Living with a Dead Language: My Romance with Latin
By Ann Patty
Viking

What did the Romans ever do for us? Well, they gave us the Romance languages for a start – Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese and others all having developed from Latin, the principal tongue of the Roman Empire. They also inadvertently gave us Ann Patty’s defiant and unusual memoir, which recounts how, after retiring aged 58 from a high-powered publishing career, she found a solution to the anxiety she felt about filling her time usefully. Taking college courses in Latin, which she had briefly studied decades earlier, was the unexpected answer, and her love of language propelled her through the tough times, when translation proved tricky and tenses tiresome. Patty eventu­ally graduated to the heights of rendering Ovid’s poetry into English to stave off the terrors of unremitting fruitless hours, which exist even in idyllic upstate New York. The “romance” of her subtitle (spot the obvious pun) required great analytical skill – and one that stimu­lates, as Patty calls them, “gym­nastics for the mind”. Patty is recommended reading for anyone doubting that a foreign language, however old, broadens one’s world view.