CLIMBING OLYMPOS, PART 4
On January 31, 2006, I sent an e-mail to Françoise
Delivet, who handles translations at publisher Robert
Laffont’s offices. Attached to this mail was
a file simply titled OLYMPOS, PART 4 OF 4.
My work was done.
Françoise printed the file, which completed a printout
of more than 1,300 pages, that was now in the office of editor
Gérard Klein. A few days later, he
wrote me that the translation was fine, and that I would receive
the copyedited printout late February, with instructions to
send it back, along with corrected files, for a May release
of the book.
Yeah, I cut it rather close on this one. Was two months late,
Remember a previous column, “Climbing
Olympos, Part 3”? I mentioned a quote from page 59 of
“But your reach should always exceed your grasp.”
Orphu alludes here to ANDREA DEL SARTO, a poem by Robert
Browning, who says: “a man’s reach should
always exceed his grasp”.
think outreached my grasp on OLYMPOS. To tell the truth, my
translation muscles haven’t stopped aching yet.
This previous column included a list of all the quotes I
managed to ferret out of Dan’s prose. My friend and
colleague Peter Robert found a few others,
as mentioned in the following column, “Places of Power”.
Of course, as I translated the book, I found more quotes,
some of them quite slyly hidden, and here is a list of them.
“Never, never, never, never, never.”
This, of course, comes from Shakespeare’s
KING LEAR (Act V, Scene III), and is used once again on page
“I hate that man like the very Gates of Death…”
This comes from Homer’s ILIAD (Book
IX), and was already used in ILIUM.
“Lies fallen and vanquished!”
This is the first of many quotes from Shelley’s
PROMETHEUS UNBOUND. I’d already noticed some of them–the
more visible ones–but the scenes in Tartarus and, later
on, on Olympos, are literally riddled with quotes from that
work–Zeus and Demogorgon do nothing but quote Shelley.
As far as I could ascertain, the only available French translation
of PROMETHEUS UNBOUND is a bunch of PDF files you can download
from the Bibliothèque nationale website. You can’t
imagine the fun I had perusing them…
“Ariel can call upon more resources than are dreamt
of in your philosophy…”
Now, do I really have to identify this one for you?
I forgot to mention the quotes from Keats’ ODE
TO A NIGHTINGALE and Shakespeare’s CYMBELINE, that are
clearly identified in the text.
“Die, Trojans, die!… till I butcher all the way
to sacred Troy!”
Achilles quotes Book XXI of the ILIAD.
I think that it covers it all, more or less. Except that–
In an e-mail he sent me on February 13, 2004 (two years to
the day as I type this), Dan warned me: “there are,
as you probably know, a lot of apocrypha and non-Homeric dramatic
subsets of Homer’s ILIAD…”
I should have paid attention.
As I was translating OLYMPOS, some scenes–Oenone’s
speech at Paris’ funeral, the women of Troy marching
to war, the death of Penthesilea–struck me as sounding
like quoted episodes, and yet, I couldn’t find them
in Homer. A quick search, and I discovered the work of one
was a Greek poet, who lived in or around Smyrna during the
4th century AD. He was not the first to try to “complete”
Homer’s work, but his long poem, THE FALL OF TROY, is
the one that survived the centuries. This work starts after
Hector’s death and ends after the fall of the city,
when the black ships of the Acheans sail away. A bridge between
the ILIAD and the ODYSSEY. (And I could make certain comparisons
with Robert E. Howard and the writers who tackled CONAN after
him–and there were a lot of them, including some favorites
of mine like Poul Anderson and Karl
Edward Wagner–but I won’t. Some literary
god may strike me with a lightning bolt…)
you want to look at an English translation of Quitus’
work, go there: http://omacl.org/Troy
What I had to do was find a French translation of Quintus,
which would help me with my work. Well, to make a long story
short, I plain couldn’t. Nothing in French on the web.
Not a book in print. All right, I thought, I’ll have
to do without.
as fate would have it, I found a gorgeous copy of LA FIN DE
L’ILIADE (one of the French titles) just as I was finishing
my translation, much too late to be of any use.
I bought it anyway: it’s not everyday you find a two-book
set printed on papyrus, whose publisher bears the name “A
l’Enseigne du Pot Cassé” (“At the
Sign of the Broken Pot”). This set was published in
1928, with a print run of 300 copies numbered from I to CCC
(limited edition), plus 2,500 copies numbered from 1 to 2,500
(trade edition), and 25 copies not for sale marked from A
to Z (don’t ask me which letter is missing).
My is set is not numbered. Must be review copies.
books are gorgeously illustrated by Henry Chapront
(1876-1965), a painter and illustrator, quite active
in book publishing–it seems he did grace a lot of books
put out by the aforementioned “Pot Cassé”,
a specialist in belles-lettres. You’ll find a sample
of his work on this page, including a horse that had quite
a different fate in OLYMPOS.
Before I leave you, one last quote–a long one, but
worth your time.
What you want? Of course you know what you want. You
want a dream like anyone else. But a dream, is that all? Just
look out there at what lies at your feet, look and be reassured.
For was there ever a man who stood on these shores and didn’t
dream? This is the Eastern Mediterranean, young Munk, the
birthplace of dreams. The men who gave our Western world its
gods and civilizations came from here, and with good reason.
What is the reason?
thought you’d never ask. Odd how the young disregard
the wisdom of age in order to discover things for themselves.
It’s almost as if matters of the spirit could never
be transmitted, only experienced. The reason, Munk? Light.
The purity of the light here. In this light a man senses there
are no limits for him in the world. He can see forever, and
that vision intoxicates him. It fires his heart and makes
him want to go and do, never to stop but to go farther, to
go deeper, more. Thus the curiosity of the Greeks of old and
their fearless explorations of the soul. Never has man surpassed
the dramas enacted on these shores twenty-five hundred years
ago, three thousand years ago. That was laughter, that was
tragedy, and it is what we know of life. Even today we know
no more. And strangely, modestly, they attributed their laughter
and their tragedy to the intervention of the gods. But it
just wasn’t so. The miracle of it was all theirs. It
was them. They stood on the these shores and wept and laughed
and lived those lives.
This comes from JERUSALEM POKER, a novel by Edward
Whittemore (1933-1995), part two of “The Jerusalem
Quartet” (reprinted in 2002 by Old Earth Book). The
man who speaks these words is Sivi, the self-styled Zeno of
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