Friday 15 August 2014

Analysts, Translators, and Commentators: ἄντηστις in Od.20.387.

R.D. Dawe on Odyssey XX.389:

"389 if all 347-389 were ejected, we should lose a whole mass of problems beginning with the alien jaws and ending with the sudden manifestation of Penelope 'opposite'. Even the manner in which 'opposite' is expressed is linguistically peculiar; as Bekker pertinently asked, opposite what? '"Opposite the hall, say the translators, but only a translator talks like that.' [30] With the deletion, the sequence is 'But Pallas Athene started laughter which could not be damped down among the suitos and led their minds astray; for they were laughing as they prepared their welcome and congenial dinner. But nothing could be more unlovely...'."

Note 30 reads: 'P. 131: 'dem sale, sagen die uebersetzer: aber so redet nur ein uebersetzer'.

Some times translators are more helpful than commentators. The latter can, and do, skip words (or even syllables), lines, or sentences, but the former have to deal with the whole text, whether word by word or idea by idea. However, since translators are also free work at a level higher than that of the individual word or its constituents, they can fill in the gaps and, in this instance, answer Bekker's question.

E.V. Rieu in his Penguin (1991: 315, revised by D.C.H Rieu) goes for the sense of Od.20.387-9: "The prudent Penelope, Icarius' daughter, had placed her beautiful chair where she was able to hear every word spoken by the men in the hall."

Of course, translators need not follow the text closely. Michael Grant in his preface to his revision of Robert Graves' Penguin translation of Suetonius Lives of the Caesars (1979: 10) discusses an extreme instance of this as follows:
"Why, then, have I been asked to 'edit' it? Because Robert Graves (who explicitly refrained from catering for students) did not aim at producing a precise translation - introducing, as he himself points out, sentences of explanation, omitting passages which do not seem to help the sense, and 'turning sentences, and sometimes even groups of sentences, inside-out'. But I feel that Mr Graves has been too modest in this willingness to exclude from his readership those who want greater verbal exactitude; and indeed time has proved this conjecture right, since admiration for the style of his Suetonius has been great, and does not flag. What I have tried to do, therefore, is to make such adjustments as will bring his version inside the range of what is now generally regarded by readers of the Penguin Classics as a 'translation' - without, I hope, detracting from  his excellent and inimitable manner."

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