Meet Jonathan Nathan, classics enthusiast, translator extraordinaire, veteran Program Assistant, and our Nerd of the Month for November!
Relationship to Great Books: I was a Program Assistant at Stanford in 2014, and at Amherst in 2015.
What are you doing right now?: Planning my solo day trip tomorrow to the Normandy landing-beach, involving four buses, two trains, and shaky French. This interview might be the last contact I have before being stranded forever in the (albeit charming) countryside. Tell my parents the cheese is delicious.
Where are you going to school/where are you in the world?: I’m going to school at Cambridge University, getting a master’s in early modern history. I’m working on atheism in the seventeenth century, and loving it.
Nerdy fun fact: I spent last year in a tiny, all-male academy in Rome speaking only Latin. Also, I don’t like any art produced in any medium after World War I.
Nerdiest attribute: I have a portrait of Ludwig Wittgenstein hanging over my bed.
Favorite book: Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilyich. Anything I could say about that book would be an indignity.
Currently reading: Horace’s Odes, which is like an excellent steak.
Languages spoken: Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. I can fake Aramaic and Anglo-Saxon. My twin brother speaks Indonesian, so when telemarketers call our landline, they have no idea what they’re in for.
Least favorite word: mealy
Which nerd in history would you most like to have a late brunch with?: G. K. Chesterton, but if he’s still asleep, George Eliot.
Who was your first fictional crush?: Ms. Frizzle.
Which author would you want to write your story?: Definitely Herman Melville. But that means I need to live a life that he would want to write about, which I’m iffy on.
Can the movie ever be better than the book?: Yes—if the movie is The Return of the King and the book is Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy.
Do you prefer hardcover books or paperback?: When I’m white-haired and ninety, sitting by the fire in an armchair, glass of scotch in hand, am I going to creak open a paperback copy of Homer?
What question would you like to ask future Nerds of the Month?: If you could live in any century/decade you wanted, what unspeakable moral depravity would you commit in exchange for being sent there?