Saturday, January 03, 2009

Milton's Paradise Lost read by Anton Lesser

A best seller of Naxos Audio Books is Milton's Paradise Lost and the reading of excerpts is currently winding down on Radio 3. It began on December 22nd. Here's a link to the text. This one is the reading by Anton Lesser. Here's a letter to the Editor from the Daily Telegraph (Jan 2nd) on this broadcast experience:

Paradise Lost

SIR – If they haven’s heard it already, I implore readers to “Listen Again” to Anton Lesser’s evening readings of Milton’s Paradise Lost on Radio 3.

It is the most extraordinary artistic achievement imaginable by one person, combining all the essentials – clarity, musicality, timing, judgment, character realisation, unflagging energy and perfect communication of those everlasting, sinuous, overlapping phrases.

Above all, it sustains a spine-chilling immediacy of vision which seems to travel from the poet’s mind to the listener’s ear like forked lightning.

Jilly Spencer
Colyton, Devon

OTOH, Simon Jenkins in the Guardian expresses a contrary opinion on Milton:

Milton lacks the qualities now considered essential in a poet: concision, humour, or romance. As Dr Johnson said of Paradise Lost: "No one ever wished it longer." Readers can handle the poignancy of On His Blindness and snatch pleasure from the great quotes. But the imagery and subject matter of the epics are rooted in a theology and mythology that today are gone.

He has a point. However, an extraordinary number of people have downloaded Paradise Lost from Naxos Audio Books. Something to think about.

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