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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Superb
Not so much a translation as an interpretation. This is probably not for someone who is unfamiliar with Antigone. It is a very stylistic, aphoristic retelling of the tale for a contemporary audience, done in a radical style. The daughter of Oedipus and his mother-wife, Jocasta, Antigone comes into life with some baggage. When her brother Polynices declares war on Thebes,...
Published on June 28, 2012 by Kevin Hill

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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but puzzling
It's difficult to decide what audience this book is aimed at. It is really three books in one: a English language version of Sophocles' Antigone by Anne Carson, a designed book (non-standard, artistic layout, paper, binding, printing) by Robert Currie, and a book of illustrations by Bianca Stone. Though each aspect of the book considered in itself is well and...
Published on November 26, 2012 by Jon Corelis


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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but puzzling, November 26, 2012
This review is from: Antigonick (Hardcover)
It's difficult to decide what audience this book is aimed at. It is really three books in one: a English language version of Sophocles' Antigone by Anne Carson, a designed book (non-standard, artistic layout, paper, binding, printing) by Robert Currie, and a book of illustrations by Bianca Stone. Though each aspect of the book considered in itself is well and professionally done, the three don't really seem to gel. The book is handsomely produced, to be sure, especially considering its reasonable price, but I found the design distracted from the text and kept wishing I were reading a plain, standard font -- somehow the stylized, hand-printed letters made it difficult for me to visualize the play in performance. The illustrations are of good quality and excellent reproduction, but they seem to have only a vague, and often not even that, relation to the text. Maybe the idea is for the illustrations to work against expectation by not meeting the reader's expectations of what illustrations should do, reflecting the way the text works against the reader's expectations of what a translation of Sophocles should be; if so, I for one found that the technique didn't work. As for the translation, it's an interesting experiment in using a diction radically different from the standard "translationese" to engage the audience's interest and to breathe new life into the text. In this aspect, and occasionally even in its style, it's reminiscent of Ezra Pound's Sophokles: Women of Trachis. I don't know if Anne Carson has read that book, but I wouldn't be surprised if she had, especially since it is published by the same publisher. Though Antigonick can be called only a very free translation, the reader familiar with the Greek text will notice that, like Pound's version, it has a closer relationship to the original than might at first appear. The language of the translation is vivid, even racy, and will certainly engage a modern audience, though there are some mis-steps, or things which may or may not be mis-steps: for instance, Antigone's address to Ismene as "O one and only head of my sister ..." has an ineluctably comic effect for those who remember Housman's parody of Aeschylus ("O suitably-attired-in-leather-boots head of a traveler ...") If the comic effect is unintentional, it's inept; if intentional, it's a joke few members of a contemporary audience are going to get. And does the author really intend the bathetic potential of the lines given to various chorus members at a particularly poignant juncture of the action: "Here comes Creon ..." "Dragging his ..." "Dragging his ..." "Dragging his what ..."? I'm all for working against expectation, but this seems rather over the top. Despite these strictures, I thought this version is worth reading and at its best (again like Pound) points the way to a form of poetic diction which can be an effective solution, or partial solution, to the notoriously intractable problem of presenting the mood of ancient tragedy to a modern audience. I'd be interested in seeing how a performance of it works. Recommendation: if this book were the standard text of the play alone, I'd probably give it four stars, and I'd recommend it for the text to people interested in ancient drama in modern translation. But as it is, my three star recommendation is for a book that seems less than the sum of its parts: three different good books which don't succeed in working together closely enough to make one excellent book.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Superb, June 28, 2012
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This review is from: Antigonick (Hardcover)
Not so much a translation as an interpretation. This is probably not for someone who is unfamiliar with Antigone. It is a very stylistic, aphoristic retelling of the tale for a contemporary audience, done in a radical style. The daughter of Oedipus and his mother-wife, Jocasta, Antigone comes into life with some baggage. When her brother Polynices declares war on Thebes, the city is defended by her other brother Eteocles. Both die and their uncle Creon declares that Eteocles shall receive a proper burial, while Polynices, a traitor, must lie unburied, to be eaten by birds and dogs. But Antigone believes leaving her brother unburied is so utterly wrong that she must break the law to bury him and be condemned to death herself.

The print is in the form of Carson's own handwriting, with little or no punctuation, giving the tale a frantic, nervous feel. Bianca Stone's illustrations are a surreal assortment of images, printed on transparent pages that overlay the text, and which relate only occasionally to what is happening in the text. The result is delightful mixture of wit and irony. The characters of the play even comment on various interpretations that have been offered by Bertolt Brecht and G.W.F. Hegel. Carson is one of our literary treasures and this is Carson at her best.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Antigone Resonates in the Present Moment, July 18, 2012
This review is from: Antigonick (Hardcover)
"Antigonick," Anne Carson's new translation of Sophocles' tragedy, "Antigone," is verbally and visually striking. The book is printed with handwritten words in black and red ink, not necessarily in an orderly arrangement on the blindingly white pages but in irregular chunks, often with gaps. This invites you to read and often reconsider the text based on the unusual arrangement of the words. In some places, it's like reading a text without punctuation. Reading this way becomes an active process of construction of meaning. I think readers pay more attention when they are forced to interpret the text this way.

Carson does not translate everything in the play. Another reviewer called her translation "aphoristic." That is accurate as far as it goes. It is also sometimes contemporary and slangy, making it immediate. I felt the action was happening next door or in the next room, not in a book written at a safe remove. At some places, her prose is simply exquisite - so abrupt and terse, so evocative, that you are yanked into thought, into feeling. Carson also interpolates discussion about Hegel, Virginia Woolf, and other more modern writers to illustrate or make the characters' ideas resonate with us in ways we might not have considered. Like the unusual breaking up of the text, the addition of other writers' ideas calls on us to think and consider the play from more perspectives than we might otherwise. There are many dimensions to Carson's version.

When I got this book, I could not put it down. It demands attention. Certainly the illustrations may be ironic. Their subjects are sometimes surreal, sometimes merely quaint, sometimes just obscure. Again, however, the idea seems to be to jar the reader into contemplation.

I read this alone at first, then along with two other, far more conventional translations of "Antigone." I got a lot out of this one and enjoyed it far more than the others.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Form over function, July 15, 2013
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Jeremiah Gilbert (Southern California) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Antigonick (Hardcover)
I have been following Anne Carson since The Autobiography of Red and always look forward to her next book, be it poetry, prose, or translation. I know it will be challenging but rewarding. However, with Antigonick, I find the form takes away from the story. First off, it's a beautiful book that I'm surprised can still be made in this digital age (and for the price). That said, I found the handwriting to be a bit distracting and the graphics puzzling as they don't appear, with rare exception, to have anything to do with the story. This continually pulled me out of the story to scratch my head and wonder if I was missing something. I did not encounter this with Nox, which was in some ways presented in a similar manner and is one of the favorite books by Carson. I fully admit that it may be me and I will reread this in a few months to see if I get it then.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another success for Anne Carson, June 19, 2013
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This review is from: Antigonick (Hardcover)
Anne Carson really outdoes herself in her re-imagining of Sophocles' tragedy. The illustrations are bizarre, though some of them are very beautifully fitting. The formatting and typesetting is appropriate and there is a humor and playfulness (like a guest appearance in the dialogue by a certain Samuel Beckett) which makes the tragedy even more terrifying. She is one of our greatest living writers, and this is one of her great works.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nick of Time, March 2, 2013
This review is from: Antigonick (Hardcover)
Anne Carson's Antigonick opens with a sweeping declaration: "We begin in the dark and birth is the death of us." It's the sort of thing we might expect from a traditional interpretation of Sophocles' Antigone--somber lines, death and destruction from the start. But, of course, this is Carson, and any sense of doom comes with a healthy dose of trickery. The poet/essayist/Classicist/translator-of-ancient-works immediately undercuts the mood with banter:

Antigone: We begin in the dark and birth is the death of us

Ismene: Who said that

Antigone: Hegel

Ismene: Sounds more like Beckett

Antigone: He was paraphrasing Hegel
Perhaps, we think, this Antigone has something new to say.

Carson's Antigonick is an art object unto itself, with the token handcraftsmanship readers will remember from Nox. Carson penned the whole work by hand in an all-capped scrawl with black ink, peppered throughout with fragments written in red. Loosely taking the form of a graphic novel, Antigonick features drawings on translucent vellum paper by Bianca Stone. Yet, rather than serving merely as a sideshow to the text, Stone's illustrations are devastating in their own right and are essential to completing the world of disarray in which Carson's nightmare interpretation of Antigone takes place.
Much of the drawings' magic comes from the complete anonymity of the figures depicted. While Stone portrays members of the Chorus with human bodies, their heads are replaced with cinder blocks. They are literal blockheads, robbed of agency, incapable of doing little more than offer observations as the destruction of the play unfolds. Elsewhere, human forms become amorphous: a lone figure sits at the end of an empty dining room table, two androgynous bodies scowl at each other at the end of a bed. Essentially faceless, these figures are unrecognizable as anyone from the text. Is that Antigone and Ismene holding hands in the second plate? Which character stands in solitude at the center of a ravine?

The images' anonymity is central to Carson's text as well. Antigonick documents a collapse of history, where narratives are no longer strictly linear, but repeat endlessly. The Chorus laments Antigone's death only insofar as she is a statistic: "Antigone Buried alive Friday afternoon / Compare case histories 7, 17 and 49 / Now I could dig up those case histories... / It wouldn't help you / It didn't help me / It's Friday afternoon / There goes Antigone to be buried alive." The horror is not simply that we allow the same atrocities to occur time and time again, but that we have resigned ourselves to this cycle and acknowledge our resignation half-heartedly.
It may be tempting to dismiss the illustrations as merely quirky--one of the Chorus bears the Star Trek insignia on its chest, while elsewhere a figure wears a football helmet. But these touches serve to heighten the absurdity and dark humor of the senseless world Carson has created. Take, for example, the dictator of Thebes and arguably the true tragic character of the work. Forever refusing to heed the wisdom of others, Kreon relents at the last, only to find his family dead and his city in despair. However, Kreon's is a tyranny beyond political power. He first enters the play with a decree: "Here are Kreon's verbs for today: ADJUDICATE LEGISLATE / SCANDALIZE / CAPITALIZE" and, "Here are Kreon's nouns: MEN / REASON / TREASON/ DEATH/ SHIP OF STATE / MINE." Kreon is an autocrat of language; his words are his people's words, because he declares it so. Indeed, when the Chorus reminds the despot that "mine isn't a noun," he replies simply, "It is if you capitalize it."

This is what a Carson-infused lyricism looks like. The residue of our English teachers' Antigone is there, but Carson and Stone have crafted something of an entirely new spirit. While the poet and her illustrator stray from the expected narrative, the tragedy of the work isn't lost on anyone. The Chorus utters what is perhaps the most terrifying line, isolated on its own page: "Your soul is blowing apart." It's hard not to shudder.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars carson always surprises, never fails, June 21, 2012
By 
Sirin Jung (los angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Antigonick (Hardcover)
what a beautiful, quirky translation. i hesitate to call carson's work "modern,"--yes, sure, make it new and all-- but really, she seems to able to blow off the layers of time and our own accumulated perceptions to get at the essence of story.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great for Lit class, but not on its own merits, October 19, 2013
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This review is from: Antigonick (Hardcover)
I read this because it was required, not because I wanted to read a new version of Antigone. My professor loves the deconstructionist approach; I do not. While I realize that Antigone has been used to represent various causes and time periods over the years, it's not appealing to me.

If you enjoy discussions of deconstruction and the meaningless nature of words, you'll probably love this book. It's a fresh approach and it accomplishes what the author sets out to do. The images break up the words and the words break up the emotion behind this Classical play. It's a brilliant example of its type.

I don't like the type. I prefer to examine Sophocles as closely as possible to the original format. Instead of being listed as " translated by Anne Carson," this text should really be listed as "loosely based on Sophocles' Antigone." The characters have the same names, but the heart is gone.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another bold, superb translation from Carson, with illustrations, July 31, 2012
This review is from: Antigonick (Hardcover)
Of Antigonick, Carson recently wrote that "everything I've done in the translation is an attempt to convey a move or shock or darkening that happens in the original text." She was addressing the contention that Antigonick takes such liberties with the text of Antigone that it cannot fairly be regarded as a mere translation. Even by the standards of Carson's thrilling previous translations (see my review of An Oresteia), which already challenged the very notion of what a translation of Greek tragedy can and should be, Antigonick is daring. I won't presume to adjudicate the matter of whether it abuses or transcends or simply innovates within the genre of translation. The simple fact is that the result is superb.

If you are familiar with the play in more conventional translations, every page of Antigonick will delight and astound you. If you happen not to be familiar with it, or with Greek literature generally, Antigonick is surely the most accessible translation of the play available, as it dispenses with most of the formal elements of tragedy construction and omits many of the mythological references (in one case replacing them with a passage in which the Chorus reflects on how, like a lawyer, it is "in the business of searching for a precedent" to help us comprehend essentially incomprehensible events).

The sheer boldness of Carson's decisions - the laconic renderings, the insightful (and sometimes drastic) compression of speeches, the incorporation of literary, interpretative and other anachronistic references, the mute character Nick, the conviction that humour has a place in Sophokles, the implicit commentary on the play (especially on Kreon), the general defiance of scholarly conventions - makes Antigonick a provocative experiment. Provocative, though not at the expense of a genuine sense of tragedy. Whether it is exactly Sophokles' own sense of tragedy, I am undecided. Carson never manipulates Sophokles' characters into evoking a wholly novel tragic vision, but she does probe the meaning of the tragedy for a 21st century audience.

Visually, too, the book is wonderful. Bianca Stone's enigmatic illustrations overlay the text every few pages and include several running themes and distinct styles; the images are quirky, disturbing, and beautiful. There is no introduction, commentary, or notes, the pages are unnumbered, and the text is scratched by Carson in all caps with minimal punctuation. One almost senses that line attributions and spaces between the words were a concession to the reader. The arrangements of text on the page are endlessly fascinating.

I highly recommend Antigonick. It is a joy to read and explore, whether you know the play intimately or not at all. I eagerly look forward to Carson's next translation project.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Antigonic is wonderful!, January 24, 2014
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This review is from: Antigonick (Hardcover)
I loved the illustrations. I read the book in one sitting and then reread it immediately. It's good to read aloud too.
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Antigonick
Antigonick by Anne Carson (Hardcover - May 28, 2012)
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