Leonards Latkovskis


While nattering on yesterday about reading the Batrachomyomachia in Greek, I was fondly remembering being introduced to that text by my extraordinary tutor, Professor Leonard Latkovski. A few hours later, I was reminded that yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the polyglot professor’s death. His daughter Stephanie sent around an email suggesting that those of us who knew him might do any of several things in his memory that day. I loved the way that, even though the list was spare, it revealed a lot about his character. It included such suggestions as:

Tell a corny joke

Have some zubrowka

Make French bread

Walk around the block to mail a letter

Buy four gallons of milk and carry them home in two
cloth bags

Read a Lermontov or Pushkin poem

Conjugate a Spanish verb in nine tenses and two
aspects.

Sing the Hatikvah (Israeli national anthem)

Read from The Iliad

Write a letter to the editor

Go to the public library and read for four hours

Type a manuscript with carbon paper on a manual
typewriter

Oh, and the first suggestion on her list? Read the “Exordium” to Martha Barnette’s book, A Garden of Words. The exordium tells the story of how, inspired by the Professor, I fell in love with ancient Greek — and learned that, in the Professor’s words, “to study language is to study the human soul.”

If you’re now remembering a favorite teacher you once had, I invite you to do any or all of the above — or perhaps make a similar list of your own.

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