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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Antigo Nick

Antigo Nick  is an illustrated translation of Sophocles' Antigone that is both contemporary and creative.  Anne Carson's translation, Robert Currie's book design, and Bianca Stone's illustrations combine to provide a treat for the senses.

While the majority of the lovely illustrations fail to relate to or elaborate on the story, that was evidently a deliberate decision on Carson's part, and the often absurd images are beautifully rendered on transparent pages.

The translation is modern, campy, and abridged.  The allusions to Brecht, Beckett, and Hegel (and others) heighten the absurdity of the illustrations and of the textual format by replacing mythological references.  

I found myself reading aloud (because, indeed, the original play was meant to be seen and heard, not read silently) and the work is accessible in a single sitting because Carson does not translate everything in the original--she compresses and stylizes.

I liked the use of Brecht's alienation effect, the absurdest approach of Beckett, and the allusions to the dramatists.  Which is a little odd because I'm neither particularly fond of nor well-informed about their works.  I may have a new literary journey ahead of me--looking for a better understanding of Brecht and Beckett and some grain of understanding of Hegel's metaphysical philosophy.  All of which will be beyond my capacity, but now seems kind of--fun.  What a contradiction.

Here is a link to an article about interviewing Carson and Currie.  I especially liked the description of Carson who was leading a performance of AntagoNick at N.Y.U. :

"For the performance, Carson was wearing what she called her “Oscar Wilde suit”: slim plaid pants, a long dark coat with white stitching on the lapels and a bright red necktie featuring a picture of Geryon. N.Y.U. ...."

I must order a copy of Antigone.  I looked, but it appears I don't have one.  But before I do, I need to research and decide on which translation.  And I should reread Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus; the evolution of Creon (Kreon) is of particular interest.  I loved Carson's interpretation of Kreon and his list of nouns and verbs.

My thanks again to Gin Jenny for her review of Antigo Nick.  I'm so glad I ordered it and have the gorgeous little book  and Carson's loose translation of a play that I'd failed to appreciate on first reading it years and years ago.

The book is a work of art in every sense of the word, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

One caveat:  reading the handwritten text did cause occasional hesitation.  Some of the words in the black and red text were jammed together, and I had to pause and distinguish where they separated.

Greek drama/translation.  2012.  180 pages.


  1. I've been meaning to read this - I like what Carson does with the classics a lot. Nice review!

  2. Vicki - Thanks! This is my first look at Carson's work, but I loved it.

  3. I'm glad you liked this! I strongly, strongly recommend Carson's other stuff -- her translation of Sappho is wonderful, ditto her book Nox.

    Translation of Antigone: Fagles! Fagles did a translation of the three Theban plays. Robert Fagles. He's where it's at.

  4. Jenny - I've ordered Fagle and If Not Winter! Had planned on ordering Nox, but will wait on that one. Thanks for the recommendations.