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NYT: Translator of "Aeneid" has harsh words for a modern empire

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DeepModem Mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 09:17 AM
Original message
NYT: Translator of "Aeneid" has harsh words for a modern empire
Edited on Mon Oct-30-06 09:36 AM by DeepModem Mom
Translating Virgil's Epic Poem of Empire
By CHARLES McGRATH
Published: October 30, 2006

....Veterans of...arduous classroom campaigns, as well as succeeding generations of students for whom Virgil was never on the reading list, can now turn gratefully to Robert Fagless new English translation of The Aeneid (Viking), in which that ancient war horse emerges as a work of surpassing beauty, feeling and even relevance, everything that teachers used to say it was.

I usually try not to ride the horse of relevance very hard, Mr. Fagles said recently at his home near Princeton University, from which he recently retired, after teaching comparative literature for more than 40 years. My feeling is that if something is timeless, then it will also be timely. But he went on to say that The Aeneid did speak to the contemporary situation. Its a poem about empire, he explained, and was commissioned by the emperor Augustus to celebrate the spread of Roman civilization.

To begin with, its a cautionary tale, Mr. Fagles said. About the terrible ills that attend empire its war-making capacity, the loss of blood and treasure both. But its all done in the name of the rule of law, which youd have a hard time ascribing to what were doing in the Middle East today.

Its also a tale of exhortation. It says that if you depart from the civilized, then you become a murderer. The price of empire is very steep, but Virgil shows how it is to be earned, if its to be earned at all. The poem can be read as an exhortation for us to behave ourselves, which is a horse of relevance that ought to be ridden.

The publication of this Aeneid is the end of an epic journey of sorts for Mr. Fagles, now 73, who before turning to Virgil translated first The Iliad and then The Odyssey. He is one of very few translators to make it through all three of the great classical epics, and to his surprise, he has become famous in the process. Both his Iliad, which came out in 1990, and his Odyssey, appearing in 1996, were unexpected best sellers, and his publisher has similar expectations for The Aeneid, in bookstores on Thursday....

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/30/books/30fagl.html?em&...
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BlooInBloo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 09:23 AM
Response to Original message
1. "Author" is misleading in an illiterate America. He's just the translator.
(No knock on translators - as Norman Kemp Smith well knows, it ain't no easy thing.)
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DeepModem Mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 09:35 AM
Response to Reply #1
5. My headline -- I was trying to avoid translator of new translation...
or translator of new Aenied. I'll try to figure out a new head, and edit.
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UTUSN Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 09:25 AM
Response to Original message
2. Good. We need a Classisit who is NOT a Neocon (PAGLIA, Victor Davis HANSEN) n/t
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TechBear_Seattle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 09:32 AM
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3. I much prefer the Iliad
Homer's poem smells of the battle field: the desire for glory, the fear of death, the stink of a siege that has lasted for many years.

Virgil's poem smells more of midnight oil and a scholar's ink. There is no blood and sweat, only a scholar's labor.

And yes, I can make the comparison, as Fagles' translation of the Iliad and Odyssey are both on my shelves at home. :hi:
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Jed Dilligan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 09:33 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. Have you read the originals?
I have, and prefer Vergil.
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TechBear_Seattle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 09:43 AM
Response to Reply #4
7. Imperial Latin is much easier to learn than ancient Greek
I did study Latin for a bit in school, but never got much beyond the aphorisms that served as a teaching tool ("Lupus non mordet lupum", "Vestis virum reddit", "Elephantus non capit muscam")

I'll stick with translations, thank you. :hi:
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Jed Dilligan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 09:51 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. The Greek bias is strong in Classics departments,
they tried to beat it into me, but I still came out a Latinist.

All the prefixes in Greek turn me off--they don't add anything to the language for me. Useful in philosophy, gets in the way of a story.

As far as translations go--you can't touch Humphries "Metamorphoses." My favorite epic, because it is about the fundamental horniness of nature rather than war.
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TechBear_Seattle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 09:52 AM
Response to Reply #8
9. I've been wanting to get that. Can you recommend a good English version? n/t
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Jed Dilligan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 09:55 AM
Response to Reply #9
10. Rolfe Humphries
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TechBear_Seattle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 09:58 AM
Response to Reply #10
11. Thanks! n/t
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rolleitreks Donating Member (282 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 10:12 AM
Response to Reply #3
13. I think that is certainly the "accepted" position.
Also that the Odyssey has more intrinsic interest than the Iliad. Is that James Joyce's fault?

Also that the Aeneid "stinks" of state propaganda. (Why do people describe the classics in terms of smell?)

Be that as it may, I think Virgil's description of the destruction of Troy and the flight from the city is as exciting as anything in the earlier Greek texts. I certainly look forward to seeing what Fagles hath wrought.
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xchrom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 09:41 AM
Response to Original message
6. the classics still rock.
that so many hundreds of years have passed -- and they are still speaking to us -- now that's a wonderful mystery of the human spirit.
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InvisibleTouch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 10:08 AM
Response to Original message
12. Cool - I read it in Latin many years ago...
...but have forgotten almost all of it. (Almost all of my Latin, too. :( ) I remembered enough to name one of my pups Aeneas, though. :)


Oooh, lookee, it's on Amazon already:

http://www.amazon.com/Aeneid-Virgil/dp/0670038032/sr=1-...

I'll enjoy reading it again in English.
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DeepModem Mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 10:37 AM
Response to Reply #12
14. Thanks for the link -- it would be nice to support Fagles! nt
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