Inici > Traduccions de la Ilíada > La reescriptura de la Ilíada per Christopher Logue

La reescriptura de la Ilíada per Christopher Logue

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Christopher Logue (23-11-1926 – 2-12-2011)

“See an East African lion


Nose tip to tail tuft ten, eleven feet


Slouching towards you


Swaying its head from side to side


Doubling its pace, its gold-black mane


That stretches down its belly to its groin


Catching the sunlight as it hits


Twice its own length a beat, then leaps


Great forepaws high great claws disclosed


The scarlet insides of its mouth


Parting a roar as loud as sail-sized flames


And lands, slam-scattering the herd.

 

This is how Hector came on us.”

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Christopher Logue

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El passat dia 2 de desembre de 2011 moria el poeta anglès Christopher Logue. Durant uns cinquanta anys, Logue va anar duent a terme una reescriptura de diversos cants de la Ilíada. Va anar composant el seu propi poema, peça a peça, amb successius esborranys o versions primer publicats en revistes com “Arion”, posteriorment aplegats en llibres com la seva famosa “Patrocleia”, o “Kings”, o “The Husbands”, finalment aplegats en el seu “War Music” i la seva continuació “Cold Calls” i “All Day Permanent Red” (aquest darrer títol inspirat en un anunci de pintallavis de Revlon).

Podria semblar que l’obra de Logue és una més de certes excentiricitats i adaptacions més o menys barroeres, en el seu intent d’adaptar l’obra homèrica a llenguatges actuals. El cert és que, amb els seus clarobscurs, l’obra de Logue, és a dir el seu poema anglès creat a partir d’un exercici de “reescriptura” de la Ilíada, conté alguns dels assajos més reeixits d’apropar-nos al sentiment que resulta de l’èpica d’Homer, al seu esperit, per més que, òbviament, no a la seva lletra.

Entrant en l’anècdota particular, dir que per més que l’obra de Logue estigui, en bona part, en l’orígen d’aquest blog, curiosament encara no hi havia tingut entrada. Ens hi referirem, no obstant, en diverses ocasions.

Amb la notícia del recent traspàs de Logue com a catalitzador, fem una primera incursió en la seva obra, portant aquí algunes de les reflexions que George Steiner, d’una banda, i Jaume Pòrtulas, de l’altra, hi han fet.

Tot i que en algun altre moment ja ens referirem més directament a la personalitat d’aquest autor heterodox, dir que ha estat sovint citada la seva activitat com a guionista (és l’autor, per exemple, del guió de la película de Ken Russell “Savage Messiah“), com a actor (va encarnar el personatge de l’ “espaghetti-eating fanatic” al film Jabberwocky, de Terry Guilliam), i va escriure fins i tot, segurament per a “guanyar-se les garrofes”,  una novel.la pornogràfica titulada  “Lust” (1954), amb el pseudònim de Count Palmiro Vicarion. En l’àmbit social i polític va militar en els moviments pacifistes de finals dels anys 50, formant part del Comite dels 100, de Bertrand Russell. En el seu poema I Shall Vote Labour hi va incloure línies com aquestes:

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I shall vote Labour because if I don’t somebody else will …
I shall vote Labour because if I do not vote Labour my balls will drop off …
I shall vote Labour because I am a hopeless drug addict …
I shall vote Labour because Labour will build more maximum security prisons …
I shall vote Labour because deep in my heart I am a Conservative

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Però, tornant al que aquí més ens ocupa, veiem què deia George Steiner, el 15 de febrer de 2002, al The Times Literary Supplement:

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[…]

No tradition of translation, adaptation, variora both solemn and parodic, rivals that in the English language. Homer and the evolution of English have been organically interrelated from Caxton’s Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye onwards, this being one of the very first books to be printed in the vernacular. If we were to include versions of single books or salient episodes out of Homer, together with translations of the Homeric Hymns, no catalogue, no library holdings would be complete. There have been almost a dozen Iliads and Odysseys in various forms of Anglo-American since E. V. Rieu’s hugely popular “prose-fiction” retelling of the Odyssey in 1946.

But the important fact is not only that of abundance. It is the quality of Homeric translations or imitations in English and the stature of those engaged in the enterprise: Chapman, Shelley, Tennyson, Browning, Pound, Graves, Lowell and Auden. After Milton, Pope’s Iliad remains unquestionably the most impressive epic in the language. Nor is the translation of Homer, in the widest sense, limited to poets and scholars. It comprises philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, statesmen and soldiers such as Gladstone and T. E. Lawrence, novelists of the order of Joyce and D. H. Lawrence, theoreticians of meaning such as I. A. Richards. And, at last, women are beginning to join the roll-call; for example, Jorie Graham and Louise Gluck. Samuel Butler’s intuition -he was himself a translator of Homer -that the Odyssey is woman’s work, is eliciting modern echoes. There is no obvious explanation of this uninterrupted elective affinity. The calms and thunder of the sea have inhabited English and American English from Anglo Saxon to the present, as they inhabit the Odyssey and its renditions from Chapman to Derek Walcott. The homoerotic athleticism, the cult of warrior friendship so vivid in the Iliad, may touch some deep-lying nerve in English sensibility. There is, perhaps, something profoundly British in the pathos of defeat which gives to Hector, to Priam, even to Achilles their sunset glory; witness Shakespeare’s enactment of Hector’s death when “ugly night comes breathing at his heels”.

 Christopher Logue’s involvement dates back to 1959 and the commissioning of a new Iliad for the BBC. Logue admits to knowing no Greek, to translating with the aid of scholarly friends and preceding translations. Such “translation of translations” poses fascinating semantic issues. It can, as in Ezra Pound’s Cathay, produce texts of uncanny insight. How much Greek did Chapman have? Logue’s selections from Homer have been issued in three separate publications: War Music (1981), Kings (1991) and The Husbands (1994), now gathered in one volume, with the overall title War Music. Very roughly, and not in the order of their composition, Logue’s readings cover the savage quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles which launches the epic, part of the council in Olympus, the war council in Troy and that around Agamemnon, together with the very beginnings of the Trojan onrush. It goes on to episodes of battle and reciprocal defiance centred on Menelaus, Paris and Hector. The final part of the triptych conveys the deaths of Patroclus and of Hector together with the intimations of Achilles’ nearing doom. Logue does not appear to have acquired Greek during the lengthy gestation which has led to the present collected format. But there have been amendments and revisions all along, in the American as compared with the British editions and in this new text. Hints, moreover, persist that the project may extend beyond the “accounts” of Homer’s Books 1-4 and 16-19 now available. The cursory notes “must do for the moment”.

Two genres fuel Logue’s kaleidoscope. As befits its origins as a radio script, War Music is conceived for the ear, and many of its splendours only unfold when read aloud. Logue has experimented with poetry and jazz. One can easily imagine parts of his “Homer” being declaimed to an intensely syncopated, percussive accompaniment. The play with typography, the fortissimos marked by very large letters as in the “Patrocleia”, are not always convincing. The sound effects in the language are. This is eerily so when Logue generates spots of silence, of breathless compaction:


“The ring is shut. Enormous calm.


King Agamemnon and Achilles face to face, 

Distinct as polygon and square.”
 

Or:

“Haze covers Ida.


Sand falls down sand.


Even the gods are listless -”
 

where the soft sibilants and the image point to the mute fatality of an hour-glass. Throughout, we experience a return, sensible also in Walcott’s Omeros, to the initial guise of the Iliad, to a poetry spoken and sung by the rhapsode, for a live audience. Time and again, Logue bids us:

“Think of the noise that fills the air 

When autumn takes the Dnieper by the arm 

And skein on skein of honking geese fly south 

To give the stateless rains a miss.”
Which advice leads immediately to the brute cacophony of
“So Hector’s moon-horned, shouting dukes 

Burst from the tunnels, down the counterslope, 

And shout, shout, shout, smashed shouted shout 

Backward and forth across the sky . . .”

-just like those geese, whose role in ancient soothsaying Logue hints at.

The second tutelary genre is that of the cinema. Logue’s treatment points to the devices of collage and montage, of the zoom and the close-up, of slow motion and accelerando, familiar to the moviegoer and television watcher. In its dynamic and “cutting”, in its shifting focus, this fierce panorama of the Trojan War is radically of our age, with its graphic media, its aspiration to “virtual reality”. Persistently, visual cuts, script notations form the action:

“Pulling the Trojans back a yard or two

He baited Ajax with his throat, and Ajax took.

As the spear lifted, Hector skipped in range; 

As Ajax readied, Hector bared his throat again; 

And, as Ajax lunged, Prince Hector jived on his heel 

And snicked the haft clean through its neck 

Pruning the eighteen incher – Aie! – it was good to watch 

Big Ajax and his spear blundering about for, O, 

Two seconds went before he noticed it had gone . . . .


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The ship was burned.”
 

The instructions to camera are beautifully precise. The uses of lighting are vital: “the daylight sharpens where he stands”; “the sunburnt air”; “Often at daybreak a salty moon”.

At their finest, the criteria of orality and the cinematographic fuse perfectly. Pope’s rendering of the campfires in Iliad VIII, 553-65, is justly famous:

“The Troops exulting sate in order round,

and beaming Fires illumin’d all the Ground.

As when the Moon, refulgent Lamp of Night!

O’er Heav’ns clear Azure spreads her sacred Light, 

When not a Breath disturbs the deep Serene; 

And not a Cloud o’ercasts the solemn Scene; 

Around her Throne the vivid Planets roll, 

And Stars unnumber’d gild the glowing Pole . . . “.
 

Logue’s zoom-shot is more economical, but no less poignant:

“Picture the east Aegean sea by night, 

And on a beach aslant its shimmering 

Upwards of 50,000 men 

Asleep like spoons beside their lethal Fleet.”
 

Homer, one ventures, would have delighted in those “spoons”.


Issued in tandem with a seven-CD set of Logue’s dramatic readings (Audio Logue, UPL 701), this “account” of Homer does have its ups and downs. The ferocities of encounter can prove repetitive, as they do in the original. The battle-screams throng the air, and the similes, with their invocation of gangster-land, are sometimes forced: Paris knocked back “like a gangster in his barber’s chair”. There are a good many distinctly un-Homeric hyperboles: Ajax’s helmet vibrating “Like a clapper inside a bell made out of sword blades”. More disturbing is the frequent undercurrent of jocose sarcasm, of black jokes. “Our cooling onions” signifying cloud-drifts; “zanies stripped his tin” when Pyrop’s armour is taken; Agamemnon comes to choose among the captive women: “he came lick-lick when the best / Met to view the shes . . . . Here sniffing, pinching here.” There are growls of grim humour in the Iliad, but its protagonist is not Thersites. A rendition loyal to the Trojan epic will seek to recapture that symbiosis between archaic savagery and an immensely delicate, poised sadness. It may be symptomatic that Christopher Logue has, so far, avoided Book XXIV, that night-rendezvous of Priam and Achilles which is a translator’s supreme test. Chapman comes near to Achilles’ brusque note of consolation in which Homer adumbrates the hero’s own fatal foresight:

“Affect not then too farre 

With grief, like a god, being a man; but for a man’s life care, 

And take fit foode. Thou shalt have time, 

beside, to mourne thy sonne; 

He shall be tearfull, thou being full; not here but Ilion 

Shall find thee weeping roomes enow”.

But strikingly, these weaknesses are all but absent from the final section, the “Patrocleia” and “Pax” with which Logue in fact set out. It is the more recent fragments which at moments flag.



At issue is Logue’s intent. “To retain Homer’s story line, to cut or amplify or add to its incidents, vary its similes, and (mostly) to omit Homer’s descriptive epithets.” As the task evolved, Logue became ever freer, seeking to produce an English poem evocative of an assemblage “reckoned to have preceded the beginnings of our own written language by fifteen centuries”. It is absurd to debate whether such a project is legitimate or not. Echoes to Homer cover the total gamut of formal, tonal, interpretative possibilities from strict inter- linears and attempts at formulaic equivalence to the acts of personal response, of metamorphic transmutation (Roman Jakobson’s rubric) as we find them in Lawrence Durrell’s jazz-musical Ulysses Comes Back, in Omeros or in Joyce’s Ulysses. Homer’s spirit can be conjured up in a prodigality of spells: “Oh I’ve got those deep green sea blues.”

In Logue’s work, the translator surpasses the poet -witness his Neruda. This is a paradoxical but not altogether rare case. Picturing the “welded cortex” of Achilles’ helmet, Logue writes:

“Though it is noon, the helmet screams against the light; 

Scratches the eye; so violent it can be seen 

Across three thousand years.”

No classical scholar, no critic, has voiced more concisely the lasting impact of Homer. In that presence “across three thousand years”, Logue’s imitatio will have its proud place. One must hope that War Music is indeed work in progress. When it is at full strength, it may prove incomparable.

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George Steiner

The Times Literary Supplement

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Finalment, reproduïm un fragment de l’article “Miralls tèrbols”, publicat per Jaume Pòrtulas al nº 2 dels Quaderns Catalans de Cultura Clàssica, dins l’apartat d’aquest exemplar dedicat a “Aspectes de la traducció: la Ilíada en català”.  En aquest interesantíssim estudi Pòrtulas analitza les traduccions al català de la Ilíada disponibles en aquella data (1986) i, en fer-ho, quan ha de plantejar-se la qüestió dels límits de la fidelitat al text, procedeix a acarar determinats passatges de les traduccions catalanes amb la versió de Logue (amb “la superba paràfrasi de la Patroclia que publicà el 1963 Christopher Logue”, diu), amb resultats francament interessants.

Diu Pòrtulas:

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[…] Quan deixa una traducció de poder ésser considerada com a tal i esdevé paràfrasi, variació, adaptació? Voldria apel·lar a un exemple gairebé banal de la Ilíada. En dos passatges (Il. XIII 398 ss. = XVI 482-4: aquest segon es la mort de Sarpedó) la caiguda d’un guerrer colpit per la llança és comparada a la d’un arbre abatut pels llenyataires. Heus aquí les versions dels nostres torsirnanys. Llovera, amb terminologia lleument arcaitzant:

«I ell caigué; com quan cau una alzina, o una alba ufanosa,
o bé un pi gegantesc, que en les serres uns homes llenyaires
tallen amb ben esmolades destrals per fustam de navilis;»

Balasch, per la seva banda:

«I s’esfondrà com un roure s’esfondra o bé un àlber
o com un poll, un arbràs tallat en un munt per artifexs
amb tot just esmolades destrals, per a fer-ne un navili;»

Peix, sens dubte el mes afortunat:

«L’home va caure com cauen el roure, l’alber i l’alt pi,
que tallen fusters a muntanya per fer-ne
fusta de nau amb llurs picasses de fresc esmolades…»

Tanmateix, la superba paràfrasi de la Patroclia que publicà el 1963 Christopher Logue amplifica agosaradament, descaradament, el passatge:

«He fell as atree falls -oak, say, or pine-
Slowly at first and then with the bright
Commercial axes thocking at his heart,
The tall hurt trunk lies down and settles,
Resentfully among its leaves…»

Fins a quin punt el procediment es lícit?  D’on venen aquestes bright commercial axes? I la imatge del tronc alterós aclofat resentfully enmig del brancatge no s’ha de reconèixer que fa violència al text?  O més aviat, al contrari: no hauríem de dir que el pitjor ultratge el cometen les traduccions nostrades, pretesament fidels? L’original acomparava la caiguda d’un guerrer al fet d’abatre un ésser vivent, ple d’ufana, per fer-ne quelcom inanimat; el lector banal que fulleja segons quina traducció nomes pot captar el truisme vulgar que els vaixells es fan de fusta. Quina és la violencia pitjor, a l’esperit o a la lletra?

La resposta és evidentment complicada i aquí nomes podem esbossar-la. Per una banda, resulta indubtable que el joc de la versió lliure no es pot jugar sense regles. A més, hi ha molt a dir en defensa d’una traducció ajustada i fidel, sempre que compleixi una condicio única, pero tanmateix bàsica: que tingui rera seu, recolzant-la, una proposta de lectura orgànica i coherent del text implicat.  Riba complia aquesta condició: a despit de l’austeritat, de la parsimònia de les seves manifestacions teòriques, sabem com llegia Homer, què hi cercava, què hi trobava. El fet que alguns, bastants, dels seus punts de vista hagin estat abandonats, depassats, no té cap importancia. En tot cas, no resulta foraviat afirmar que, en l’àmbit de la nostra cultura, la interpretació basica d’Homer, l’única fonamentada, continua essent la ribiana; i això no només pel fet que tant sols ell ens ha deixat un cos (tanmateix breu i succint) de valoracions teòriques, com per la influència que ha tingut en aquells que s’han dedicat, paral·lelament i subsidiària, a la mateixa tasca de traduir Homer.  Homer, Riba el va llegir; els altres són els seus deutors i s’han dedicat a aplicar a la Ilíada, amb més o menys fortuna, amb més o menys talent estilístic, els guanys de les dues versions odisseiques.

[…]

Els Romàntics, […], s’abellien de considerar el món antic, i el geni hel·lènic en particular, afortunats en una mesura molt especial. Els aedes homèrics haurien estat, literalment, els primers de donar forma i veu als impulsos fonamentals de l’home, com l’amor, l’odi, els sentiments civils i religiosos. Comparació i metàfora haurien estat, per a ells, innovació pura i pregonament pertorbadora: no pàl·lid ornament de la llengua, sinó una manera nova d’organitzar la realitat, de dreçar-ne un mapa, alhora producte del tempteig i intensament personal. Despres d’Homer, cap llengua no hauria estat en disposició de veure la realitat amb uns ulls nous de trinca.

Actualment, però, podem capir fins a quin punt aquesta visió de les coses és errònia. Fins i tot els textos més remots dels quals poguem tenir noticia (que no són ja els poemes homèrics) arrosseguen el rerafons d’una immensa prehistòria lingüística. La composició formular d’Homer delata la constitució lentíssima d’una tria paulatina i d’unes conventions. Com remarca Steiner, no hi ha reconstrucció antropològica o històrica capaç de fer-nos entrellucar un llenguatge de l’alba; els models d’una poiesis perduda en la nit dels temps seran sempre ficticis.

Podria semblar que aquestes divagations, interessants o no que puguin ésser, no tenen gaire rellevància en el context d’una reflexió sobre les possibilitats, recursos i condicionaments de l’ofici de traduir; però seria un punt de vista erroni. Per recórrer a l’exemple més intens, més exasperat que tinc a l’abast, voldria acarar l’honesta traducció d’un símil famosíssim de la Patroclia (Il. XVI 384-392: els corsers i els guerrers troians en fuita són comparats a una violenta torrentada, a una inundació provocada per l’ira de Zeus contra els homes injustos i brutals) amb l’enèrgica dinamització a la qual Logue sotmet el mateix passatge. Peix tradueix:

«Com un jorn de tardor sota el trampol la terra s’aixafa,
tota enfosquida, quan Zeus aboca una pluja enfurida,
ple de rancor i d’enuig contra els homes que a l’àgora donen
tortes sentències, tot bandejant el dret, per la força,
sense que es curin del càstig dels déus; llurs rius se’ls emplenen,
tots van plens d’un alt corrent; llavors els xorrenquen
moltes vessants els torrents, que amb gran gemegor es precipiten,
tot corrent muntanyes avall, vers la mar vermellenca,
mentre els treballs dels humans es malmeten…»

I Logue, per la seva part, amplificant agosaradament:

«On certain Autumn days the land is grey,
And the little sky between it and the grey
Masses of streaming cloud, fills with wet haze.
Cold lines of rain join mile after mile
Of heaven to earth; floods cover everything;
And few land animals, save man, survive.
But the rain continue like God’s punishment
On these who bear false witness, and on those
Judges divorced from justice by contempt
For those they judge, and the accomplices
Of both these sorts of men, who sit
Quietly on a fence in the storm’s eye.
The flood covers them equally. And then,
When the rain is over, the water drains
Everything civil off the land in one
Enormous wave that roars into the sea.»

Aquestes variacions constitueixen, evidentment, acceptable poesia moderna; però perquè siguin possibles haurà calgut superar del tot les concepcions sobre un Homer proper a les deus, a les arrels profundes del llenguatge, testimoni directe del naixement de la referència simbòlica; i, en canvi, veure l’antic poeta com el representant d’una civilitzacio arcaica, certament, però ben desenvolupada i amb una llarga tradició a l’esquena -una tradició que no es vincula només a concepcions teològiques ancestrals, sinó també a la urgència del clam ètic sobre la consciència dels individus.

[…]

.Jaume Pòrtulas

Miralls Tèrbols

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..

Finalment, a tall d’homenatge, portem aquí un poema de Logue:

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Be not too hard for life is short
And nothing is given to man.
Be not too hard when he is sold or bought,
For he must manage as best he can.

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Be not too hard when he blindly dies
Fighting for things he does not own.
Be not too hard when he tells lies
Or if his heart is sometimes like a stone.

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Be not too hard for soon he’ll die,
Often no wiser than he began.
Be not too hard for life is short
And nothing is given to man.
And nothing is given to man

Christopher Logue.

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Patrocleia

Book XVI of Homer’s Iliad

adapted by Christopher Logue

Scorpion Press.

London, 1962

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“Pax”: Episodes from the Iliad

Book XIX

Translated by Christopher Logue

[Reprint from Winter, 1963, issue of Arion]

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Pax

Book XIX of The Iliad

translated by Christopher Logue

Rap & Carroll London

London, 1967.

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The fight for Patroclus

Part 2 (First Draft)

From Iliad 18

Christopher Logue

[Reprint from Winter, 1969, issue of Arion]

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Christopher Logue

Kings

Farrar Straus & Giroux.

New York, 1991

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Logue’s Homer

War Music

faber and faber. London, 2001

ISBN: 9780571209071

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Logue’s Homer

Cold Calls Vol. 1 (War Music continued)

faber and faber. London, 2005

ISBN: 9780571202775

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Logue’s Homer

All Day Permanent Red

faber and faber. London, 2003

ISBN: 9780571216864

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Ítaca

Quaderns Catalans de Cultura Clàssica, nº 2

Institut d’Estudis Catalans

Barcelona, 1986

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