“So this isn’t just an small error like when Rowling was criticized because the bio for her Robert Galbraith pen name said
that Robert was a veteran, or the book publishing industry’s practice of deceiving the public by hiring (and then not crediting) ghost writers.”
It even has a Margaret Atwood cameo.
Read more Gabbler Recommendations here.
“If you’re going to admit that stories matter,” Wilson told me, “then it matters how we tell them, and that exists on the level of microscopic word choice, as well as on the level of which story are you going to pick to start off with, and then, what exactly is that story? The whole question of ‘What is that story?’ is going to depend on the language, the words that you use.”
Throughout her translation of the “Odyssey,” Wilson has made small but, it turns out, radical changes to the way many key scenes of the epic are presented — “radical” in that, in 400 years of versions of the poem, no translator has made the kinds of alterations Wilson has, changes that go to truing a text that, as she says, has through translation accumulated distortions that affect the way even scholars who read Greek discuss the original. These changes seem, at each turn, to ask us to appreciate the gravity of the events that are unfolding, the human cost of differences of mind.
The first of these changes is in the very first line. You might be inclined to suppose that, over the course of nearly half a millennium, we must have reached a consensus on the English equivalent for an old Greek word, polytropos. But to consult Wilson’s 60 some predecessors, living and dead, is to find that consensus has been hard to come by. Chapman starts things off, in his version, with “many a way/Wound with his wisdom”; John Ogilby counters with the terser “prudent”; Thomas Hobbes evades the word, just calling Odysseus “the man.” Quite a range, and we’ve barely started. There’s Alexander Pope’s “for wisdom’s various arts renown’d”; William Cowper’s “For shrewdness famed/And genius versatile”; H.F. Cary’s “crafty”; William Sotheby’s “by long experience tried”; Theodore Buckley’s “full of resources”; Henry Alford’s “much-versed”; Philip Worsley’s “that hero”; the Rev. John Giles’s “of many fortunes”; T.S. Norgate’s “of many a turn”; George Musgrave’s “tost to and fro by fate”; the Rev. Lovelace Bigge-Wither’s “many-sided-man”; George Edgington’s “deep”; William Cullen Bryant’s “sagacious”; Roscoe Mongan’s “skilled in expedients”; Samuel Henry Butcher and Andrew Lang’s “so ready at need”; Arthur Way’s “of craft-renown”; George Palmer’s “adventurous”; William Morris’s “shifty”; Samuel Butler’s “ingenious”; Henry Cotterill’s “so wary and wise”; Augustus Murray’s “of many devices”; Francis Caulfeild’s “restless”; Robert Hiller’s “clever”; Herbert Bates’s “of many changes”; T.E. Lawrence’s “various-minded”; William Henry Denham Rouse’s “never at a loss”; Richmond Lattimore’s “of many ways”; Robert Fitzgerald’s “skilled in all ways of contending”; Albert Cook’s “of many turns”; Walter Shewring’s “of wide-ranging spirit”; Allen Mandelbaum’s “of many wiles”; Robert Fagles’s “of twists and turns”; all the way to Stanley Lombardo’s “cunning.”
One way of talking about Wilson’s translation of the “Odyssey” is to say that it makes a sustained campaign against that species of scholarly shortsightedness: finding equivalents in English that allow the terms she is choosing to do the same work as the original words, even if the English words are not, according to a Greek lexicon, “correct.”
“What gets us to ‘complicated,’ ” Wilson said, returning to her translation of polytropos, “is both that I think it has some hint of the original ambivalence and ambiguity, such that it’s both ‘Why is he complicated?’ ‘What experiences have formed him?’ which is a very modern kind of question — and hints at ‘There might be a problem with him.’ I wanted to make it a markedly modern term in a way that ‘much turning’ obviously doesn’t feel modern or like English. I wanted it to feel like an idiomatic thing that you might say about somebody: that he is complicated.”
I asked: “What about the commentator who says, ‘It does something that more than modernizes — it subverts the fundamental strangeness of the way Odysseus is characterized.’ I’m sure some classicists are going to say it’s flat out wrong, ‘Interesting, but wrong.’ ”
“You’re quite right,” she replied. “Reviewers will say that.”
How, I asked, would she address such a complaint from someone in her field?
“I struggle with this all the time,” Wilson said. “I struggled with this because there are those classicists. I partly just want to shake them and make them see that all translations are interpretations.” Most of the criticism Wilson expects, she says, will come from “a digging in of the heels: ‘That’s not what it says in the dictionary, and therefore it can’t be right!’ And if you put down anything other than what’s said in the dictionary, then, of course, you have to add a footnote explaining why, which means that pretty much every line has to have a footnote. …” Wilson paused. “That goes to what this translation is aiming to do in terms of an immersive reading experience and conveying a whole narrative. I don’t know what to say to those people, honestly.” Wilson laughed her buoyant laugh. “I need to have a better answer to them, because they will certainly review it, and they will certainly have a loud voice. They just seem to be coming from such a simple and fundamental misunderstanding.”
“Of what any translation is doing.”
What a translation is doing — and what it should do — has been a source of vigorous debate since there were texts to translate. “I’m not a believer,” Wilson told me, “but I find that there is a sort of religious practice that goes along with translation. I’m trying to serve something.”
“It may seem a stretch to claim that The Girl With All The Gifts is an anti-natalist story when its most pro-natalist characters aren’t necessarily pro-baby, but pro-species. The logic behind both, however, stems from the same selfish and oppressive choices. Humans, until this point, have treated the new, immune second generation like just another thing to be colonized to secure their own posterity. They subject the children to captivity and dissection. This is all done in search for an antidote so that the old generation of humans can keep on living and therefore breeding. It is never in the interest of the new generation/Other. It is here I would like to emphasize natalist vs. pro-natalist. Pro-natalism goes beyond the status quo of humans’ natalist tendencies to promote a birthrate without reason or through ignoring ethical critique.”
“The film’s weakness, however, lies within its use of the superfluous. Like other cyberpunk dystopias, 2049 heavily relies on Asian aesthetics to indicate the future. The neon kanji signs, the bustling Chinatown, Neander Wallace’s yukata, Joi’scheongsam. LAPD’s crime scene materials are labeled in English and Japanese. At some point, Los Angeles became a multicultural city, even more so than today, but where are its non-white citizens? I spotted maybe one or two Asians in passing when K was eating (a bento box!) in Chinatown. And have we ever seen a Replicant of color? If not, why is that? Whose future is this? Would non-white robot slaves be too on-the-nose, too uncomfortable for Hollywood to handle?”
“If the point of Blade Runner: 2049 is to examine what happens when clones/artificial intelligence gain sentience and the ability to reproduce, it’s already been explored much better by Ex Machina and Westworld. If the point of Blade Runner: 2049 is to suggest that it might be unpleasant to live in an environmental wasteland, let’s just say I have high hopes for Geostorm. If the point of Blade Runner: 2049 is to warn us that unregulated technology might be bad, it’s being done better right now by REAL LIFE and by Black Mirror in science fiction.”
“She did manage to avert revolt against her rule despite all of the stresses that occurred following the Nile failures and eruptions, in contrast to many of her male predecessors as Pharaohs,” Ludlow said. “Cleopatra seems to have been much better at disaster management than some of our modern politicians.”
“…Siri’s female voice—which exists on the phone with a lack of explanation—suggests that while our relationships with personal technologies are increasingly intimate, the technologies themselves continue to be read as feminine. From the telephone operators of the 50s and 60s to the disembodied woman announcing the next public transit stop, female voices have been speaking for technologies throughout history while the voices and opinions of women have largely not been heard in the process of designing these technologies.
In 1984, feminist philosopher Donna Haraway dreamt up a feminist sci-fi subject in her “Cyborg Manifesto.” Haraway imagined a future where femininity and technology meet to transcend binary gender and sexuality and reimagine intimacy and power in ways that were not previously conceived of. Living in a post-gender world, the Cyborg is a woman-technology hybrid. Able to escape race, gender, class systems, and structured power relations, the Cyborg has acted as a utopian ideal for exploring post-corporeal feminist possibilities.
Siri, as well as other digital assistants like Alexa, Cortana, and Google Now, can be seen as an upgrade to these technologies and the actual women they replace. Not only will Siri perform secretarial work from your palm, but she has a clever yet constrained personality. She performs the role of feminized emotional labour that was unable to be replicated by earlier, less sophisticated assistants. Siri fulfills the fantasy of a machine, which performs the labour of women without being affected by stress, relationships, or the burden of a carnal casing.
As Jack Halberstam, gender theorist and queer philosopher, suggests, gender itself is technology, and technology is given a female identity when it must seduce the user into thinking of it as desirable or benign. As the telephone operators of the 1950s demonstrate, a good vocal user interface is one that does not draw attention to itself or its labour, one who is there to help us as a faithful chattel, but never an equal.”
“But the controversy also raises questions about another issue that touches directly upon writing: this is the way in which literature is coming to be embedded within a wider culture of public spectacles and performances. This process, which got under way almost imperceptibly, has now achieved a momentum where it seems to be overtaking, and indeed overwhelming, writing itself as the primary end of a life in letters.
A frequently heard argument in favour of book festivals is that they provide a venue for writers to meet the reading public. Although appealing, this argument is based on a flawed premise in that it assumes that attendance is equivalent to approbation. Books, by their very nature often give offence and create outrage, and this is bound to be especially so in circumstances where there are deep anxieties about how certain groups are perceived and represented. In democratic societies, those who are offended or outraged are within their rights to express their views so long as they refrain from violence and remain within certain limits. They are even entitled to resort to demonstrations, dharnas, occupations and the like; in circumstances where any arm of the government plays a role people are entitled also to press for the withdrawal of public funds or sponsorship (something like this has already happened in the US in relation to publicly-funded TV and radio channels). The equation is quite simple: to expand the points of direct contact between writers and the public is also to increase the leverage of the latter over the former.
Writers and readers have not always stared each other in the face. Until quite recently most writers shrank from the notion of publicly embracing their readership. I remember once being at an event with the American novelist William Gaddis: this was in the nineteen-nineties and he was in his seventies then. A major figure in American post-modernism Gaddis had been reared in a very different culture of writing: he would not sign copies or take questions from readers. He refused even to read aloud from his book. After much persuasion he agreed to sit silently in front of the audience while someone else read out passages from his work. When we talked about this afterwards he said quite categorically that he believed that books should have lives of their own and that writers could only diminish the autonomy and integrity of their work by inserting themselves between the reader and the text.”
Recommend a BookTuber video in the comments and it could make our Tuesday post!
[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]
The very first word in the history of Western literature is “rage” or “wrath.” For that is how Homer’s “Iliad” begins. Composed some time in the eighth century B.C., it starts with a call to the Muse, the goddess of inspiration, to help tell the story of the “wrath” of Achilles (menin in the original Greek) — and of the incalculable sorrows and the terrible deaths of so many brave warriors that this wrath caused. Homer’s epic, set during the mythical war between Greeks and Trojans, is as much about anger, private vendetta and its fatal consequences as it is about heroic combat and the clash of two ancient superpowers. What happens, the poem asks, when your best warrior is so furious at a personal insult that he withdraws from the war and simply refuses to fight? What are the costs, to use the modern coinage, of “Achilles sulking in his tent”?
In “Enraged,” Emily Katz Anhalt, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College, offers an engaging and sometimes inspiring guide to the rich complexities of the “Iliad.” Her underlying point is that, from its earliest origins, Western literature questioned the values of the society that produced it. The “Iliad” is no jingoistic Greek anthem, proudly celebrating the achievements of its warrior heroes and their struggles for military, political and personal glory (their struggles, as she sums it up, to be “best”). The poem both encapsulates and simultaneously challenges that worldview, by asking what “bestness” is and what the costs of such a competitive culture are.
The 10-year Trojan War was fought to protect the honor of one Greek king, whose wife, Helen, had been stolen by — or had run off with — a Trojan prince. It must always have been very hard to listen to the “Iliad” (it was originally delivered orally) without wondering whether being “best” really should mean deploying almost unlimited resources and sacrificing the lives of countless friends and allies to avenge such a personal slight. Or, to put it in our terms, was the military response proportionate to the provocation? The dilemma in Homer’s plot, which focused on a few days’ slice of the action, is similar. In a public contest of bravado, clout and honor, Achilles had been forced to give up a captive girl, who was his favorite spoil of war, to the Greek commander in chief, Agamemnon. It was for that reason — the dishonor more than the girl herself — that he sulked off from the fight and by his absence caused the deaths of many dear to him. “Was he justified?” is the obvious and, in terms of traditional heroic codes of honor, the radical question.
No less radical are the different perspectives on the story that Homer encourages his listeners and readers to adopt.
“Dependency has been used to justify slavery, patriarchy, imperialism, colonization, and disability oppression. The language of dependency is a brilliant rhetorical tool, allowing those who use it to sound compassionate and caring while continuing to exploit those they are supposedly concerned about.
In many ways the thinking behind the humane meat movement is a philosophy built on the idea of independence. Domesticated animals and human being shave evolved together to be interdependent—animals help human beings, and we in turn help the animals—or so the argument goes… Instead a disability perspective on interdependence recognizes that we are all vulnerable and receive care (more often than not doing both at once) over meat conversation is a much-needed analysis of what it means to be accountable to beings who are vulnerable.
People also justify it through ableist conceptions of the natural and of dependency, which suggest that there is a depoliticized thing called ‘nature’ that determines what kinds of bodies and minds are exploitable and killable, and that excuses uses those who are weaker and dependent for our own benefit. When animal commodification and slaughter is justified through ableist positions, veganism becomes a radical anti-ableist position that corporeality—socially, politically, environmentally, and in what we consume. In other words, veganism is not just about food-it is an embodied practice of challenging ableism through what we eat, wear, and use and a political position that takes justice for animals as integral to justice for disabled people… Veganism is an embodied act of resistance to objectification and exploitation across difference—a corporeal way of enacting one’s political and ethical beliefs daily.” – Sunaura Taylor, Beasts of Burden.
“The interesting question at this point is not whether fan fiction can be good, by familiar literary standards. (Of course it can; cf. Virgil.) Rather, it’s this: What is fan fiction especially, or uniquely, good at, or good for? Early defenses presented the practice as a way station, or an incubator. Writers who started out with fanfic and then found the proper mix of critique and encouragement could go on to publish “real” (and remunerated) work. Other defenses, [focused] on slash, described it as a kind of safety valve: a substitute for desires that could not be articulated, much less acted out, in our real world. If women want to imagine sex between people who are both empowered, and equal, the argument ran, we may have to imagine two men. In space.
It’s true that a lot of fanfic is sexy, and that much of the sex is kinky, or taboo, or queer. But lots of fanfic has no more sex than the latest “Spider-Man” film (which is to say none at all, more or less). Moreover, as that shy proto-fan T. S. Eliot once put it, “nothing in this world or the next is a substitute for anything else.” It’s a mistake to see fanfic only as faute de mieux, a second choice, a replacement. Fanfic can, of course, pay homage to source texts, and let us imagine more life in their worlds; it can be like going back to a restaurant you loved, or like learning to cook that restaurant’s food. It can also be a way to critique sources, as when race-bending writers show what might change if Agent Scully were black. (Coppa has compared the writing of fanfic to the restaging of Shakespeare’s plays.)
Moreover, fanfic requires neither cultural capital nor much actual capital to make. You don’t have to take a class, or move to the city, or find an angel, or find an agent; most of your readers may never know your offline name. For all these reasons, fanfic can give its creators a powerful sense of participatory equality. In this respect, what Coppa calls its “defiantly amateur” scene is a far cry from the world of trade publishers and prestige novelists, and a bit more like the avant-garde-poetry world in the nineteen-seventies, where the slogan was “Work your ass off to change the language & never get famous,” or else like American indie rock before Nirvana, except that—and it’s a notable difference—the fanfic world is largely female.”
Read more about Ron on The Automata Blog.