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If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho (2002)

by Sappho

Other authors: Anne Carson (Translator), Aurora Luque (Translator)

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1,4912812,170 (4.34)1 / 31
A bilingual edition of the work of the Greek poet Sappho, in a new translation by Anne Carson. Sappho lived on the island of Lesbos from about 630 b.c. She was a musical genius who devoted her life to composing and performing songs. Of the nine books of lyrics Sappho is said to have composed, none of the music is extant and only one poem has survived complete. All the rest are fragments. InIf Not, WinterCarson presents all of Sappho’s fragments in Greek and in English. Brackets and space give the reader a sense of what is absent as well as what is present on the papyrus. Carson’s translation illuminates Sappho’s reflections on love, desire, marriage, exile, cushions, bees, old age, shame, time, chickpeas and many other aspects of the human situation.… (more)
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 Folio Society Devotees: Sappho - If Not, Winter43 unread / 43xatal, January 1

» See also 31 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
A bilingual edition (Greek on the left-hand page, English on the right) of the complete surviving poetry of Sappho, some from papyri and some from quotations by other authors of a line or even just a word. TBH, I didn't find any of it particularly memorable but it was interesting to see just how fragmentary fragments are. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Feb 6, 2024 |
“and on a soft bed, delicate, you would let loose your longing”. ( )
  femmedyke | Sep 27, 2023 |
check out paperback at Powells; pp marked in Library book include: 13, 57, 149, ( )
  Overgaard | Apr 5, 2023 |
Ms. Carson's Sappho is to my mind very, very brilliant. My reading experience of it was to hear the poems as sung to imaginary lyre accompaniment. What's great about that is that the fragmentary poems (i.e., all but one or two) can be "heard" as if from a distance, say, from across a courtyard or several rooms away, so it's as if because of acoustics you can only pick up a few words. Taking this approach as a reader, I found the resulting experience very natural, musical, and lifelike, and the missing words no problem (it's as if they're not missing at all, but just unable to be made out at present because of distance and/or local acoustic conditions).

I believe Carson has indeed deliberately taken this approach. You see this in her refraining from translating every word, i.e., reducing some relatively wordy fragments to one or two simple evocative nouns. Or, to take an extreme case, look at p. 59, where she's thrown all the Greek away but "for ." Carson's saying, in effect, there are no missing words; it's all there in the music. The reader just has to imagine the accompaniment.
( )
  Cr00 | Apr 1, 2023 |
I read this out of curiosity after reading Mary Barnard's translation a few months ago. The rating is for Anne Carson's translation method rather than the poetry—the many brackets left me with a headache; I suppose it just is not my style. I see the allure for the more academically minded for having a side-by-side translation and many notes on her processes, but as a casual reader, I'm glad I read and loved Mary Barnard's translation first. I'm afraid to say this translation has almost left me a little sad, seeing the proof of how little we have of Sappho's writing left and the obvious flowery Barnard interpretation that I came to love and revere so much. Ah well. C'est la vie.

Having read other books on Sappho's poetry I was surprised to see what poems received notes and others being left with nothing—I felt weirdy smart having a background on a few of the poems and felt almost cheated that Carson had nothing to say about it. What else was I missing? Maybe I just like history a tad more than semantics.

For my (all intents and purposes) real review of Sappho, see here. ( )
  Eavans | Feb 17, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sapphoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carson, AnneTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Luque, AuroraTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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A bilingual edition of the work of the Greek poet Sappho, in a new translation by Anne Carson. Sappho lived on the island of Lesbos from about 630 b.c. She was a musical genius who devoted her life to composing and performing songs. Of the nine books of lyrics Sappho is said to have composed, none of the music is extant and only one poem has survived complete. All the rest are fragments. InIf Not, WinterCarson presents all of Sappho’s fragments in Greek and in English. Brackets and space give the reader a sense of what is absent as well as what is present on the papyrus. Carson’s translation illuminates Sappho’s reflections on love, desire, marriage, exile, cushions, bees, old age, shame, time, chickpeas and many other aspects of the human situation.

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If Not, Winter irresistibly combines the ancient mysteries of Sappho with the contemporary wizardry of acclaimed poet and classicist Anne Carson in what is sure to become the standard translation of Sappho for our time. Presented with the Greek on facing pages, her verses appear here as if on the ragged scraps of papyrus that preserve them. Together with Carson’s introduction and notes, they provide a tantalizing window into Sappho’s genius.
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