Monday, August 07, 2006

Integrity and life are irreconcilable

On Baricco’s Homer Nick Tosches The New York Times: August 6, 2006
Now his “Iliad,” derived from the respected Italian translation of Maria Grazia Ciani (who receives no credit on the cover, title page or copyright page, but is acknowleged in “A Note on the Text”), recasts the song of Troy into a series of monologues by several of Homer’s characters.
In his introductory note, Baricco celebrates the “paradox” of translating a translation. “Borges would undoubtedly have been ecstatic,” he writes, as if certain that Borges would have found this work of interest, as if translations of translations were something new. (Arthur Hall’s “Ten Books of Homers Iliades,” published in 1581, was a translation of a French translation.) Why not inflate the chest even further and say that Homer himself would undoubtedly have been ecstatic?
Baricco’s preciosity detracts from his book’s modest pleasures. His note at the outset aggrandizes what follows, and his note at the end announces a movement for peace that “will succeed, sooner or later, in taking Achilles away from that fatal war.” But Achilles cannot be taken away from that fatal war. As Cedric H. Whitman, the most perceptive of Homeric scholars, wrote, the fate of Achilles, “death-devoted, already dead,” is to learn that “integrity and life are irreconcilable.” Baricco’s “Iliad” is not heroic. It is not much of anything. This is a shame: a waste of Baricco’s considerable gifts, a misrepresentation of something great. Nick Tosches is the author of the novel “In the Hand of Dante” and many other works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry.
SABDADistributors of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publications
Ilion An Epic in Quantitative Hexameters — Sri Aurobindo
Price: Rs 175 Hard Cover Pages: 148 Dimensions (in cms): 22x28 Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, Pondicherry ISBN: 81-7058-169-9
Sri Aurobindo had admired the hexameter – the chosen vehicle of Homer, Virgil and other great Greek and Latin poets – since his school days in England. He began work on Ilion – an epic in quantitative hexameters – in 1909 when he was an undertrial prisoner in Alipur Jail. Depicting the events leading up to the fall of Troy, this epic centres around the conflict between the mighty Greek Achilles and the warrior-queen Penthesilea. A Deluxe edition with glossary of proper names and Greek and Latin terms.

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