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117 people found this helpful
on March 19, 2006
Researching translations is never an easy task, and in this case, where you'll have to search on Amazon for the title and the translator to find what you want, it's particularly difficult.
Here's what I've found by comparing several editions:
1. David Grene translation: Seems to be accurate, yet not unwieldy as such. My pick. Language is used precisely, but not to the point where it's barely in English.
2. Fitts/Fitzgerald translation: Excellent as well, though a little less smooth than the Grene one. Certainly not a bad pick.
3. Fagles translation: Beautiful. Not accurate. If you are looking for the smoothest English version, there's no doubt that this is it. That said, because he is looser with the translation, some ideas might be lost. For instance, in Antigone, in the beginning, Antigone discusses how law compels her to bury her brother despite Creon's edict. In Fagles, the "law" concept is lost in "military honors" when discussing the burial of Eteocles. This whole notion of obeying positive law or natural law is very important, but you wouldn't know it from Fagles. In Grene, for example, it is translated to "lawful rites."
4. Gibbons and Segal: Looks great, but right now the book has only Antigone (and not the rest of the trilogy) and costs almost 3x as much. I'll pass. But, from a cursory review, I'm impressed with their work.
5. MacDonald: This edition received some good write-ups, but I wasn't able to do a direct passage-to-passage comparison.
6. Woodruff: NO, NO, NO. Just NO. It's so colloquial it makes me gag. Very accessible, but the modernization of the language is just so extreme as to make it almost laughable. You don't get any sense of the power of language in the play. You just get the story. If you want this to be an easy read, then get Fagles, not this.
7. Kitto: Looks good, though not particularly compelling over either Grene or Fitzgerald (or Gibbons if I wanted to pay so much more).
8. Roche: Practically unreadable the English is so convoluted. Might be the most literal translation, but what's the point unless you are learning Greek and want such a direct translation.
9. Taylor: Way too wordy. Might be more literal, but again, why?
Hope this all helps. Translations can make or break the accessibility of literature. Pick wisely.