The Last Samurai

What a fascinating story! There are several books by this title, but I’m talking about the first novel by Helen DeWitt, published in the year 2000. If you know me, you won’t wonder which half of the story I liked better — once you hear about the two halves.

We’ll start with Part Two, which concerns the protagonist’s search for his father. It’s perfectly OK, but hard to get excited about.

Part One concerns a remarkable child who learns to read (and love!) Homer in the original Greek starting at age 4. He then goes on to other languages, such as Japanese, Icelandic, and Inuit. And then to logic and advanced math, exploring topics like Fourier analysis. And some of it takes place on the London Underground! In any case, how could I resist any book with a page like this?

Last Samurai excerpt

Or like this?

Last Samurai Icelandic

And if those don’t grab your attention, you’re probably hopeless. Oh well, we’ll try one more to see if we can hook you:

Last Samurai Hebrew

I know…I’m weird.

Not surprisingly, given the title, there are apparently many connections with Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, but since I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing that film I can’t comment on any connections. “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen,” as Wittgenstein is famous for saying in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus  — a quotation that’s useful in a remarkable number of circumstances.

Categories: Books, Teaching & Learning