Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"[I]n my own hand, in my own notebook"

Q. How did you work on the translations?

A. I had this whole routine worked out while doing the Homer. I wrote out every line of Greek in my own hand, book by book, a big notebook for each book. One line to two blank lines. As I went through the Greek and copied it out in my own hand, I would face the difficulties -- any crux that turned up, questions of interpretation -- and try to work them out. I accumulated editions with notes and so on as I went along. So before I was through, I had acquired some of the scholarship that was relevant to my problems. But always, in the end, it was simply the Greek facing me, in my own hand, in my own notebook.
Robert Fitzgerald, "The Art of Translation," interview with Edwin Frank and Andrew McCord, Paris Review (Winter 1984). Reprinted in The Third Kind of Knowledge: Memoirs and Selected Writings, ed. Penelope Laurans Fitzgerald (New York: New Directions, 1993).

The image above, showing the opening line of Iliad 3, is a small part of a reproduction of a manuscript page accompanying the interview. (In the Greek, the episodes of the poem are lettered, not numbered; 3 is gamma.) Fitzgerald's Odyssey appeared in 1961; his Iliad in 1974.

Related post
Words from Robert Fitzgerald

comments: 0