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This article is taken from PN Review 199, Volume 37 Number 5, May - June 2011.

A Single-Minded Homer: On Christopher Logue's War Music André Naffis-Sahely
In his essay 'Tragedy and the Whole Truth' (1931), Aldous Huxley writes: 'Every good book gives us bits of the truth, would not be a good book if it did not. But the whole truth, no. Of the great writers of the past incredibly few have given us that. Homer is one of those few.' This is certainly one of the reasons why the Iliad and Odyssey are among the works most translated in any European language, and have been constantly re-adapted over the centuries. Yet there is still no definitive Homer - and never will be. No single translator, not even the best, can lay claim to a work; all one can aspire to is a temporary lease. Matthew Arnold had some good advice for would-be translators: be rapid, plain, direct and finally - noble. How should one define this 'nobility'? Well, for instance, despite its male-orientated plot, much of the Iliad's great dialogue is in fact spoken by women: Andromache, Hecuba, Briseis. When they open their mouths, the conflict ceases. Considering that many of the episodes from both the Odyssey and the Iliad have filtered through into the other great epics of world literature - what is Sindbad if not an Oriental Odysseus? - one has to wonder whether the original inspiration for Scheherazade didn't first come from the Iliad. Like Scheherazade, the women in Homer's epics don't stave off war with the music of their words for their benefit alone, but also for that of others. As a ...


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