Review by: Casey Fredericks, Classical Journal - September 30, 2005
This republication of a fine old school text is a good bargain at so reasonable a price. It is delightful to see that this long-forgotten book has much to say to a contemporary audience. First, this edition of True History is ideal for a second year course in Classical Greek at the college level. Lucian’s prose style and use of Attic Greek parallel that of the early Plato, so teachers may wish to consider this text as either a substitute for, or a counterpoise to, the Socratic dialogues usually taught at this level. Jerram’s introductory essay is clearly and informatively written; it has the additional merit of being a general essay on the entire life and work of Lucian. The notes by Jerram are kept simple and helpful; many contain brief but valuable sketches of the main characters of True History; others contain short intellectual histories, and deal with the background to Lucian’s varied parodies, speculations, and fantasy notions. Jerram has also explained any of Lucian’s minor deviations from regular Attic usage and has provided an explanation and translation for any word not appearing in the small Liddell & Scott dictionary.
True History is also a very timely selection by Dr. Bolchazy for his Classic reprint series, and he is right to advertise the book to those interested in science fiction, romance, and satire. Science fiction and related fantastic literature have become popular as never before, so there is bound to be renewed interest in what is, in fact, the world’s oldest extant, novel-length work of science fiction. But there is, as well, a serious side to this resurrection of Lucian’s reputation, because he is now being considered a protean figure in Western intellectual history, the progenitor of the likes of Cyrano de Bergerac, Jonathan Swift, and Voltaire. Among ancient writers, Lucian is given most credit for creating a genre of Menippean prose fiction which mixes philosophical scepticism, satire, romance, fantasy, and speculation – besides articulating a powerful taste for adventure and intellectual freedom. Pre-modern science fiction developed hand in hand with the Menippean genre.
However, this does remain an attractive book for almost every reader: Jerram has also provided it with a useful general index; it contains several pages of amusing and engaging advertising for related volumes by B-C Publishers; and several nice blank pages have been included in the binding for notes. The merits of this little volume far outweigh its one defect, and it will make a welcome addition to any Classics library. Currently this is the only English-language commentary on True History in print, and I sincerely hope it continues to be available for some time.