A Week With Words (14)

Time has been against me this week and I have not read much at all.

Actually, if I am being really honest, I ought to say that I have been against me. I have not used such time as I have possessed to read. There have been reasons for that but the end result is the same. However, I have got at least a little done, so here is my update.

Books Started

Artemis Cooper

I should never have bought it but I was in the book shop last week and couldn’t help myself. It seems I need my desert war fix. The funny thing is that this is exactly what I don’t need – not even in the context of my interest in the Libyan Desert. I say this because I am reading Cairo, of course, as a result of reading about the interwar desert explorers earlier this year. When I did so, although the books (The Road to Zerzura  and Wheels across the Desert) covered the actions of the LRDG in the Second World War, I read this portion of them without the same intensity as I did the interwar period because I didn’t have the same level of interest in what happened between 1939-45. Now, it seems, I do. I am sure I am in good hands with Artemis Cooper – she wrote the excellent Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure and – along with Colin Thubron – co-edited PLF’s account of the last stage of his walk across Europe, The Broken Road.

On Going Books

Pindar’s Odes
tr. by Anthony Verity

I’m enjoying Pindar’s paeans of praise to the great athletes of the various ancient Greek games. Verity has translated 14 Olympian odes and this week I finished them and moved on to those written for winners at the Pythian Games.

Verity’s translation is very accessible and the right side of formal. I am indebted, though, to Stephen Instone’s notes to make sense of them. Pindar weaves mythology and history into his poems and without Instone’s guide I would have no idea of what their significance was.

The Iliad of Homer
tr. Richmond Lattimore

As I write, I am halfway through the famous catalogue of ships in Book II. I have to admit, I don’t think I have yet got fully ‘in’ to Lattimore’s translation: My reading isn’t flowing but feels sometimes like a bit of a hill climb. I don’t know why this is. Perhaps it is my fault, perhaps it is the translation’s. Perhaps it is the disjointedness that comes from Lattimore’s decision to use slightly unfamiliar forms of some of the characters’ names – Achilleus for Achilles, and Aias for Ajax, for example. Hopefuly, though, as time goes by, I’ll get more into my Homeric groove and these problems will disappear.

Orlando Furioso – Ariosto
tr. David R. Slavitt

I wish I could read this every day! Orlando Furioso is a very fun read and Slavitt’s translation is as accessible as an open door. It is very informal making sometimes for a very jokey text.

And there it is, easy as pie, although
why pie is easy is difficult to explain.
(Canto 2 Stanza 72 Lines 1-2)

I share your pain, Ariosto; I can’t explain it, either. In its way, Orlando Furioso reminds me of The Colour of Magic. We are in a magical world full of strange characters and weird and wonderful events – hippogryphs, blindingly bright shields and disappearing castles being just a few recent examples.

I have now finished the second canto. It ends with the brave knight Bradamante facing death after being betrayed by Pinabello. Bradamante, by the way, is a woman. Not that I have a great knowledge of mediaeval knights, but I had never heard of a female knight before. Will she be a short-lived knight? I doubt it but we shall see.

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