Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent, Day 2: Links

Is there an easier way to get a post up than to share a few links? Yes, actually, because links involve going down a lot of rabbit holes and getting distracted, and the painters are going to be here any minute (but that's fodder for another day's post).

1. A new translation of the Iliad is turning heads
Caroline Alexander read one of the more modern translations, by Richmond Lattimore, at age 14. “I read a book a day [of the epic’s 24] after school, before swim practice, and was just utterly enthralled,” she said. This week, her translation of “The Iliad” is being published, and it’s already attracting attention among influential academics. Glen W. Bowersock, professor emeritus of ancient history at the Institute for Advanced Study, wrote in a blurb: “In my judgment, this new translation is far superior to the familiar and admired work of Lattimore, [Robert] Fitzgerald and [Robert] Fagles.” In an email interview, Prof. Bowersock said he is already recommending the Alexander translation. Ecco, the HarperCollins imprint publishing the Alexander translation, clearly has big ambitions for the book, signaled by its initial print run of 30,000 copies—a robust number for a literary classic more than 2,000 years old.
...“I know this sounds arrogant,” Ms. Alexander said, but she couldn’t imagine taking on the project “unless you believed you could do a better job.” She spent five years on her translation. Her goal is for her version to become the “translation of record.”
Ms. Alexander has a doctorate in classics from Columbia University and is the author of best sellers on an Antarctic expedition of Ernest Shackleton and on the mutiny on the Bounty. Classical scholars believe that her translation is the first published in English by a woman.
From the interview with Ms. Alexander:
Is there a passage that is particularly vexing for translators?
I know of no single work that has more world-class, hands-down, great scenes than “The Iliad”: the parting of Andromache and Hector, the Embassy to Achilles, the death of Patroclus, the entirety of Book 22 leading to the death of Hector, the meeting between Achilles and Priam—these passages are not great because over the centuries they have become iconographic, but because they still bring writers to their knees in admiration. So these were the passages that presented the greatest challenges for me. The temptation is to rev up the language, reach for the weightier word, pour in the emotion in order to live up to the Greek. I worked hard for restraint, and my mantra was “trust Homer, trust Homer.” I knew that if I could find the simple English word for his simple Greek, work for cadence—spoken cadence, not the cadence of “high” poetry—it would work. The most difficult passage, I think, was the parting of Hector and Andromache, because the scene is so tender, so different in tone from most of the epic, and I knew it could be easily bruised; so I doubled my efforts for restraint. 
Is there a passage that you always look at to see how others have handled?
I looked less as I went in deeper. At the beginning I was very careful to make sure I wasn’t going off the rails; these comparisons were best seen as security checks, perhaps. By Book 6, I was operating by informed instinct, and felt pretty confident; thus I began to enjoy the comparisons. The times I was most diligent about looking at other versions was when I felt I had really nailed a passage. 
What did you think of the casting of Brad Pitt as Achilles?
I didn’t watch the whole film. But I did see his first big kill in the opening 10 minutes. A stunning bit of stunt-work, very athletic and adroit, and totally un-Achillean. It implied that Achilles’ greatness as a warrior lay in his skill. Having just finished working on a documentary about tigers, I would venture that confronting Achilles would be more like coming face-to-face with a tiger than with a tricky swordsman.

As part of our Hamilton mania right now, I was delighted to find Alexander Hamilton: the Outsiderby Jean Fritz, who has written so many wonderful Revolutionary War books for children. The engravings at the head of each chapter are charming and add a lot of period flair to the book, and the story itself flows along at a captivating pace -- so crucial for biographies, which (my) children are apt to discard if they aren't immediately interesting. Fritz glosses almost too lightly over the Reynolds affair but does convey why it was so destructive to Hamilton's career without going into detail.


Speaking of Hamilton, you may recall that a few weeks ago I linked to an interview with the stage manager of the Broadway show. Here he is again, calling the light cues as the company performs The Ten Duel Commandments, a first act number in Hamilton et. al. describe the etiquette of duels as his friend John Laurens prepares to duel Gen. Charles Lee over Lee's insults to George Washington.

Then listen to the original here:



bearing said...


Buying NOW.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Alexander story. Something she said about Pitt's Achilles gave me the kick in the pants I needed to finish a post on Orlando Furioso.