Monday, March 16, 2015

The Diamond

Berthold Laufer - The Diamond: A Study in Chinese and Hellenistic Folk-Lore (1915)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

This title is one I would haven't looked at twice if it wasn't from Berthold Laufer but anybody following the last couple of weeks of posts will guess correctly that it's a collection of assorted information, stories and proto-Borgesian footnotes.  Chapter titles include "Legend of the Diamond Valley", "Toxicology of the Diamond", "Acquaintance of the Ancients with the Diamond" and "Stones of Nocturnal Luminosity" (which should be the title of a prog-rock album).  Laufer claims that since diamonds don't occur naturally in China the diffusion of the stones from the West carried alongside diamond folklore and is an unusual chance to study that progress.  Like all these pamphlets there's not room to develop that idea in any great detail but any work that goes in one page from the Alexander Romance to Nizami to a Sindbad story is certainly worth the time.