Thursday, April 09, 2009
The Nation reviews Anne Carson's translation of An Oresteia.
Carson is acutely conscious of the differences, in mood, worldview and style, among the three tragedians she translates. It is, then, a disappointment that she does not entirely succeed in making them sound properly distinct from one another. In Greek, Aeschylus is a far denser, more difficult writer than either of the others, fond of strange syntax and puzzling neologisms. Carson tends to eliminate a lot of the difficulties. For instance, when Agamemnon decides to kill Iphigeneia, he frames his decision in oblique, confusing language that perhaps speaks to his unwillingness to face up to what he is doing. A literal translation might go, "For hyper-enragedly desiring in angry lust for a wind-stopping sacrifice and girlish blood is right. May it indeed go well." Carson gives a version of these lines whose only fault is clarity: "Their desperation cries out for a sacrifice to change the winds,/a girl must die./It is their right./May the good prevail!"
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