Anthony Esolen reviews Peter Green’s new translation of the Iliad:
Green combines prodigious knowledge of the language of the poem and the history surrounding it, with the astute judgment that used to characterize the scholar, weighing evidence, suggesting possibilities, never compelling a work of art to dance to a modish political or theoretical tune. Not surprisingly, he makes the more conservative of the two paradigmatic choices of the translator. That is, Green wishes above all to make the strangeness and the Greek peculiarity of the original available to the reader without Greek, rather than to render the Greek into a current argot. The former sort of translator strives for accuracy and is willing to put up with—or to embrace—a certain distance from the reader; the latter sort strives for an immediate impression and is willing to lose what is strange, sometimes even what is grand. The former sort of translator preserves, for example, the suggestiveness of the Hebrew, and writes, “And Adam knew his wife,” while the second abandons the original verb, and writes, “And Adam had relations with his wife.” Of course there are quite a few variations of these paradigms, not to mention translations that waver between them, with varying degrees of fidelity to the bumps and grooves of literal or figurative language.
I think I may need to consider this version my next reading . . . although I have long loved Lattimore’s translation.
Another reason to read the article is Dr. Esolen’s review: his enchanting introduction to Homer:
Imagine journeying on foot through a vast cold upland desert, here and there littered with signs that men once dwelt there and flourished; a broken column, shards of pottery, an arm from a statue, a sword riddled with rust. Then you climb a high ridge and all at once you see below you a town bustling with action. There are gardens and orchards, and a broad deep river, and men building barges to float their goods to other towns downstream. There are large, handsome public buildings, with scribes recording the proceedings. There is a knot of boys sitting on the ground in front of a man with a white beard, instructing them in heroic song. Something like that is what happened when Greece awoke from her dark age, and, according to tradition, a blind poet named Homer, at the dawn of Western civilization itself, composed what many people consider to be our first and greatest songs, the Iliad and the Odyssey.