From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Princeton scholar Fagles follows up his celebrated Iliad and Odyssey with a new, fast-moving, readable rendition of the national epic of ancient Rome. Virgil's long-renowned narrative follows the Trojan warrior Aeneas as he carries his family from his besieged, fallen home, stops in Carthage for a doomed love affair, visits the underworld and founds in Italy, through difficult combat, the settlements that will become, first the Roman republic, and then the empire Virgil knew. Recent translators (such as Allen Mandelbaum) put Virgil's meters into English blank verse. Fagles chooses to forgo meter entirely, which lets him stay literal when he wishes, and grow eloquent when he wants: "Aeneas flies ahead, spurring his dark ranks on and storming/ over the open fields like a cloudburst wiping out the sun." A substantial preface from the eminent classicist Bernard Knox discusses Virgil's place in history, while Fagles himself appends a postscript and notes. Scholars still debate whether Virgil supported or critiqued the empire's expansion; Aeneas' story might prompt new reflection now, when Americans are already thinking about international conflict and the unexpected costs of war. (Nov.)
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Fagles's new version of Virgil's epic delicately melds the stately rhythms of the original to a contemporary cadence. Having previously produced well-received translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey, he illuminates the poem's Homeric echoes while remaining faithful to Virgil's distinctive voice. Pious Aeneas, passionate Dido, and raging Turnus are driven by the desires and rivalries of the gods-but even the gods recognize their obeisance to fate, and to the foretold Roman Empire that will produce Augustus, Virgil's patron. The excellent introduction, by Bernard Knox, gives historical and literary context, and both Knox and Fagles convincingly argue the epic's continuing relevance. Fagles, writing of Virgil's sense of "the price of empire," notes that "it seems to be a price we keep on paying, in the loss of blood and treasure, time-worn faith and hard-won hope, down to the present day."
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