Wednesday, February 15, 2012

An Artificial Wilderness





Edward Luttwak in the LRB on Homer around the world:

Indeed, Japanese familiarity with Homer can be excessive: I once saw a manga in which the central focus of the Trojan War was a voluptuous nymphomaniac Helen, while the central object of the great quarrel was a sadistically ravaged Briseïs, even though in the Iliad Agamemnon swears ‘by the greatest of oaths’ that he never went into her bed or slept with her (no Clintonesque reservations here, please), while Achilles calls Briseïs his darling wife, adding: ‘I loved her with all my heart though I had captured her with my spear.’ This sort of soft porn abuse would not be allowed if Homer Inc had the revocation powers that McDonald’s Corporation exercises from Oak Brook, Illinois over its franchisees in 119 countries – nor would the new Stephen Mitchell translation be allowed.
Luttwak ponders the enduring popularity of the Iliad in tones of high, wondering cantankerousness. We think a lot about contemporaneity & it's only just imaginable that the Iliad could ever cease to be contemporary. What's slightly less clear is why this should be so.