ODES : HORACE

Classics for All Reviews

translated by David R. Slavitt.

Wisconsin (2014) p/b 184pp £10.50 (ISBN 978029854 8)

In his introduction to The Penguin Book of Modern Verse Translation, George Steiner refers to Borges’ story of a man toiling his life away translating Don Quixote into the original Spanish. We all know that complete translation is an impossibility, and that a mode of expression as unique as a poem just adds to the difficulties. This is why the reader needs to know what the translator is trying to achieve with his or her approximation.

Slavitt has no doubt about his job, and reveals in his brief notes the additions, subtractions and changes he made ‘to get to what I believe Horace wrote’: so no historical and literary notes to align the English with the Latin. What readers get are the poems on the page, and no more, to render an Horatian experience. He hopes…

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