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Antigonick by Anne Carson

Antigonick (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Anne Carson (Author), Bianca Stone (Illustrator)

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1624115,756 (4.02)3
With text blocks hand-inked on the page by Anne Carson and her collaborator Robert Currie,Antigonick features translucent vellum pages with stunning drawings by Bianca Stone that overlay the text. Anne Carson has published translations of the ancient Greek poets Sappho, Simonides, Aiskhylos, Sophokles and Euripides.Antigonick is her first attempt at making translation into a combined visual and textual experience. Sophokles' luminous and disturbing tragedy is here given an entirely fresh language and presentation. Thoroughly delightful.… (more)
Authors:Anne Carson (Author)
Other authors:Bianca Stone (Illustrator)
Info:New Directions (2012), Edition: 1, 180 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:xx, xy, translation, adaptation, greek, canadian, tragedy, families, fathersanddaughters, sisters, sistersandbrothers

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Antigonick by Anne Carson (2012)



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i always feel like i like anne carson more in theory than in practice. she always has some great phrases and passages but they always feel disjointed from what's around them. i think it's because everyone shares carson's (rather disinterested, detached and academic) voice; interpersonal conflict doesn't feel nearly so meaty when it feels like there's only one person involved. ( )
  livingtoast | Jan 23, 2019 |
Rocked my world. In a big way.
  beckydj | Apr 27, 2013 |
Well, okay, here's this. Pretty illustrated edition! I like pretty things.

Here's an article about this translation. Note that Carson has apparently turned Antigone into "a suicide bomber."

Compare with Seamus Heaney's translation, in which Creon turns into a dig on GW Bush. Antigone is a flexible piece of work! Or else it's just unusually tempting to distort.

Thanks Jennifer for pointing this out.
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
Anne Carson's translation of "Antigone" has gotten more serious reviews than any but the most celebrated recent novels. She's been reviewed by Judith Butler, George Steiner, and Nick Mirzoeff. There are long, thoughtful reviews online, for example at piercepenniless.wordpress.com. I don't have anything to add to the reviewers' comments about the text. I agree it is problematic to have Antigone say things like "BINGO," despite Carson's clear intention to speak to a contemporary reader. And it is problematic to have the characters in Sophocles's play cite Hegel, Beckett, and Virginia Wolff, despite Carson's claim that the idea was just to show that "Antigone" has a history of reception that now includes those writers. (Carson makes that claim in a wonderfully taciturn and reluctant interview at suicidegirls.com.) There are, as George Steiner points out, some really wonderful passages in the translation--more than enough to help me overlook the quirks that apparently enabled them.

What concerns me are the illustrations. They ruin the book: for me, they make it nearly unreadable. Many reviewers think the illustrations are wonderful. They aren't: they are technically poor (at the level of a BFA student), stylistically outdated (they are an amalgam of 1970s cartoon surrealism a la Zevi Blum, with strands of Pop Surrealism and 1950s style realism as in Ben Shahn), poorly conceived (in one picture, for example, some people have temple forms for heads, which also look like cement blocks; but others don't, and there is also a book, a cup of coffee, a shovel, and a clay making tool, with no internal logic or surrealist disjunction to support the choices), and they are inconsistently related to the text (one picture shows a sink with dripping faucets, and a figure lying in the background, an arrangement that might have a connection to the story; but the next picture is just a stove, and it comes right after one of the strongest and most tragic lines in the translation).

It's sad that the pictures, by Bianca Stone, don't try to either work with the text, or against it; it's sad the artist seems to think that this kind of freedom is both expressive and appropriate; it's sad that Anne Carson chose this artist for this project: but worst of all is that reviewers, with almost no exceptions, think the images are interesting, good, and even profound. For me, that points to a visual illiteracy that is wildly at odds with the reviewers' sometimes acute observations about Sophocles, tragedy, translation, theater, Brecht, and Hegel.

Some reviewers let the artist off the hook by generalizing about what the images do. The pictures are "full of a sense of opposing, irreconcilable forces" according to one reviewer. (practicallymarzipan.com) But surely girls in miniskirts, with temples for heads, are not simply "opposing, irreconcilable forces": they are particular choices, and they are jarring in themselves, aside from their content.

I only found three reviewers who paid attention to the images at all. One, on www.full-stop.net says that the illustrations "lack the depth, in both subject and style, to dovetail with Carson's translation... Carson's work is so erudite, and Stone's so elliptical, that the composite effect is frustratingly opaque." This really can only be half true, because if it appeared that Carson and Stone both intended that effect, it could have worked: the pictures could have been intentionally shallow, intentionally dissonant with the text, intentionally hard to read... but none of that seems planned at all. Instead the collaboration is a typical effect of the latitude that is given to visual art: it's allowed to do whatever it wants, because it is thought to work on a different register--of visuality, of the non-verbal, of the incommunicable.

George Steiner notes that the images "at best... imply a spectral domesticity or haunted landscape." That could also be true, if the illustrations were done in such a way that viewers knew those two themes were intended. But Stone's fantasies of horses, people with shovels, tables and stoves, shacks with crows, desert landscapes with small figures, schematic birds, ladders and stairwells, are the stock in trade of undergraduate art students. There is nothing to suggest that she was thinking of Antigone's missing domesticity. I have seen enough student drawings of things like horse's legs entangled with threads and punctured by nails (as in one picture) to know that those images from from the artist's previous studio experiments, not from "Antigone."

Of all the reviewers, Judith Butler tries hardest to give an account of the pictures. She mentions one, an interior with a chair and dresser looking out on a smeared landscape. It seems, Butler says, that "some living character had departed the scene not long ago." (www.publicbooks.org/fiction/cant-stop-screaming) But she knows that "spectral domesticity" isn't a satisfying reading, and in any case it would not be supported by the other pictures. So she makes a more abstract proposal:

"It would probably be less right to say that this image interrupts the text as the unconscious does, or that it is the unconscious in some symbolic sense. Rather, as the scene switches between the textual and the graphic, a temporal shift takes place between the past and the present: something is gone, and something is caught, and vibrates still. The image is the nick of time." (She later says "the nick is the time of the line itself, the scan of poetic meter," leaving the images aside.)

This passage is good, but it still isn't a reading of the individual image: it's a reading of any image (especially one with an empty room, but any image could be construed the same way). So it isn't an account of Stone's choices, or Carson's collaboration, or the particular images and specific words in this text.

It is an unhappy reflection on some contemporary literary culture, and on how the art world presents itself, that a book as thoughtful, serious, eloquent, and interesting as Carson's translation can be marred by such an irresponsibly chosen, poorly executed, effectively random series of pictures, and almost no one notices. ( )
1 vote JimElkins | Oct 27, 2012 |
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