Moira Russell's Reviews > Antigonick

Antigonick by Anne Carson
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Apr 04, 2012

bookshelves: 2012-50-new-books-challenge, favourites
Read from May 19 to 21, 2012

The book is a beautiful object - if not as heartbreakingly gorgeous as Nox - but I’m not a big fan of the illustrations: they’re technically good but 90% of the time I can’t see what they have to do with the, uh, play. The much-touted hand-lettering is also hard to read. (And, sorry, Anne, but if I were staging this, “Nick” and the Hegel ((Hegel?)) would be the first things to go.) But all that’s quibbling - it’s of course a fantastic interpretation of Antigone, and somehow she’s made it stunningly, brutally new.

I'm going to read it a few more times - already been through it twice - and try comparing it with another translation.


(....Hegel? -- Oh. Hunh. //eyes Hegel suspiciously)
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Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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message 1: by Lizzie (new) - added it

Lizzie OH LOVE an interpretation of Antigone wow. Do write more when you think some thoughts!


message 2: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Lizzie wrote: "OH LOVE an interpretation of Antigone wow. Do write more when you think some thoughts!"

Heh, no deep thoughts right now, but you can watch me wrestle with questions of translation here: http://theredshoes.tumblr.com/tagged/...


message 3: by AC (new)

AC This is a very good little book (and quick reading):
http://www.amazon.com/The-Greek-Tragi...

It is not interpretative, in a literary sense, but goes through the specifics of how tragedies were performed, masks, theater, stagecraft, etc. etc. Good background.

Tragedy began as a dithyrambic chorus singing hymns to Dionysus, and then the leader of the chorus emerged in recitative - hence, the first actor was born. Then a second. So the idea of plot or "episode" was a late development for Tragoedia (song of the goat). Look at Lesky...


message 4: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell AC wrote: "Tragedy began as a dithyrambic chorus singing hymns to Dionysus, and then the leader of the chorus emerged in recitative - hence, the first actor was born"

I....know that? I have actually studied classical literature. So yeah.


message 5: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Abigail wrote: "Antigone has always been one of my favorite plays! I didn't even know Carson had done an interpretation..."

IMHO the PR for it was really kind of bad - first I heard of it as a kind of 'graphic adaptation,' which made me think the drawings would be the focus. Then I heard it was an 'illustrated translation.' It's really sort of a combination - I didn't count them up, but there are full-page illustrations every 2-4 pages, and they're on vellum and designed to let the text they're opposite bleed through. Sadly, although most of them are quite well-done, I had no fucking idea how most of them related to Antigone and they all seemed to blow the "ghost text"/"read the text through the painting" idea. So that was kind of a miss.

I thiiiink Carson adapts/translates about half the play? Maybe a little more? and does add stuff like the opening lines about Hegel. But that didn't piss me off as much as Fitzgerald or Fagles adding in stuff that isn't there usually does, because a lot of the translation, if you know Greek tragedy, is really funny. There's a lot of meta-commentary on staging, the Messenger, the role of the Chorus, and so on. And she really does translate a lot of key moments, like Antigone's last speeches, the odes, and the Tiresias scene, wonderfully well. Kreon is wayyyy less sympathetic than he usually is, but so is Antigone, which is interesting.

The typography is, honestly, weird - it's Carson's holograph block lettering, apparently, with very little punctuation and no separation of who's speaking - instead the characters' names are in red, and so are a very few words. There are varied line lengths - blocks of texts, two or three sentences on a page, &c - that in some cases look like they might match up with the Greek syllabic divisions but usually seem to be for emphasis in English.

I honestly actually usually REALLY dislike this sort of thing, from the whacky illustrations on vellum to the really inconsistent spacing/paragraphing, so it might tell you something I just LOVE Carson's interpretation. It really does blow up the fake superstilted Classical-ese propagated by Lattimore et al -- it's like seeing one of those restored-style pictures of holy statues intact and garishly painted dressed in sparkly outfits, rather than the sober solemn all white blank eyeless relics we're used to seeing as "Greek." In particular Antigone's despair really comes through moreso than usual, I think, partly due to her cuts.


message 6: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Lizzie wrote: "OH LOVE an interpretation of Antigone wow. Do write more when you think some thoughts!"

Thoughts wound up being mostly here, heh. http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... I might try to write a review of it here, but being directed to EZ-Tragedy 101 has made me less interested.


message 7: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Abigail wrote: "Lattimore, on the other hand, appeals to me. Every close reading I've done of a Greek text, where a Lattimore translation has been available, has revealed just how close and respectful a treatment his translation is. "

My last translating days are very long ago (about 2000 to be precise - ouch) but Lattimore always struck me as being too literal - he's so slavishly adherent to some aspects of the text it winds up not sounding much like the actual Greek.


message 8: by AC (new)

AC Abigail wrote: "Honestly, I find all translation flawed, but Lattimore always came closest. I guess I prefer a close textual translation (I talk about this in some detail, in my Iliad review), to one that tries to..."

Ahh...! Not one, but TWO people who have Greek...! That is nice. I've also read the Iliad in Greek, fwiw... And it was quite an overwhelming experience, to say the least...

(I wish I could say the same for the Odyssey, but in the original you can see how inferior it is -- though people reading in translation, adnittedly, often find the Odyssey more accessible...).

Thomas Hardy (if I remember it right) is supposed to have started Greek at 80 (like Cato the Elder), and when asked why he was doing so, reputedly said: 'Because I expect to take it with me.' He must have had the Iliad in mind...


Phillip Witte I'm enjoying the discussion here. I had some thoughts about the book's physical and visual form which I posted on my blog: http://gloomygrammar.wordpress.com/20...


message 10: by JSA (last edited May 31, 2012 10:10AM) (new) - added it

JSA Lowe Late to the party...Anouilh's is, for my money, the best cultural translation (though God I want to get my hands on Carson's). Similar perhaps to the Tony Harrison Phaedra set in the British Raj? L'anywhoodle.

(Cf. http://spaniardintheworks.blogspot.co... )


message 11: by Moira (last edited May 31, 2012 11:10AM) (new) - added it

Moira Russell GoodReads, Y U NO ever give me my fucking updates? Argh.

Similar perhaps to the Tony Harrison Phaedra set in the British Raj

Ooh, now I want that....


message 12: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell J.S.A. wrote: "L(though God I want to get my hands on Carson's)"

I think one reason I love it is it's really slangy and a bit iconoclastic (altho at certain moments she does drop into closer translating, and "thee" and "thou" appear &c).

I'm a peon because I flat out hated the illustrations. Frex when Antigone is talking about laying out her family (mother, father, brother - quite moving) there is a picture of....a sink! with a body sort of above it. And I'm just like, A SINK. Did we really have to go there? and then in some truly whacky moments, when she has her most heartrending monologues, there's a picture of a little faux-cozy kitchen right out of Anthropologie or something. And I was just like, you know, I'm reading this Experimental Lit hardcover translation of a famous Greek tragedy, it's not like I'm expecting line-tracings of blank white Classical busts here, but a sink. Really.


message 13: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell In every re-reading there’s a thrill when Tiresias enters, a fleeting thought that just maybe he will have arrived in the nick of time to set Kreon straight and prevent an avalanche of suicides

Heh, I actually have the opposite reaction every time he shows up: OH GOD WE'RE ALL TRULY FUCKED. Tiresias in the guise of Truth appearing is a sign all the bodies are about to start piling up.


message 14: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell AC wrote: "Not one, but TWO people who have Greek...! That is nice.

Haaaaaaah hah uhm, I am such a Classics scholar manque, i.e. I have SJC Greek, not much at all. It's a sign of going to St John's College when your Greek is "better" than your French.

I've also read the Iliad in Greek, fwiw... And it was quite an overwhelming experience, to say the least...

We muddled through that too, sophomore year, with the help of a SHITLOAD of glosses....it was marvelous. Then we translated some Euripides choruses! ha ha ha God that gave me a headache. I think Aeschylus is worst in terms of snaky grammar, tho, altho it's hard to remember now.

I wish I could say the same for the Odyssey, but in the original you can see how inferior it is

....HEY

Thomas Hardy (if I remember it right) is supposed to have started Greek at 80 (like Cato the Elder), and when asked why he was doing so, reputedly said: 'Because I expect to take it with me.' He must have had the Iliad in mind..."

Aww, that's great. Did you hear how Le Guin started learning Latin to translate Vergil at I think 70, to write Lavinia? I loved that.


message 15: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Also, the drawings are really good, but remember the illustrations in Harriet the Spy? They're like those, technically speaking. Once I saw it, COULD NOT unsee it.


message 16: by Troy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Troy I heard her talk about it and originally she was thinking about doing a graphic novel, but the artist talked her out of doing anything so "straight."

I also loved how she went on and on about how Antigone was a gangsta and how she really couldn't defend her actions.

Oddly enough, no one really questioned her about the Hegel. Maybe because Judith Butler played Creon and it was at NYU and no one wanted to seem stupid.


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