NABOKV-L post 0014457, Wed, 20 Dec 2006 19:31:57 +0000

Re: Soliloquies, American writers, Greek Gods
On 14/12/06 00:35, "Chaswe@AOL.COM" <Chaswe@AOL.COM> wrote:

> Stan Kelly-Bootle wrote:
> Homer's audiences KNEW the characters & endings and BELIEVED the stories; the
> Gods and Goddesses, mortals and semis were REAL not mythic.
> Some portion of Homer¹s audiences knew the stories and their endings. But
> every story, like every old joke, was once new to everybody at some stage in
> their lives. As for the Greeks implicitly believing that the Gods, Goddesses,
> mortals and semi-mortals were real: I very seriously doubt that. It is, imho,
> a bad mistake to take it for granted that early or ancient man was more stupid
> than modern man. The reverse is more likely, and in fact there is every reason
> for thinking that early man, and especially the Greeks, were more
> intelligent, and had keener minds than the human specimens of today.
> Cro-Magnon man actually had a bigger brain than modern man. However, the
> Greeks had a much deeper sense of how little they were in control of their
> destinies --- perhaps that serves to indicate their higher intelligence. Their
> personification of the Gods, the Fates and the Furies was therefore more
> vivid. Petersen¹s excellent film, Troy, presents this outstandingly well,
> imho. Who, today, can honestly say that they control their own lives? How,
> precisely, does free-will operate, when your father is shot by mistake, or
> your inheritance is confiscated, and you are exiled, force majeure?

Charles: you are right (here and there!). In the interests of list brevity I
oversimplified the Homeric experience! I had in mind the difference between
reading VN, where the characters & plots may be BELIEVABLE but only within
their own fictional framework (and, of course, the endings are often
surprising even after nth re-reading!) and the Homeric situation ‹ almost
the BIRTH of Western Literature and therefore requiring insights independent
of our contemporary views of fiction, authorship, and readership.
There is really SOLID evidence that Homer¹s audience either believed in its
Gods or carefully behaved according to such beliefs (how else do you
establish what people really believe?) ‹ we do know of the occasional
skeptic but, in general, life revolved around the rituals of devotion,
regular sacrifices to one¹s particular choices of deity ‹ recalling that the
POLYtheistic Greeks were remarkably TOLERANT to other religions/cults and
their choice of deities. It was those damned, boring MONotheists who
invented the murderous aspects of HERESY!

I certainly don¹t take the early Greeks as Œprimitives¹ or Œinferiors¹ -- G
H Hardy described Euclid¹s School of Geometers as FELLOWS OF ANOTHER
COLLEGE. (Euclid¹s ŒElements¹ remains the PEAK of mankind¹s intellectual
achievement!) -- and in the case of Greek religion, well, modern man¹s
beliefs and rituals are equally fantastical. Ponder the multi-polytheism of
Hinduism which leaves Olympus positively under-populated!

Personal poof: visit to the ancient Epidaurus open theatre in the 1960s
during the Colonel¹s revolt (I thought I saw a Coup d¹Etat). Oedipus Rex was
replaced by Philoctetes for political reasons. Indication that the old
mythic plots still reflect current realities. Audience largely local
peasants inc. black-shawled furies ‹ they followed the original Greek with
boos for villains & cheers for heroes, rather like a Brit pantomime, but
deadly serious.

I have Cowper¹s verse translation of the iLIAD on my iPOD [!], narrated by
Anton Lesser (3 CDs from Naxos). I also recommend Christopher Logue¹s WAR
MUSIC (Faber & Faber, 2002 ‹ FREE if you join the Poetry Book Society!) This
covers (I pick the verb with care) Books 1-4 and 16-19 of the Iliad, and is
highly relevant to our debate on VN and translation. Logue (who has no
Greek) calls it an ACCOUNT of Homer¹s epic. Among the many existing
translations he used (plus advice from Greek scholars) are those of CHAPMAN
and POPE. Which brings us back, yet again, to Pale Fire. Did you know that
Pope earned the equivalent of $2 million from his Homeric translations? Or
that when Chapman was accused of Œborrowing¹ from French cribs, he called
his accusers ³envious Windfuckers!²

Stan Kelly-Bootle

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