Spoken Word

The Republic Read by Bruce Alexander | Have His Carcase Dramatised by Alistair Beaton
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The Independent Culture

The Republic Read by Bruce Alexander (Naxos, c5hrs, £11.99 CD)

It might seem a daunting prospect to settle down and listen to Plato's Republic, even though its outline of the ideal state is one of the most famous of all the classical texts. But this new translation by Tom Griffith concentrates on being true to the spirit of Socrates's method of philosophical persuasion: conversation, styled in everyday rather than complex language. It is a tour de force to have turned the complex structure of Greek sentences into spare, lucid English. Spoken word is the perfect medium to use for Platonic dialogue. As we listen to the progress of Socrates's inexorable reasoning, we feel we are overhearing a group of intelligent friends speculating for both enjoyment and profit - punctuated with anecdotes illustrating the arguments. Having praised, rather than shot the messenger however, I have to say that Socrates himself gets me hopping mad. His proposals for family life are ludicrous, as if he regarded people as sheep rather than souls. As far as I can see the lesson learnt from the Republic (and the fate of Socrates) is that intuition gets you a lot further than logic where people are concerned.

Have His Carcase Dramatised by Alistair Beaton (BBC, 2hrs 40mins, £8.95)

Close your eyes (unless driving, of course) and sink back in time. The rich archive holdings of the BBC have been trawled to release an enticing batch of classic dramatisations of detective novels, which include books and short stories featuring John Dickson Carr, Francis Durbridge, Conan Doyle, Simenon and Ellis Peters. All feature accents you can cut with a knife and appropriate period music. Have his Carcase is one of the best of Dorothy L Sayers's jaunty, witty and satisfyingly complex books. Maria Aitken is a feisty Harriet Vane, not at all nonplussed by finding a corpse on a Devon beach far too soon after being accused of her lover's murder. Dismissing the local detective-inspector's suggestion she stay in Gregg's Temperance Hostel while helping them with their inquiries, she instals herself in the Resplendent, the grandest local hotel. Nothing could be more fortunate, as the hotel will provide the answer to the mystery. Naturally it is not long before Lord Peter Wimsey (Ian Carmichael) turns up to boost morale, generally assist and, of course, get to the root of the mystery. matter.