My reading journal has fallen slack for too long, but now it’s August, the book manuscript has just gone off for reports on the second draft, and I have a few blissful weeks to think about everything.
Andrew Nightingale and I have been reading long poems with a view to what makes them tick, and I chose the Aeneid because I’ve never read any classical epics. I picked the C. Day Lewis translation and was surprised at how readable it is. He somehow manages to balance a conversational tone with relating grand (and very bloody) events around the founding of Rome (my Latin is at pre-GCSE level, so not sure how far this is a feature of Virgil’s writing).
I found the manipulation of time and space interesting – the way that action is made to fit around the discussion of a character’s background or status, or comparisons with nature, or attention to customs. How the narrative is distended or shrunk in order to dwell on key moments.
Liked wolf similes the best:
Marauding wolves in a black fog, at a time when their rabid hunger
Has sent them blindly prowling, and the cubs they have left are waiting
At home, their gullets parched, so through the enemy barrage
We went as to certain death, we steadily made for the heart of
The city, and were engulfed in the black night’s ambient shade.
Amused by how they keep getting shipwrecked and yet always seem to have plenty of sheep or bullocks handy to sacrifice, and shiny things to give away as wrestling prizes. The whole thing is quite homoerotic, and apart from Camilla and the sister of Turnus women are generally pathetic – Dido some kind of proto-Bridget Jones.
Golden bough somewhat underwhelming – very cursory treatment of something that I’d assumed was super-important part of mythology. Perhaps it was the equivalent of a car explosion or bridge jump in action movies: the audience will be disappointed if it doesn’t feature, but to dwell on it for too long would be boring.
And surely every good boy deserves a Mum like Venus.