The Literary Salon

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Sundry Sunday verses

Just a couple of random thoughts:

--I finished reading Racine's Andromaque (Andromache) in the original French, although I had recourse to an English translation which, despite my less than perfect understanding of French, I found (to quote Sam Johnson) not excellent in parts, and contemptible in others. I'm told Racine is impossible to translate into English. He's certainly very difficult, but I can see why one would get the impression. If I knew no French and read my English translation of the play, I would leave very unimpressed and full of ennui. I thank the skies that I know as much French as I do so that I can, with some effort and difficulty, read this noble poet in his own element. I cannot say of his other plays, but Andromaque has a plot that is incredibly simple, simple to the point where one feels that he has missed something. Without doubt his biggest grace is his language: I think it would not be inaccurate to call Racine the French Shakespeare. I may expatiate on him in another post...It is sad but true that, for whatever reason, Racine has been consigned to oblivion in in the non-French speaking world, whereas Shakespeare is well known in, say, France. Perhaps this is why most (but not all) classical authors have suffered a similar fate: there's little point in reading these authors, such as Horace, in translation.

--For the first time in about three or four years (my most formative years in University), I picked up a handsome volume of Orwell's essays. I remember paying over thirty dollars CAN for it when it first came out sometime around 2002-03. I remember reading some of these essays with alacrity years ago, and the thought brings up feelings of felicity mingled with sadness, in much the same way as looking at an old family photo from years past. Among other essays, I re-read Orwell's essay "In Defense of the Novel," written in 1936 but for the most part accurate today. Among his other witticisms, Orwell tells us

"when all novels are thrust upon you as works of genius, it is natural to assume that most of them are tripe."

As true in 1936 as it is now, if not truer now. I think later tonite I shall read his essay on Shakespeare and Tolstoy and/or an imaginary interview between Orwell and Swift. I have never read the latter, but you don't have to be Northrop Frye to see the connection between the two authors: Orwell's delectably caustic wit is reminiscent of the irate Irish Dean.

--I watch movies about as rarely as a bum bathes, but I went to see V for Vendetta with a buddy of mine last night. For whatever reason I'm not a film buff, but this was one of the best movies I've seen in years. It starts off by discussing Guy Fawkes' attempted conflagration of Parliament in 1605 on November 5. The movie then turns to an England set in the future which, though it has prevailed over America, is quite Orwellian/dystopian. Without giving anything away, I must say that the plot and dialogue were beyond reproach, and there was nothing in the movie that made it weaker, a rarity these days where even decent movies are attenuated by bad directorial/editing choices.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Remember, remember the fifth of November
The gunpowder treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot."
~Guy Fawkes

His name is spelled Fawkes not Fox.

John

6:21 PM  
Blogger Pious Labours said...

Thanks, I can't believe I missed that (I've never read about Guy Fawkes, but I learnt about him through a documentary some months ago). Needless to say, I should've done my research...

8:01 PM  

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