True History Decrypted: Full Text and Commentary of Lucian’s True History with Appendix- – eBook from Amazon
One of the translators of Lucian, Thomas Francklin, bemoaned in his introduction to True History, “We cannot but lament that the humour of many of the references has been lost to us; therefore, Lucian’s True History cannot be half as pleasurable as when it was first written, but there are enough remaining allusions which we understand to secure it from being unrelatable.” This work, True History Decrypted, attempts to take those “remaining allusions” and make them relatable to the modern reader. Modern audiences rarely have the background to fully understand all of the allusions made in True History and classical texts in general. It would be unfortunate if there were not a book that could help guide the reader through each section and provide the necessary background to fully enjoy the work.
This book takes a two tiered approach to understanding True History: (1) provide extensive commentary section-by-section, addressing the main themes and ideas of the work as the reader goes along; (2) provide an Appendix of works that Lucian may have been acclimated to and used as a basis for the parody found in True History. With these two eyes, the True History becomes a great deal more enjoyable and easier to comprehend.
There is no doubt that True History is Lucian’s most famous and influential work. It has influenced works like More’s Utopia and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. True History masquerades as a clinical account of the travels of the narrator and his companions. The style, tone, and approach of True History is exceptionally true to the travel genre; however, it is with the content where Lucian makes his satirical intent manifest. The narrator travels to the moon and back, to different islands like the Island of Cheese and Island of the Damned; he meets a cast of strange, twisted characters throughout, some more fanciful than others. Underneath it all, Lucian is really questioning the idea of truth found in factual, non-fiction writing. On a meta level, Lucian is trying to show the impossibility of absolute truth in writing. If the purpose of satire is improve the condition of a certain aspect of society, then Lucian is trying to call out some of the more grossly inaccurate worldly depictions in order to improve, all around, truth in literature, history, and entertainment.
True History Decrypted is suitable for the casual reader and scholar. The text has previously been used in the university classroom.