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 Homer’s 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. Petersen’s 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 Homer’s 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 one’s 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 don’t take the early Greeks as ‘primitives’ or ‘inferiors’ -- G H Hardy described Euclid’s School of Geometers as FELLOWS OF ANOTHER COLLEGE. (Euclid’s ‘Elements’ remains the PEAK of mankind’s intellectual achievement!) -- and in the case of Greek religion, well, modern man’s 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 Colonel’s revolt (I thought I saw a Coup d’Etat). 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 Cowper’s verse translation of the iLIAD on my iPOD [!], narrated by Anton Lesser (3 CDs from Naxos). I also recommend Christopher Logue’s 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 Homer’s 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 ‘borrowing’ from French cribs, he called his accusers “envious Windfuckers!”

Stan Kelly-Bootle

Search the Nabokv-L archive at UCSB

Contact the Editors

All private editorial communications, without exception, are read by both co-editors.

Visit Zembla

View Nabokv-L Policies