Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Two new translations, plus some ways to lie about dick jokes

New translations! Nothing big or clever, just two versions I worked up this morning at the Honda dealer while they coded me some new keys for the bike. Short ones, then, and on the naughty side:


No way I'll marry Telesina - she's a slut. Then again - Telesina does boys. Okay, I'm in.


Your boy's dick is sore, Naevolus; and so's your arse. I'm no detective, but I know your game.

While I waited, I also flicked through a 1985 selection from Martial in translation by Peter Whigham. Some classicists may know him as the translator of Catullus for the Penguin Classics back in 1966, a version praised by some critics at the time, but on the whole regretted by readers familiar with Catullus on account of an impressionistically loose relation to the text and a slipshod disregard for ancient-world realities such as proper names.

Whigham's archaism-laced Martial (titled Letter to Juvenal) ploughs a roughly similar furrow, except there's no ploughing of furrows... so to speak. No taboo sex, no dirty words, no boy-stuff if it can be helped:

 'To read The Index [Expurgatorius, i.e., the small number of poems excluded from the otherwise complete Bohn translation of the 19th century] is admittedly to flirt with nausea, but the obscenity remains that of the toilet wall. At best, witty; often boring (too often boring in an obcure way); at worst repellent - prurient fixations... Leave [the obscene poems] one one side and his poetic ipmulse seems unaffected.'
 Sexy is boring! Pornographically precise is incomprehensibly vague! We best respect the spirit of the poet by ignoring his actual work! These are old pretexts for expurgation; it's mildly entertaining to see them being trotted out as late as the 1980s, and I might come back to Whigham's version of them another time.

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