The Man Who Deciphered Linear B: The Story of Michael Ventris (Anglais) Broché – 6 février 2012
|Neuf à partir de||Occasion à partir de|
Les clients ayant acheté cet article ont également acheté
Descriptions du produit
Aucun appareil Kindle n'est requis. Téléchargez l'une des applis Kindle gratuites et commencez à lire les livres Kindle sur votre smartphone, tablette ou ordinateur.
Pour obtenir l'appli gratuite, saisissez votre adresse e-mail ou numéro de téléphone mobile.
Détails sur le produit
En savoir plus sur l'auteur
Commentaires en ligne
Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
The great revelation of the book -- from a biographical point of view -- is that Ventris's death, at the height of his fame, was very likely suicide. Robinson is too reticent to say it that baldly but he lays out the facts and allows the reader to draw the obvious conclusion. But when he left home that night at midnight, only to crash, one hour later, into a parked truck on a road he had no reason to be on, at high speed, there is so much that the reader wants to know that this book will not tell. Had he and his wife quarelled? They were clearly not close by that point, so had she asked for a divorce? Why did she think he left the house at that hour? In fact the figure of Lois Ventris is shadowy beyond all belief. For large parts of the story I wondered if they were still married. There are no good photographs of her; there are no good photographs of his children; there are no photographs of the house that he designed and built; there are no photographs of any of his other design projects.
And the book has some strange biases as well. When Ventris fell out with Myres and Kolber, Ventris reported this at the time as a `huge row' -- presumably with Kolber alone. But Robinson presents his subsequent letter as evidence of a fatal weakness of personality that would manifest again, shortly before his death. What it rather looks to be evidence of is Kolber's unpleasant personality, and Ventris's reaction to it, nothing more. He gracefully withdrew from a project he knew he could not be part of. And what was driving his later withdrawal from his architecture research position looks to be entirely unconnected.
This reader also felt that the non-academic Robinson was entirely too enamoured of the genius, non-academic Ventris doing things that the plodding academics could only dream of. One very quickly wearies of tales of just how dull and unimaginative the academics of Oxford and beyond are. There is the music of axes being ground here. And Robinson is too inclined to set up a straw man of logic versus the flights of imagination in scientific discovery: he seems to have no idea that he is saying something that everyone knows and knows all too well.
So all in all this is a good book, but one that makes you wish that it were twice as good as it is. And now that this "biography" has come out I doubt that we will have a chance for a second book that might have answered the questions that this book leaves so frustratingly unanswered.
Ventris became intrigued by the decipherment as a schoolboy, even furtively studying the language by flashlight under his bedsheets at school. He modestly explained years later, "Some of us thought it would be a change from our set lessons to try and decipher the tablets, but of course we didn' t get anywhere. Somehow I've remained interested in the problem ever since." He did not then, of course, have the academic credentials to tackle such a task, but he never got them. He was a brilliant linguist, picking up languages quickly and speaking like a native, but he had no training in language or the classics; he never even went to university. He trained as an architect, and for all his short life, he split his endeavors between architecture and Linear B. Robinson maintains that the decipherment was helped by Ventris's training in architecture. The book is excellent at showing the difficult assignment Ventris gave himself, using good analogies with English words to make the puzzle as plain as possible for non-linguists. It shows the importance of hunches and inspiration, as well as cold logic. Ventris solved what is probably the greatest challenge in deciphering any ancient language, and though the achievement was magnificent, the fruits were meager: there is no literature in the language, no epic poetry, no sparkling civilization. The tablets are inventories and lists of possessions such as urns and goats.
Ventris was a gently humorous but private man who remains an enigma in many ways, and was so to the people who knew him. Having abandoned further work on Linear B, he also abandoned the assignment he was pursuing in architecture at the same time. He died in a car crash at the age of 34. Robinson is full of admiration for Ventris's astonishing accomplishment, and this book shows just how remarkable an achievement it was. It is not only an excellent small biography, but an introduction to a magnificent intellectual triumph.
The story unfolds with the same drama as a murder mystery or detective story. Robinson makes what could have been a complicated story eloquent and clear.
Although I recommend this book highly, at the end of it I still felt in the dark about Ventris himself. He seems to have been a great eccentric and very private individual. His sudden death at the age of 34 seems to have occurred under a cloud of deep depression that Robinson does not really explain. Linear B may be deciphered, but Ventris is still a mystery.
Michael Ventris, the man at the heart of this book, was a rather shy, somewhat diffident man who had trained as an architect and married young. Instead of leading the staid life it seems fate had laid out for him, he spent most of his short adult years working on the Linear B--a tablet found at a Mediterranean archaeological dig, and a tablet which had all but been pronounced indecipherable by many scholars with better credentials than Ventris's. Ventris ignored their conclusions and did eventually decipher the tablet. The story is filled with surprises and sudden discoveries, with disappointments and fortuitous guesses, and so on. It is quite a ride. There is even the occasional spot of humor--as when Ventris was stopped by a suspicious Customs agent who said, "These Pylos Tablets--exactly what ailment is it that they're supposed to relieve?"
I learned a great deal from this book. Among the more memorable nuggets was the fact that an alphabet generally contains between 20 and 40 characters--if there are more than 40 characters, it is probably a syllabary (meaning, a system by which each character represents an entire word rather than just one letter or other element WITHIN a word). I highly recommend this for any student of lost language--and anyone who enjoys a twisty-turny thriller!
The book does an wonderful job of explaining with enough detail, but without overwhelming the casual reader, the administrative and intellectual hurdles that Michael Ventris had to overcome to decipher this ancient system of writing.
I enjoyed it as a great biography but surprisingly also as a source of ideas on how to approach complex management projects ... it is much more readable than a typical project management book.