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Grief Lessons: Four Plays by Euripides (New York Review Books Classics) Hardcover – August 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171802
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171806
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #611,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Writing with a pitch and heat that gets to the heart of the unforgiving classical world, Carson, a poet (The Autobiography of Red) and classicist (Economy of the Unlost), translates four of the 18 surviving plays by Euripides (485–406 B.C.): Alkestis, Herakles, Hekabe and Hippolytos. All feature characters trading single lines that somehow contain the essence of human tragedy. Alkestis blunderingly trades his wife's life for his own, then gets her back—but has to live with the embarrassment of having given her up. Herakles returns triumphant from the underworld, only to perform a fate-induced infanticide on his own children. Hekabe, a former queen now slave to the wily Odysseus, is reduced to a vengeful form of will to power. Hippolytos's uncomprehending state as the object of stepmother Phaidra's desire unravels all concerned. Carson is nothing less than brilliant—unfalteringly sharp in diction, audacious and judicious in taking liberties. In four separate prefaces, she introduces the plays succinctly, picking apart their structures and showing where flaws may be intentional. Worth the price of admission alone is Carson's blistering essay-afterword, written in Euripides's voice, which asks questions like "Is all anger sexual?" This amazing book gets very close to the playwright's enigmatic answers. (Aug.)
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Review

"In Grief Lessons, the contemporary poet and classicist Anne Carson's spare and beautiful new translation of four of Euripides' lesser known tragedies, we have a kind of primer on the intrinsic dangers of blind devotion to ideology. In the plays, many of which were produced during the Peloponnesian War, Euripides sought to explore–most touchingly–what conquest meant to the women and children who were left behind to suffer, steal, beg, and lie in order to survive, and fathers and sons who brought calamity home while seeking rule elsewhere. Dismantling the ‘towers of words’ that one character speaks of in ‘Herakles’ in favor of simpler language, Carson offers us a familiar portrait: Herakles is a man whose hubris, political and otherwise, brings his nobility to a crashing close. Carson focuses on Herakles’ ‘berserker furor,’ offering an apt description of an imperialist, ancient or modern, who fails to provide for his people’s safety or who sends young soldiers to fight wars that rob them and their country of the promise inherent in tomorrow.” --The New Yorker

"In Grief Lessons a poet who has been described as the 'philosopher of heartbreak' offers a flexible, enlivening and imaginative contemporary translation, encompassing anything from the tautly-strung passions of tragedy to the everyday. Carson knows how to give every word a presence, to endow it with a sense of particularity that gives it a fresh power." --Best Summer Reads: Poetry, The Times (London)

"The amazing poet Anne Carson offers a new translation of four plays by Euripides, each of which unfurls in searing, plainspoken English. Her essays and introductions are priceless." --Time Out New York


"Grief Lessons is...an eclectic selection that provides an excellent introduction to Euripides's range. Ms. Carson's Euripides is bleak, moving, and provocative, offering a painful reminder of the resonance of these ancient plays with our own times." --The New York Sun

"GRIEF LESSONS," the Canadian poet and classicist Anne Carson's new rendering of four plays by Euripides, reminds us that the difference between competent and inspired translation is more than a matter of even bravura technical competence. It involves a kind of discreet union between writer and translator, a certain convergence of aesthetic impulse and intellectual inclination. The issue of such a union can take a reader's breath away because it just seems so right — a work that stands firmly on its own but is somehow contented to be the sum of its parts. Carson's is, in other words, an altogether worthy heir.The late Stanley Kunitz's translations of Anna Akhmatova come quickly to mind, along with Seamus Heaney's "Beowulf" and, more recently, Carson's own justly praised version of Sappho's fragments, "If Not, Winter."...Stephen Sachs, who is directing the Getty's production of "Hippolytos," has praised Carson's translation for the way in which "the dangerous relationship between man and god is vividly brought to life, and demonstrates how a strict moral and spiritual fundamentalism can be one person's salvation and another's downfall." It's a reasonable and reasonably provocative contemporary reading." --Tim Rutten, The Los Angeles Times

"Writing with a pitch and heat that gets to the heart of the unforgiving classical world, Carson, a poet (The Autobiography of Red) and classicist (Economy of the Unlost), translates four of the 18 surviving plays by Euripides (485/406 B.C.): Alkestis, Herakles, Hekabe and Hippolytos. All feature characters trading single lines that somehow contain the essence of human tragedy. Alkestis blunderingly trades his wife's life for his own, then gets her back, but has to live with the embarrassment of having given her up. Herakles returns triumphant from the underworld, only to perform a fate-induced infanticide on his own children. Hekabe, a former queen now slave to the wily Odysseus, is reduced to a vengeful form of will to power. Hippolytos's uncomprehending state as the object of stepmother Phaidra's desire unravels all concerned. Carson is nothing less than brilliant--unfalteringly sharp in diction, audacious and judicious in taking liberties. In four separate prefaces, she introduces the plays succinctly, picking apart their structures and showing where flaws may be intentional. Worth the price of admission alone is Carson's blistering essay-afterword, written in Euripides's voice, which asks questions like "Is all anger sexual?" This amazing book gets very close to the playwright's enigmatic answers."--Publishers Weekly, **starred review**


On Anne Carson:

“Carson writes in language any poet would kill for”–The New York Times

“Carson is a wisdom writer”–Harold Bloom

“I haven’t discovered any writing in years so marvelously disturbing”–Alice Munro

“the most exciting poet writing in English today”–Michael Ondaatje

“One of the most acclaimed poets of the last 10 years”–Publishers Weekly

“Anne Carson, our very own chimera, part rigorous classics scholar, part post-modern rogue element”–Books in Canada

“One of North America's most acclaimed academic poets”–Library Journal

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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Travis Ann Sherman VINE VOICE on September 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've owned copies of Euripides all my life and never got around to reading them, but when Grief Lessons came across my desk last week, I was compelled to read straight through it. The title alone speaks of Carson's special talent for reaching the heart of the matter. Grief Lessons. The layout of her character's dialogue, too, flows back and forth along the margins of the page so that your eye moves easily down the text. The characters speak simply, without flourishes, without annoying Victorian poetic touches. Grief Lessons opens up Euripides to you so clearly that you can hear the characters weeping and shouting at each other on the stage of your mind. At the same time, so simple is Carson's translation that her words have an open ended flexibility that let you imagine them being pitched almost any way. Is Admetus a typical egocentric or an oaf? I'd always felt sorry for Hippolytus, cursed unfairly by his father. Now I'd like to curse him myself. I've never seen pomposity in a youth so clearly shown in a play. Moreover, Euripides lived at the end of Greece's golden age. His cynicism of the gods and heroes plays very appropriately on the stage of today.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nancy E. Ryan on March 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
No one writes about eros and "Necessity" (or the Greeks, Common Sense) their twists of irony, and the destructiveness of revenge as does Anne Carson. These plays are as relevant today as they were when written. The translations are fluent, singing poetry. The short prefaces are dynamite. Reflective and provocative. I'm rereading her other books. They are each one inspiring and unique. She is one of our best poets, and philosophers. Whenever my mind is dull, I reach over and pick up Desecration or Irony and Glass.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Marilyn French on January 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This translation of four plays by Euripedes is brilliant, clean and clear, without pretension. It offers the direct gaze of an Athenian at human emotion and human fate, which is considered a matter of luck more than character. For the Athenians matters of state and import are rooted in the family, where everything begins.
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