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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, actually…

Remember a previous column, “Climbing Olympos, Part 3”? I mentioned a quote from page 59 of the book:

“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”.

I 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.


Page 178
“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 635.

Page 275
“I hate that man like the very Gates of Death…”
This comes from Homer’s ILIAD (Book IX), and was already used in ILIUM.

Page 489
“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…

Page 492
“Ariel can call upon more resources than are dreamt of in your philosophy…”
Now, do I really have to identify this one for you?

Page 636
I forgot to mention the quotes from Keats’ ODE TO A NIGHTINGALE and Shakespeare’s CYMBELINE, that are clearly identified in the text.

Page 655
“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 Quintus Smyrnaeus.

Quintus 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…)

If 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.

And, 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.

The 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?

I 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 Smyrna.

Best,

 

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