Wednesday, October 30, 2013


A Joint Translation of Euripides' Alcestis

Dudley Fitts (1903-1968), letter to John Frederick Nims, in "Profile of a Modern Translator: Dudley Fitts," Delos, 2nd series, vol. 1, no. 1 (1988) 1-37 (at 12-13):
22 MARCH 1959. Fitts was revising his and [Robert Stuart] Fitzgerald's ALCESTIS.

I had not read the Alcestis for years, and had a vague idea that it was pretty loose, but worthy enow on the whole. Kumrad, it is loose to the point of diarrhoia, and it had no worth at all. Or almost none—a few good passages, a snatch or two of dialogue. This time, by St. Ann!, I am memorizing the Greek, and sticking as close to it, in English, as that gluteal beauty spot stuck to St. Salome Orchestris. I send my m.s., in triple space to RSF. He reads it, throws it away, recovers it, smooths it out, changes all my changes, and sends it illegibly back. My secretary—a nice bourbondrinking ex-hetaira of Albanian distraction—prepares a manuscript from my recension of this. We send that back to RSF. He reads five pages of Herodotos, beats his children in an order determined by seniority, gets drunk, and then reedits my revision. My ex-hetaira takes this mess when I've finished collating it with an old codex that used to belong to Elinore Wylie, complains bitterly to my wife, and beats out a final version, using my Greek Olivetti. All this via aeria first class. I am going broke, and Alcestis is not, really, all things considered, and I think we shd consider all things, do you not?, a better poem. Your prayers.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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