There was a moment when I was reading The Iliad that I thought to myself, “This is it. This is what the epic is really all about.” Somehow it all seemed to come down to one particular scene and all the rest was just leading up to it. Why I had that epiphany, I’ll explain in due course. But what struck me is that the real message of this epic poem was almost hidden by all the thousands of lines … click below for more!
Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Thus begins the 1897 translation by Samuel Butler of Homer’s Odyssey. It’s just one of more than 60 translations of the book into English since the first in 1615, including one by T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) in 1932. Odysseus — Ulysses in the Latin form — mythical king of Ithaca, is a complex protagonist; sometimes hero, … click below for more!
Animal Fairm is a 2022 translation into Scots of George Orwell’s classic satire on Stalinist (and in far too many ways, modern conservative) politics and ideology. As the cover of this edition says, it was “translatit intae Scots by Thomas Clark.” I recently purchased the book for my reading entertainment. And quickly discovered it’s so delightful that it makes me want to read more of and learn more about the language. The book is published by Luath Press, in Edinburgh. … click below for more!
Back in December, before Godaddy broke my blog through technical incompetence, I had written a piece about the first stanza in Inferno, the first book of Dante’s trilogy, The Divine Comedy. Since that post seems irretrievably lost, I decided to write another in the same vein. So please bear with me if this seems redundant. It all began innocently enough on Tuesday late last year when I was searching through my bookshelves in search of something I can no longer … click below for more!
At the end of his long and storied life, Giacomo Casanova found himself a lonely man in a damp, cold castle in Bohemia, a small German kingdom distant from all the places where he had lived and loved. The servants mocked him, making fun of his stuffy, outdated and foreign fashions, his powdered wigs and stiff formality. He is from an older world, a more refined and gentile world than everyone around him, and as the 19th-century approaches, he struggles … click below for more!
Master Sun was a wise man. So wise that his famous treatise, The Art of War (aka The Art of Warfare), has been read, written about, critiqued, and discussed for roughly 2,400 years. It has been used as a model of strategy and leadership for the military, for business, romance, sports, and for politics. And, like Machiavelli’s The Prince, it has often been misused, misunderstood, and misinterpreted for those purposes.* It’s a short book: a mere 13 chapters written in … click below for more!
One of the more delightful books in my personal library is a reprint of the 1883 American edition of English as She Is Spoke, described by Wikipedia as, …intended as a Portuguese–English conversational guide or phrase book; however, as the “English” translations provided are usually inaccurate or incoherent, it is regarded as a classic source of unintentional humour in translation. Even a quick glance at its suggested English phrases and you’ll see the humour. It reads more like a guide … click below for more!
With the extra time to read on my hands these days, I’ve been dipping again into the poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus, Roman poet around the time of Julius Caesar. I’ve written in the past about reading Horace, a somewhat later Roman poet whom I greatly admire. I like to pick up a translation of Horace’s Odes or Epodes and read a few lines, maybe a whole poem, every now and then. Horace can be quite insightful and inspirational. Not … click below for more!
At roughly the same time Shakespeare was writing and performing King Lear, Measure for Measure, Othello and Macbeth (1604-1605), Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was publishing the first part (52 chapters) of his satiric novel, Don Quixote, or more properly titled (in English), The Ingenious Gentleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha. The second part (another 74 chapters) was published in 1615, roughly two years after Shakespeare’s final play, The Two Noble Kinsmen (co-written with John Fletcher). While it was probably always … click below for more!
As I wrote in my last post, I have been reading a lot of the classic philosophers of late, particularly the Stoics. And I’ve been going further afield. My classical readings have included a lot of Seneca and Cicero of late (plus Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius), as well as interpretations of same. While Seneca was a confirmed Stoic, Cicero seems sympathetic if not entirely convinced, and may have had strong sympathies for the Epicureans as well. My reading also includes … click below for more!
Gilgamesh continues to enthrall us, even after more than 100 years of translations and interpretations. The story continues to be told and retold and even re-imagined. There’s even a children’s version of the tale. You can read a version here, in PDF format or an online version here.Translations and transliterations (if you know your Akkadian…) are here. There was likely an oral version shared even before writing was invented – if you really want to know what that might have … click below for more!
I recently started reading Malory in the original – that is, the language that Caxton printed in. Not the typeface Caxton used, since that would be harder to read, but rendered in a modern serif face. Caxton initially used black letter type (aka gothic) – pretty much all the early printers used it, although each printer had his own dies and styles. However, he did move to a more easily-read, more-rounded typeface by around 1490, a few years after he … click below for more!
I hadn’t always wanted to read Herodotus. He has a mixed reputation among historians, often cited as an unreliable source, gossip monger or simply as a fantasist. Sure, he’s the “father of history” as Cicero called him (or at least of historical writing) and penned the earliest surviving work of non-fiction, but he often doesn’t get the respect that, say, Thucydides gets for his efforts (dry as they might be at times). Herodotus has even been called the ‘father of … click below for more!
With two printed versions of Montaigne’s essays (translations by Donald Frame and M. A. Screech) and a couple of online editions available to me, I thought I might offer some examples of how individual translations have captured Montaigne’s writing and let you judge which you think is clearer and crisper for reading today. I chose, somewhat at random, some lines from Book 1, Essay 50: Of Democritus and Heraclitus. It’s a reasonably short piece. I will give it in its … click below for more!