1. Exquisite Tweets from @EmilyRCWilson

    PreoccupationsCollected by Preoccupations

    The Homeric poems are very ancient and very alien and very formulaic. They are also vivid, direct, gripping, beautiful, enjoyable, ethically and psychologically complex works of narrative and poetic art. Translators have to choose which matters most: to alienate, or to engage.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    Why do some reviewers assume that translations that play up the poem’s repetitiveness & foreignness are self-evidently more “faithful” or less “partial” than those (like mine) that play up Homer’s beauty and clarity and depth?

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    A couple of recent reviews (Colin Burrow in LRB, & Susan Kristol in Weekly Standard) complain that (like many translators) I do creative things with the repeated epithets, & and various characters and relationships sound different in from other modern English translations.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    Most reviewers (NYT, WP, Atlantic, NPR, Telegraph, Guardian, New Republic, etc.) observed more or less the same qualities (meter, vividness, speed, emotion, readability, depth, humor, stylistic range), but treated them as positive attributes. Many ways of looking at a blackbird.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    There’s often slippage between two quite different claims. 1. Translators shouldn’t interpret (as if that were possible). 2. The interpretation of X. translation is superior to that of Y translation.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    Scholars debate about e.g. the representation of Telemachus, & of Penelope, & of Odysseus himself, in the Greek text. I tried to show the psychological complexity of these characters. Other translations, IMHO, tend to simplify the characters more.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    Like ancient readers, I'm interested in what the Homeric poems have to say about ethics, society, politics, human behavior. I don’t find easy answers. It seems to me a very modern idea, to try to read Homer with no emotional or ethical engagement, & no pleasure.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    Oddly, we tolerate the assertion that a boring or un-metrical or pompous, or obscure or ethically simple version of the complex, fast-paced, deeply moving Homeric poems might be the “literal” or "impartial" version, before the poetic fluff gets added in. Er…

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    Translators always have to make decisions about what the text they’re translating does & means. The translator knows she can’t convey everything 100% from one language into another, unless she’s an idiot, or just copies out the original (cf Borges’ “Pierre Menand”).

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    I'm trying to decide what lessons I can learn, for the Iliad, to fail better. Should I aim for a more foreignizing style? Is there any point in that, when the original is powerful, beautiful & clear, and there are plenty of unreadable English Iliads already? I don't know.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    Many recent translations are v. similar, in form (unmetrical), style (foreignizing), interpretation (heroizing), & cover art: often a boat, tho' most of the poem is set on land. This isn't the whole truth about Homer, and I'm not sure the world needs more of the same.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson