Saturday, December 4, 2004

Homer everywhere

From The End: Hamburg 1943, by Hans Erich Nossack, translated by Joel Agee, an eyewitness account of the firebombing of Hamburg:

A few airplanes caught fire and fell like meteors into the dark. . . . Where they crashed, the landscape lit up for minutes. Once the silhouette of a distant windmill stood out against one such white incandescence. There was no feeling of cruel satisfaction at the defeat of an enemy. I remember that on one such occasion some women on the roof of a neighbor's house clapped their hands, and how at the time I angrily thought of the words with which Odysseus forbade the old nurse to rejoice over the death of the Suitors: "Old woman, rejoice in silence; restrain yourself, and do not make any noise about it; it is an unholy thing to vaunt over dead men."
[The quotation is from Samuel Butler's prose translation.]

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