The Metamorphoses of Ovid

David R. Slavitt, Translator, Ovid, Author Johns Hopkins University Press $45 (360p) ISBN 978-0-8018-4797-4
Composed between 2 and 8 A.D., Ovid's (43 B.C.-?A.D. 17) epic poem purports to tell the story of the universe. Competing over the centuries with such formidable adversaries as the Bible, the Upanishads , Darwin, and modern physics, The Metamorphoses remains one of the world's most engaging cosmologies. The primary strength of Slavitt's ( The Fables of Avianus ) translation is its conversational diction, which accurately conveys the style of storytelling pervading the original. His departs from most existing translations by resisting slavish preoccupation with detail, allowing him to anticipate and engage a restless and modern reader. For example, in Book Seven, Slavitt interrupts the narrative to comment on Ovid's often long-winded style, and replaces ``forty lines of travel'' (Medea's) with 40 verse lines of his own criticism of the text. Another characteristic touch is the presence of innumerable loan words, mostly from French. Unfortunately, Slavitt's poetic line has the mildly irritating tendency to throw the reader off the back of its lumbering cadence. As poetry, the translation neither invigorates nor inspires, and much of it seems to have been written with a shrug, as if to Slavitt verse held a secondary position to subject matter. Otherwise, his Ovid displays poise and a refreshingly varied texture. His translation is constructed like a Shakespearian play: it satisfies those who want only to enjoy the vaudevillian spectacle of Jupiter and Juno's marriage, and relive the adventures of the Argonauts or the Trojan War. Yet it will also charm those stimulated by subtle references to postmodern ideas, by a liberal, multilingual vocabulary, and by the occasional lame joke. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/02/1994
Release date: 05/01/1994
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 360 pages - 978-0-8018-4798-1
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