Thursday, June 15, 2006

Moments with the Mandelbaum Collection

Another excerpt from my manuscript collection processing labors at Wake Forest ZSR Library Special Collections :

As I was digging through another couple of accordion folders of stuff yesterday (well, Monday -- so now it's two days ago), I came across a folder of materials from Mandelbaum's translation of The Odyssey. Part of that folder was a near final draft of the published afterword of the book, the opening of which contains some wonderfully meditative lines on translation:

Translation exacts and invites much micro-labor, many days in the burrows. (Though the frequency of controversy in questions Homeric often makes the burrows seem more like trenches.) Emerging at work's end, one hopes the labyrinthine time will, in its result, be informed by--and shed--light. One blinks--and feels compelled to chart the works that accompanied the burrowing.

I like the image of the labyrinth that Mandelbaum evokes here. I'd say more -- but I think I'll just let his words stand.

In other attempting to finish a paper on Bede and Chaucer as well as get both re-started and finished on something about The Wonders of the East. And all of this -- is for a deadline that seems now to be earlier than I'd anticipated. Yikes! So that's where I'll be over the next week or so. With the brief exception of what looks to be my only beach trip this year, to Hilton Head, this weekend. So with a little luck, I'll relax at least a bit. My beach reading -- two books that are non-academic:

1. The Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. Recommended by a friend earlier in the year -- am finally picking it up now (am 50 pages in already in fact!).

2. Airman's Odyssey by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I've loved St-Ex since I was a child. Reading Le Petit Prince is a yearly event for me, and I stole my mother's French copy for that express purpose. I've avoided his other works for fear of being disappointed, but another friend recommended this, and as his last recommendation turned out wonderfully, I decided to pick it up. Reading the Introduction, I was taken by these words that Richard Bach writes about St-Ex:

Adventure and reflection -- that's how he makes lifelong friends of kids with polishing rags. He invites communication, and he stays around to talk in spite of what happened that last day of July, 1944.

The world, he said, it isn't Us and Them, it's only Us!

Once set afire, ideas burn until they're quenched in action. Twenty years from now, in the night cockpits and passenger cabins of our hypersonic transports, on the soft-lit decks of our space colonies, will a lot of kids turned friends of his ideas be seeing them for truth, watching the planet turn safely beneath their wings?

What would he say if they told him that he hadn't died in the war?

If the stories hold a mere half of the promise Bach finds in them, they will be stunning. But somehow, I think it's a safe bet they'll hold far more than that -- and will outstrip even the wildest of those promises.


JJC said...

Sometimes I think I learned French just to read St-Ex. My favorite is -- romantically enough -- Vol de Nuit, with its relentless movement towards that final plunge. Chilling, really, in light of what actually did happen to the author.