My Glorious Publishing Career- Pt 2- Mark meets Marcus Aurelius

August 28, 2014 at 7:47 pm Leave a comment

Following the success of the Tao te Ching audio, Rupert Lancaster – my editor at Hodder and Stoughton – commissioned me to produce an audio version of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. These short ‘meditations’ were spiritual exercises that Marcus wrote for himself while attending to his day job – Emperor of Rome. He would have preferred to be a stoic philosopher, but Hadrian picked him as his successor and this forced him to keep his philosophy as a private self-help guide. The meditations were a way of reminding himself how to respond to people and events.

Marcus was a Roman but he wrote in Greek, the ancient language of philosophy. Since I don’t know classical Greek (being mono English), I needed to find a translation to work from. I started to read the various translations then in print but didn’t find one that really spoke to me. Some were a bit dated in language, while others were seeped in Christianity, not suitable for a pagan Roman. I saw a reference to a Victorian translation by George Long that was said to be completely literal, and since it was out of copyright, I set about re-writing this archaic language into the kind of contemporary language that I thought reflected Marcus’ vision of life. At the same time I did not want to lose the sense of his second-century mind, so I tried to evolve a style that gave meaning to the text, in a way that would read to a contemporary audience, but which still sounded like the words of a Roman Emperor.

Once I began, I could see that Marcus had a holistic, cosmic view of life resembling the ancient Indian and Chinese philosophers. His ability to look objectively at the world and to penetrate deeply into his own mind seemed similar to Buddhist psychology. I was also impressed that Marcus’ perspective of the world was an ecological one, very close to our own view of the link between humanity and the environment.

Once I had re-written some 10 of the meditations, I realised I was creating a new copyright, and thought perhaps these could serve as a book as well as an audio. I wrote to a handful of New York literary agents to see if there was any interest. One large agency immediately turned me down, but a smaller agent- Liv Blumer-responded almost immediately. When we spoke, I was surprised to hear that Liv had never heard of Marcus Aurelius or his Meditations. The next day she went to a branch of Barnes and Noble and asked the salesperson if they had a copy. The saleswoman responded by telling Liv that it was the best book ever written, that she kept it by her bedside and read a meditation before going to sleep. Serendipity.

Once she understood what I was working on, Liv said she thought a book could get published, but I would have to write the introduction. What! I had never written anything longer than two pages since leaving university, and the thought of writing an introduction to a philosopher filled me with dread.

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Entry filed under: My Glorious Publishing Career, Thoughts. Tags: , , , , , .

My Glorious Publishing Career Part 1 My Glorious Publishing career- Pt 3- Finding Marcus’ Voice

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