Last month, the Open University Classical Studies blog posted a Q&A about Translating Myth. Pietra Palazzolo, my co-editor (who works for the OU), and I answered a few questions about the book, its rationale, and the associated events at the Essex Centre for Myth Studies. If our fellow editor, Leon Burnett, seems enigmatically silent in the conversation, it is because he was spared the interrogation, but he nodded his assent. Many thanks to Emma Bridges for her questions and for hosting the interview.
The recent silence on this blog reflects industry in other areas of my life, so there is a lot for me to share over the coming weeks.
Last week, discussing Translating Myth at the book’s launch at UEA (of which more later), the question of the relation of myth to history raised the spectre of ‘post-truth’ politics. This new coinage seems to me an unnecessary euphemism for propaganda, and some commentators have noted the danger of its implicit assumption that politics was formerly the realm of truth and fact.
In the wake of Trump, Yeats’s ‘The Second Coming’ has frequently been invoked to express the end-times horror felt by many. The fear and revulsion is justified. Yet, furthermore, the election has exposed the persistence of political violence by bringing it home to the West, rather than primarily exporting it, as Obama and his predecessors have done. So, to Yeats, I add Rimbaud. I’ve been reading him again lately after listening to Britten’s setting of Les Illuminations (I like the recording with Sandrine Piau). What Rimbaud had to say in the 1870s about democracy, the military-industrial complex, and the absence of truth tells us that there is little new in political debate today.
Translating Myth, a book I edited alongside Pietra Palazzolo and Leon Burnett has recently been published by Routledge/Legenda, in Legenda’s Studies in Comparative Literature series.
It collects fourteen essays on different aspects of myth and translation, from literary translation of Blakean mythopoeia to the cultural translation of Oedipus in Cameroon.
I’m very pleased with the finished result: it’s a handsomely produced volume with carefully-reproduced illustrations, and, most importantly, some excellent critical readings.
As an academic book, it is, lamentably, prohibitively expensive (even with the 20% discount), but I can unreservedly recommend that you order it for your local academic or public library. An e-book is also available.
These comments from the introduction (by Pietra and me) on Giuseppe Sofo’s chapter on the further translations of Derek Walcott’s Odyssey are indicative of the tenor of the book:
The reader is led through this recent journey of Odysseus, from English to Italian and from the Caribbean Sea back to the Mediterranean. At the end of this stage of its travels, the myth has changed while retaining its essence. It has survived the transaction between oral and written forms, just as it remains identifiable through translation across languages and cultures. Thus the process we describe at the start of this introduction, which Odysseus himself implicitly identified when hearing the song of Demodocus, is shown throughout this volume to be infinitely varied, generating vital and ever-renewing debate.
A conference I co-organized took place this weekend. A truly international and productively interdisciplinary event. Many thanks to all attendees. For more information, see the conference website.