Grave Goods – Tom Holland.
Welcome to the inaugural outing of Grave Goods, a series of interviews in which the guest is invited to select five items to accompany them on the Awfully Big Adventure (click here for a full list of rules).
We’re delighted to welcome the cricketer, dinosaur enthusiast, broadcaster, novelist and historian Tom Holland as our first guest.
Fresh from the task of a translation of the works of Herodotus that took him five years to complete, we asked him to turn his eyes from the past, and towards the inevitable future.
Tools of the Trade
“It is not a very original choice, and hardly one that is likely to survive prolonged entombment, but I would find it very difficult to function nowadays without my iPad. I find it staggering that I have witnessed, within my lifetime, something as comically fantastical as the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy become almost reality. Just in the past month, I have used it to look up obscure Greek vocabulary, take photos of Norse inscriptions, read scholarly monographs on the possible Tartessian origins of Welsh, and download a book on Ovid. All that, and it gives me Twitter and live cricket coverage too.”
Food for the Journey
‘An Eccles cake. Lovely name, lovely taste. Forget the Industrial Revolution, the Eccles Cake is Lancashire’s real contribution to global civilisation.‘
“A photograph of my mother as a wonderfully plump and happy-looking toddler on a Cornish beach. We recently went to the same Cornish beach to celebrate her 80th birthday, and looking at the photo would help to stir up in my ghostly self all kinds of bitter-sweet reflections on time, change and that almost-true almost-instinct: what will survive of us is love.”
“I am tempted to choose Herodotus, who has been the great literary love of my life ever since I first read him at the age of 12. He is the most charming, entertaining and inexhaustibly curious of historians, and any writer who can still give such delight some 2,500 years after his death is most certainly a companion for eternity. I am not going to choose him, though, for the simple reason that I have just spent five years translating him, and feel that I now have his every last paragraph logged away in my head. Instead, I am going to opt for Boswell’s Life Of Johnson – on the grounds that Boswell and Johnson between them, second only to Herodotus, are the literary figures with whom I would most like to share my after-life.”
“The cricket bat with which I hit my first – and so far only – six. Had I been given the option of transportation in a barge to the Isle of Avalon, rather than burial, I might have ordered one of my team-mates to hurl the legendary blade into a nearby lake – but as it is, like Raedwald, I shall be laid to rest with my most precious weapon.”
Message from the Grave
“One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.”
A Very Short Biography
Tom Holland has adapted Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides and Virgil for BBC Radio. Rubicon was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History 2004, and Persian Fire won the Anglo-Hellenic League’s Runciman Award 2006. He is also a regular contributor to the long running BBC programme Making History, and pops up on television quite a lot. In addition to writing accessible and entertaining histories, he has managed to throw out an occasional novel too. A full list of his literary accomplishments can be found here.
Tom is a regular Tweeter – the subject of his missives range from Classical history to contemporary religious issues, prehistoria, and of course, cricketing news – a thoroughly recommended follow – https://twitter.com/holland_tom
Our next guest on Grave Goods is the sheep farmer, blogger, broadcaster, historian and archaeologist Francis Pryor.