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This article is taken from PN Review 184, Volume 35 Number 2, November - December 2008.

The Flâneur: Catullus, Martial and Frank O'Hara Simon Smith

In her book Translating Words, Translating Cultures (Duckworth, 2000) Lorna Hardwick broadens the traditional idea of translation to include

interpretation of the wider meaning of the source text, both in its own time and for later readers. This aspect raises big questions about how the translator/writer views the relationship between ancient and modern, not just in terms of language but also in terms of values and ideas. The relationship between the two texts is also shaped by the readers or audience, who receive the new version and in turn give it their meaning. (p. 10)

Hardwick's book provides a necessary map and much of interest; however, there are more radical ways of thinking about the process of translation. One such way might be to examine cultural, theoretical and philosophical equivalences (or differences) between works of translation now undertaken in the early twenty-first century, and poems and their contexts from the Roman world.

Four things came together as I was preparing this: looking over Poem 10 by Catullus; looking back at Martial's epigram Book V Poem 20; then leafing through the new four-volume set of Walter Benjamin's Selected Writings, alongside the hefty Arcades Project in the bookshop; and later that day finding, second-hand, Lucretius' The Nature of Things translated by A.E. Stallings, on one of those book-stalls outside the National Film Theatre. Browsing and leafing collected together the necessary materials ...


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