors I would like to read some of Gian Biaggio Conte’s books, especially Latin Literature: A History and Stealing the Club from Hercules: On Imitation in Latin Poetry.

I know, this list seems impossible, ridiculous, all over the place. But who knows what rabbit holes I will fall down, or where my journey will take me. All I can say for sure is that 2018, much like 2017, will be filled with great books and interactions with other wonderful readers. Happy New Year!


Filed under British Literature, Cahier Series, German Literature, Literature in Translation, New York Review of Books, Nonfiction, Seagull Books, Virginia Woolf

47 responses to “Respice Futurum: Some Reading Plans for 2018

  1. Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales are gruelling masterpieces. You need a strong stomach to read them, but for me they outshine anyone else’s accounts of the gulag. By the way, Henry is a lovely cat.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Happy New year Melissa just following your blog for several month’s am pretty sure you will outdo yourself and hopefully see new books added to the blog
    I wonder if you would try
    Europa press
    Peirene press
    They both publish so many great books which am sure will get your attention.
    Sorry for my long comment but I found your blog really helping when am looking for new beautiful book so thankfrom the bottom of my heart and best wishes from Somalia

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Steffen

    I really envy you. I wish I could relive my first time with Uwe Johnson’s Anniversaries. This is the one book I would rush to take with me if my house was burning, literally. I have enjoyed many other books before and after but never quite as much as this one. I remember the day I opened it the first time some 27 years ago (I had heard of Johnson as a teenager but he was censored in East Germany pre 1989). Enjoy Anniverseries as you would binge-watching Game of Thrones or follow the year one day at a time. If the book(s) has only half the effect it has on me, you will be a Johnsonista by the time you get to 20. August, 1968.
    And Happy New Year to you from a faithful reader, I like your reviews very much, they are always inspiring. Your students are a lucky bunch!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your very kind words. I am so g lad to hear your glowing endorsement of Anniversaries. I am looking forward to reading it even more now. Happy New Year, Steffen.


  4. Jonathan

    Good luck with your reading plans Melissa. I’m still working on mine; I haven’t quite been able to decide what to go for. Of course, what I plan and what I actually read are two different things.

    The Bachelors by Stifter is great BTW.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had forgotten mention anniversaries and Berlin Alexanderplatz in my post but both them on my list for next year

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Lovely list Melissa – good luck. Kolyma Tales is very powerful but an essential read. And I hope you get to the Persephone shop – it’s small but rather perfect! I tend to go off down unexpected rabbit holes too – that’s half the fun of being a reader though!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Happy reading Melissa. I am in an unusual situation this year, now that I’m editing reviews for 3:AM. I find myself eyeing forthcoming releases and taking note of what I’d like to see reviewed—that may or may not coinicide with my own interests and takes the pressure off wanting to have everything! At this moment I feel a little overwhelmed by the books showing up on everyone else’s “best of” lists that I bought last year and haven’t read yet so I think my attention must go there first.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. You’re a wonder! Happy 2018, in books and in life! Wishing you joy in the classic lit you are teaching, and best wishes for you and your family. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Roof Beam Reader

    This was a lovely post for the new year. I’ve been following stoicism for a few years, now, and this year I’m engaging in the “Daily Stoic” reading and writing project — one stoic reading + one stoic writing/reflection prompt every day. I started today & am really looking forward to this intentionally focused project. On a personal note: I have been wanting to learn Latin for years, now, but I never know where to start. I know enough to get me through simple words and phrases, but I have a desire to be much more “fluent.” If I ever achieve that, then I might move on to Greek.

    Do you have any suggestions for how one might effectively go about learning Latin these days? Especially if I can’t go take a progressive series of classes the way one might with Spanish or French, etc. The best way to learn a language is through immersion, of course, but that’s obviously not possible with Latin.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for your comment. I am particularly fond of Seneca’s writing. I teach from Wheelocks Latin and you coukd buy an inexpensive paperback copy of it online and make your way through that. There are all sorts of reference websites to help you out with that book. I find it’s the program that allows you to read real Latin as quickly as possible. Best of luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. ON a different tack altogether, Melissa, did you happen to see the Five Books interview about Teaching Latin?
    I was wondering if you agreed with him about the Cambridge course because I have been thinking of resurrecting my school Latin as a mini-retirement project….

    Liked by 1 person

  11. If you feel like War and Peace any time in 2018, I’ll join you. So love Tolstoy.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I’m pleased to see our reading intentions run in parallel a fair amount next year, so looking forward to continuing to compare impressions. I forgot about Anniversaries, which I am also keen to read (I have an abridged version). More Richardson and Woolf is inevitable, and I finally have a full set of the diaries from Hogarth. I also plan to explore Hyperion. Happy new year.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I saw your excellent list as well, Anthony. The forthcoming catalogue from Seagull Books looks particularly impressive. Looking forward to your thoughts on their Wolf, Quignard, Mayorocker titles. And I am very eager to get to Richardson, probably a little later in the year. I am hoping to read some German then Russian lit first. Happy New Year to you as well!

      Liked by 1 person

    • If you don’t mind me asking, Anthony, did you buy the Woolf diaries one at a time or as a complete set? I would love to have the whole collection. And I am assuming the Hogarth ones you have are first edition?


  13. All hail to the mighty rabbit holes of serendipity, which make reading such an interesting occupation! I do enjoy your plans (and indeed respect all plans), but I am also a great believer in diverting from the main route.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. My historian partner would approve of your school’s motto! Impressive set of plans, Melissa, although I was a little distracted by your lovely cat.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. The best reading plans for next year are the ones which name all the books! Good luck – I’m sure you’ll be successful. The one where I certainly hope to join you is Berlin Alexanderplatz. After reading Life and Fate last year I hope to tackle one or two other neglected classics (neglected by me that is!). To this end I also plan some Russian reading but that means filling in the gaps in Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, etc.
    Whatever you read, I look forward to reading your reviews.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I would also love to get to some Turgenev and Dostoyevsky that have been sitting on my shelves for ages. I think I will start with the Tolstoy and see what happens. I look forward to your reviews as well, Grant. My TBR piles always grow when I read your blog! Happy New Year.


  16. Ali

    What a fabulous post–all of it! I love the motto, the picture of your cat around your books, and your book list most of all! Now I am going to check out these books and decide which ones I want to order because I know I most definitely will want to read some of these books.

    Michael Orthofer at the Complete Review who is a notoriously harsh critic of books has given Anniversaries a rating of an A. Now that I know it is being released by the NYRB–and you have mentioned it–I am going to check it out.

    Steiner is on my TBR pile, as well. I have started Language and Literature, and the first essay is wonderful. I also want to check out the Conte book you mentioned. And Cusk is on my list, too!

    As far as Russian literature, I already mentioned my hope of reading War and Peace, but I do always turn to Chekhov’s short stories to sustain me (the Black Monk, the Bishop, and Ward No. 6 were some of my favorite stories I read this year).

    I look forward to reading more of your blog and your thoughts in 2018!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind, thoughtful words, Ali! It is very rare for Michael to give an A rating to anything, so that makes me look forward to reading it even more. The length of it seems daunting, but I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Anniversaries that I must try it.

      Happy New Year to you and thanks for reading my posts! It is very much appreciated.


  17. Vishy

    Beautiful reading plans, Melissa! The new books expected from Seagull


  18. Vishy

    Beautiful reading plans, Melissa! The list of books expected from Seagull looks spectacular! I loved reading your thoughts on ‘Respice Futurum’. Such a beautiful phrase! What Seneca said is so beautiful! I read a poem by Hermann Hesse on Holderlin and your mention of his book made me remember that. Hope you have a wonderful reading year in 2018! Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. lizzysiddal

    Great plans, Melissa. Let me know when you’re likely to read the Fontane. I’’d love to readalong with you.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Exciting to see there’s a new Alberto Manguel book coming out. Thanks for letting me know about it.

    Liked by 2 people

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