1. Exquisite Tweets from @EmilyRCWilson

    PreoccupationsCollected by Preoccupations

    Odysseus is a man of many epithets, many implying multiplicity ("poly-"), and many disguises. He makes up multiple false identities. He's Man and No Man. He's from Crete, from Troy, from Ithaca, from everywhere. There are puns on his name ("odyssomai"-'to be angry').

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Dr Emily Wilson

    Penelope is constantly veiled (NOT disguised). Her word-play focuses not on her own name (about which, predictably, the ancients had theories), but the city of Troy, for which her husband has abandoned her for 20 years. Her life is defined by absence & somewhere she isn't.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Dr Emily Wilson

    She calls it "Kakoilion", "Badtroy". It's a striking verbal coinage, renaming the city in terms of her own perception. Like the weaving trick, Penelope's cleverness serves only to undo, like always speaking under erasure or behind a veil: she throws a veil over Badtroy.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Dr Emily Wilson

    T. E. Lawrence has her call Troy "Destroy". Fagles copies this, with acknowledgment:
    A black day it was
    when he took ship to see that cursed city...
    Destroy, I call it -- I hate to say its name!

    "To see" is an interesting euphemism for Odysseus' purposes in going to Troy.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Dr Emily Wilson

    Lattimore has no wordplay:

    It was on a bad day for him that Odysseus boarded/ his hollow ship for that evil, not-to-be-mentioned Ilion.

    No verbal inventiveness. He adds "FOR HIM", to gloss κακῇ αἴσῃ: the real victim of the curse of the Trojan War was Odysseus.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Dr Emily Wilson

    Lombardo, similarly:

    When Odysseus left in his hollow ship
    for Ilion, that curse of a city.

    No wordplay, and the lack of it, to me, makes her sound a lot more irrational: as if she really thinks poor old Troy is to blame for its own invasion.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Dr Emily Wilson

    The Fitzgerald one is interesting:
    "Unkind
    the fate that sent him young in the long ship
    to see that misery at Ilion, unspeakable".
    This Penelope again thinks her husband was a victim; adds "young" and makes fate the subject of the sentence. Poor city-sacking Odysseus.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Dr Emily Wilson

    The Stephen Mitchell one makes her sound like a prim suburban mom, not wanting to say a rude word in public:

    "It was an evil day when Odysseus sailed off
    to that city whose evil name I can't bear to mention".

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Dr Emily Wilson

    Here is mine:
    A curse sailed on that ship
    when he went off to see Evilium --
    the town I will not name.

    I coined a fake place-name. It's always fun for a translator to grapple with puns and wordplay.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Dr Emily Wilson

    It didn't occur to me, until doing this exercise just now, that Penelope might be blaming Troy primarily for hurting Odysseus. However much you read, reread, read around and meditate on the text and the work, it's always hard to see beyond your own assumptions.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Dr Emily Wilson

    I realize I don't tend to assume that an abandoned wife wd feel pure sorrow for her husband's plight, with absolutely no taint of buried rage. Other translators obviously make different assumptions.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Dr Emily Wilson

    Here is Rosa Onesti's Italian:
    Con mala sorte sopra la concava nave partí
    Odisseo a veder Ilio esecrata, innominabile!

    Also no wordplay, and he's going "a veder" Troy, as if he's a tourist. The double adjectives at the end of the second line seems suitably furious.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Dr Emily Wilson

    It's too easy to say that Wilson's reading of Penelope is informed by Wilson being a woman. That's true, but not the whole picture. Onesti also = a woman, & obv makes different assumptions about Penelope, about marriage, & about language.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Dr Emily Wilson