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Antigone, Original Amazing Punk Bitch
c is for cat

All great ideas come in the shower. It is axiomatic.

At least I think this is a great idea. I want to run it by you guys before I commit to it–maybe it is not a great idea! i trust you to tell me to save my ink if not.

So, most of you are probably peripherally aware that I studied Greek in college, and this is what my degree is in. Classics remains one of my abiding passions in life, which is actually understating it a bit. When I was studying, I naturally had to read Antigone at some point, which is a play by Sophocles about Oedipus’s kids and how great they did not turn out.

I fell in love with it. So hard. I was genuinely surprised at how different the play seemed to me in Greek–I’d even played Antigone before, because she is a young girl and therefore one of the few terrifyingly awesome Greek leads a youngster can play. And all the translations I’d ever seen were super excited about the Damn the Man aspect of the whole thing, the radio for the people attitude of Antigone toward monarchical power (which she tells to stuff it at great length, hooray democracy).

But reading it for myself, aside from the sheer astonishing beauty of the Greek text, I was struck by how not at all about that the play seemed in my eyes. Yes, Antigone tells Creon to take a long walk of a short pier, yes, she buries her brother and puts family above government, yes there is some Ra Ra Athens subtext about how kings are bad and should be defied–though all of this is enormously played up in French and American translations where we have a vested interest in shitting on kings.

But to me, what the play was clearly about was this strange, fucked up girl. What it was about was sex and death. The political stuff is like an intermission before we get back to this necrophiliac incestuous instinct playing itself out horribly but gorgeously. It’s not a mistake that the famous choral ode in Antigone is not about sticking it to the man, but about the power of the sexual drive.

Anyway, as you can tell, I was and am super into this idea of Antigone. It was the first time I thought: I could translate this ancient thing and actually say something new (ish. There’s no such things as new-new in Classics, but I could make it Different. I could make it wild and strange). And at 21 I resolved to translate it.

I’m 32, and it hasn’t happened. I got really busy with publishing fiction and I didn’t finish my graduate program and Life Happened. And now I’m at a point where I still want to do it, I would be quite upset if I died without doing it, but writing work piles up month upon month and I can’t really squeeze in a major project that has no external impetus to complete, where no one would care if I never did it but me. And it’s tough sell to my bank account to write what amounts to a new book without some kind of bill-paying ability attached to it.

And the thing is, no academic press would be interested in a translation by me. I have an undergrad degree, I am an SFF writer which is like not being a writer at all in academia, and Antigone has been translated a whole lot. Plays are brutally hard to get published and academic press contracts are some of the worst I’ve ever seen. So even if I did it, it would probably sit on my hard drive and cry bitter Grecian tears.

And in the shower today I was thinking about how I am useless for not having done this thing yet and I thought: huh. But, you know, hoo-rah democracy. I don’t need an academic press.

But I do need a way to keep myself on the rails if I ever hope to even write it.

Which brings me to Kickstarter.

So what if I did a Kickstarter project to fund a new translation of Antigone?

It is easily as much work as a full novel, as I’ll have to brush up on my Greek and do a tremendous amount of research, some of which only comes in expensive books. I’d have no intention of doing a Super Accurate Translation, as that’s been done and handily by many folks. I’d be translating the feeling, using all my fun postmodern language tools to make the plethora of words for screwing and dying Greek has into something rich and new in English. I could make my gothsexrage Antigone come alive. If we hit a certain amount I could hire an artist to illustrate it, a certain amount above that and I could include a collection of original poems on classical subjects. I’d put it out on the Kindle (plus BN and epub, Smashwords, etc) and Lulu, (or maybe even serialize the process online) and it could be something really extraordinary, something that doesn’t interfere with my novel options, without getting lost in the labyrinth of the academic presses in which I have little clew these days.

This is my thought. It excites me. I look at my Great Scott (mother of all Greek dictionaries) on the shelf and give it the come-hither look. I remember that I have my old 21-year-old translations of the first several scenes on an old hard drive. I wonder if it a thing that wants to exist, if it was a thing people would support.

What do you think?

Mirrored from cmv.com. Also appearing on @LJ and @DW. Read anywhere, comment anywhere.

It is most definitely a thing I would personally support a whole lot (that not being a financial term. Studentdom means "a whole lot" is relatively small, sadly); after all, as a Classical man myself (albeit with sod-all language) and a major fan of your literary style, I would absolutely love to see what you and your postmodern toolbox and your non-academy freedom could do with Antigone.

So... pretty please?

(Also, Great Scott? Is that perhaps what we in the UK know as Liddell and Scott, or an American equivalent in terms of its ubiquity?)

Heh. Yes. We call the three dictionaries the Little Liddell, the Middle Liddell, and the Great Scott. I was under the impression that was a Britishism, but perhaps not.

I think this is brilliant and I would be thrilled to read it when done. Would definitely kick some fundage toward this project.

(Also, speaking as an academic librarian, I'm fairly confident that more people would actually READ your translation if you do it this way than via the academic press. And you're guaranteed to make more $$ off it.)

This also figured into the thought. I don't think many if any would teach it in class, nor do I think it would be likely to be produced as a play at any point, but more people would read it, and I think I would make more people fall in love with Antigone, than if I managed to get PodunkU to fund it and print 300 copies.

I would contribute to a Kickstarter project for this if I could get a non-Kindle ebook version. I would probably upgrade to get a printed version with illustrations in addition to the ebook. I'd love to read this!

Oh, of course, I'll fix that.

I'm working right now on a project that is at least peripherally about Antigone. (Antigone adjacent?) I would welcome a Valente translation--I think you would bring something rich and female and true to a book that seems deeply uncomfortable in its current English skin. I would gladly fork over on Kickstarter for such a thing. DO IT!

You know I didn't think of that, but it's true. I think I have a better handle on being a fucked up young girl than the many, many men who have translated it.

I think YES. YES YES YES. And you know, if it takes the direction of a novelization of this vision of Antigone instead or in addition, I'd say YES to that too. But if it does become a translation in play format, I want to see it on stage with some truly kick-ass costuming. YES.

I thought about that. The thing is, where my passion lies on this is showing English speakers what the play is about in the original, going against the traditional reading. I don't really want to write a novel of it, I want to inhabit the play and change its skin. And to have translated a complete work before I kick it.

I translated the Bakkhai for my Masters thesis, and I'm still not sure whether the academic presses would want to publish it. (I really need to start querying, but am frozen with inertia, basically.)

But. I also have an idea for a rewrite of the Bakkhai, that I've been noodling with around in my head for some time. And while I should probably wait until I finish my dissertation, I know that a rewrite that has the flavor of a translation but in fact changes the setting and features much more interpretation than straight translation would be publishable in other venues.

So, I say yay, Kickstarter! But also, maybe consider a more dynamic rewrite? In any case, do be sure to put Perseus to work for you. It's down atm, but I found it invaluable while I was translating Euripides.

Oh Perseus and I are old friends.

I've made another comment here on the topic--I think the Bakkhai is riper for a rewrite, whereas part of the point would be to engage with the conversation about Antigone, to translate it--I can write a novel no problem, though Antigone doesn't interest me nearly as much as the big B on that score. But people would think I added in the sex and death. I want to show that it's there in the original.

But I can make it dynamic. Trust.

I don't have tons floating around in the way of money (yay being almost 30 and living above your parents garage and babysitting) but this is something I would proudly give a little to help get off the ground! I've always loooved Antigone, and despite being a traditionalist and a literalist in some ways, the Seamus Heaney version of Beowulf is my favourite by far, and something that gets at the emotional meat of the play would be amazing as far as I'm concerned. Especially with your writing style. So yeah. Go for it! ^_____^

Cat, that's a wonderful idea! I'd definitely contribute because, I too, fell in love with Antigone after reading it in HS. Everything you write is beautiful, so I have no doubt you'll make this just as fabulous!

What I would most be interested in, I think, is less a translation and more a retelling. I'd kick a few bucks at a Kickstarter for it either way, because I love Classical stuffs and I enjoy you and your writing and I believe that crowd-sourced indie projects rock, but a retelling with illustrations would make me want a paper copy and maybe a few more to pass around. An e-book would be fine, but the illustrations would be kind of wasted on that format, and I would love love love for it to be illustrated in places.

I'd do a print through Lulu, or possibly through a small press if they were interested.

I promise it would be different enough to not feel like a dry translation. Something more like my adaptation of the Descent of Inanna, or Logue's War Music.

Yes please. Sadly I'm unemployed, disabled, and poor, so the best I'd be able to do contribution wise is the lowest level to get the e-version. But
I love the story and a new and different translation would be awesome.

As an aside, I wish I had the facility with languages to learn Greek (I am half Greek, 2nd generation USian, but my family didn't speak it to their kids at home). I've failed repeatedly to even grasp spoken Greek let alone written Greek. So I've never read any of my family mythology in its native language which saddens me a lot as Greek myth was such a large part of my upbringing.

I'd kick in for it, is what I think.

This sounds awesome. I love Antigone. I'd contribute what I could.

I would be all over that, and hug the Kickstarter project and call it George. I'm flailing wildly through Homer right now, and would love to be able to get excited about some Greek project that's maybe a bit more in line with things I actually want to read about.

I think it sounds fantastic, as a fellow Classics enthusiast, but I am also speaking as a guy unable to donate so much as two bits to the Kickstarter project.

I'll donate the minimum in your name if the project gets going. Just paying forward.

Yes, yes, yes a thousand times yes.

I would love to read that, and I'd chip in to make it happen.

(Deleted comment)
Anne Carson's translation is about to drop; it's probably worth waiting for.

Can you link me to info on it?

I mean, I doubt it would put to rest my desire to say what I have to say on it.

I think it's brilliant, but as I'm someone who stopped with a MA in Medieval Studies I might be a wee bit biased towards we aberrant classical/medievalist types.

I think it would be even more brilliant as a translation that's a subtle part of a greater novel, something that would allow you to marry your loves. But I might be imagining too great a project. Babysteps, after all.

:) Go for it!!!

Anouilh's Antigone has a very special resonance for me because my high school theatre was in the middle of producing it when the Columbine Massacre happened just ten minutes away. We'd done this post-apocalyptic setting, and the raw emotion of the play meshed with the grief we all felt.

That being said, I would adore reading your version, and would definitely chip in for it.



The world would be a better place with this in it, and I would definitely contribute to the project in any way possible.

I'd be in and on board and all over that.

That sounds fabulous. Count me in!

I would buy the hell out of that. I would fund your kickstarter as much as I could (which, admittedly is not as much as I'd like), and I would pimp it on every forum I have to do so.

I LOVED Antigone as well, and your rendition of her, even just this small insight here, makes my heart sing.

DO IT!!! :)

Edited at 2012-02-04 08:34 pm (UTC)

I would totally contribute to this.


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