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Fragments (Penguin Classics) (English and Greek Edition) Paperback – October 28, 2003

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Bilingual edition (October 28, 2003)
  • Language: English, Greek
  • ISBN-10: 0142437654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437650
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #263,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Heraclitus's fragments come to us like sparks off an anvil. . . . a luminous translation." (Nicholas Christopher)

"Breathtaking." (Richard Howard)

"A pellucid and informed translation." (Rita Dove, The Washington Post)

Language Notes

Text: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Some of these liberties in translation appear in the notes, but others do not.
Jake Fox
I was a bit underwhelmed by "Fragments", which is not only a slim volume to start with but also consists of the text in Greek on facing pages.
Peter Monks
I find it extremely disappointing that Penguin Classics would allow and publish such shoddy academic work.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

142 of 145 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Culver TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Heraclitus' FRAGMENTS come here in the original with a facing-page translation by Brooks Haxton that tries to do to the pre-Socratic philosopher what no earlier translator has done, make him a New-Ageish wisdom poet in tune with our modern needs. It is a disastrous experiment, and I cannot recommend it either to students of Greek or readers interested in the pre-Socratics.

The problems here are legion. For one, Haxton doesn't use Diels' numbering scheme, favouring Bywater's dinosaur-era numbers, which means this work is out of touch with most collections of Heraclitus. The Greek typeface used is very idiosyncratic and not conformant to classical norms. But the translation itself is horrid.

A lot of what the reader is getting here simply isn't Heraclitus. Instead of providing a footnote with his opinion on what the fragment may mean in context, as reputable scholars would do, Haxton simply adds content to the translation. Unless he were to look at the translation notes in the back, the average reader would be unaware that much of what he was reading wasn't actual said by the philsopher, but is just one modern translator's opinion. Take, for example, Haxton's rendition of the fragment "Nyktipoloi, magoi, bakchoi, lenai, mustai", which is literally translated "Night-walkers, mages, bacchants, lenai, and the initiated", but which Haxton inexplicably expands to "Nightwalker [sic], magus, and their entourage, bacchants and mystics of the wine press, with stained faces, and damp wits". One that really takes the cake is 89: "Ex homine in tricennio potest avus haberi," which simply means "A man could be a grandfather in thirty years." Haxton somehow comes up with "Look: the baby born under the new moon under the old moon holds her grandchild in her arms".
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Ben Hoffman on May 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
If you know Greek, and don't care about using it as a reference work, this is a good, inexensive edition. It contains the fragments in Greek.

On the pages opposite the Greek, though, is not a translation. Instead, it is an adaptation into English. This adaptation is occasionally inspired, often mediocre, and almost never what Heraclitus said.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By benjamin on August 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
When I picked this volume up, I was quite excited to finally have the opportunity to read the fragments of Heraclitus. This particular volume is printed as a bilingual edition, with the Greek on the left page and the English "translation" on the right. This particular edition gives 130 Fragments as belonging to Heraclitus, but only translates 126 of them; the translator indicates that one was deleted in a prior edition (9), two fragments were repetitive (42 & 54), and another is omitted due to its overlapping with the two prior fragments. Apparently, the translator is going for some kind of narrative flow in the fragments and what the reader therefore gets is a Heraclitus that has been packaged for sale.

For aspiring scholars like me, however, the omission in the translation are only one concern. Of greater concern is when Brooks Paxton, the "translator", writes in his notes that he has "provided my own examples" (95, n. 16) within the actual text of the translation from other ancient Greek writings! So, not only are we getting a commodified Heraclitus, but a commodified Heraclitus that is also now intertextual with other ancient Greek literature that he not only never cited, but actually lived before they were written! Paxton then writes, "Heraclitus, no doubt, would have chosen other examples" (ibid.). One wonder why Paxton didn't just translate the examples that Heraclitus himself gave so that we might understand what it was that he was originally trying to get across. Further, Paxton even changes entirely the reference to a town in one of the fragments because little is known about the town that Heraclitus references (97 n. 112).

I myself do not know Greek, so I cannot comment upon how well translated these passages are.
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56 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Kazan on May 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
While Heraclitus is no do doubt deserving of five stars, and Brooks Haxton does provides some lovely, even moving, translations here; there is something just a little too fast and loose about this edition for my comfort - as if the folks at Penguin figured they could cash in pitching ancient Greek thought to a New Age audience. I hate to say it, but this is a volume in desperate need of far more extensive footnotes and a far more rigorous introduction to provide a better picture of the world and context from these fragments and their author come from. Unfortunately, without these, Haxton/Penguin merely leave the reader with an amorphous list of happy truisms. James Hillman's softball introduction is of little use with its glib glossing of archetypes, postmodernism, and cross cultural comparisons of so-called "wisdom poetry" in what I can only take as a feel-good attempt to make Heraclitus into some sort of hip dude; you know, like Buddha, Lao-Tzu, Jesus and gang. And I have no doubt that he was, but this sort of self-congratulatory blather (e.g. "I like to think [Heraclitus] would have enjoyed this deconstruction") makes my teeth grind. This book is fine for those who want to rub their bellies and say "ohm," after every precious fragment, and Haxton's renderings really are nice, but it is still essentially useless for the student or serious reader. The use of the original Greek text on the facing pages appears perhaps only as a desperate attempt at some sort of legitimacy. On a shallow note, this book does feature one of the nicest, and most appropriate, covers to grace a Penguin Classic in a long time. At least their design department still appears to be top notch.
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