It’s Not Too Late

The snowy cold he knows to flee and every human exigency crackles as he plugs it in every outlet works but one: death stays dark.
– Sophokles, Antigonick, translated by Anne Carson illustrated by Bianca Stone.

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I was recently move to reread Antigone after a discussion with a lovely man over the eponymous character’s attributes. I love Anne Carson’s translations, so I was thrilled to find her version,  Antigonick in my library system. But I had no idea just what a treat it would be. More of an artist’s book than straightforward text with illustrations. The interplay between words, images, pages, and color is magnificent, irreverent, absurd, lovely, and striking.

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The book as a whole, as an object inseparable from the visual and tactile components that it comprises, makes the rash Kreon all the more ridiculous, the sweet Antigone all the more reasonable in her steadfast refusal to be shamed by the capricious laws of a man (or men, writ large). In the collaborative translation, illustration, and design trio of Carson, Stone and Robert Currie, Kreon is shown to be the flibbertigibbit that he is, but to tragic effect. He spews his nouns and verbs, but the black and white words imprison the letter of his laws, shutting his heart to the vitality of wisdom.

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Tangled up, and cornered in, when one can not feel and let love be the ruler of the day the results are bloody awful. And for Sophokles, that is quite literal. The body count is high. Oh! the Greek Tragedians – they didn’t fool around! The Chorus sings, “You’re late to learn what’s what aren’t you” And for Kreon it is a painful realization. Yes, he is late, so late. But, it’s never too late for wisdom. Isn’t that why we continue to revisit these tales of woe and tragedy? – to soften our hearts with what is wise and true.

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9 responses to “It’s Not Too Late

  1. I hope it’s not too late. Great quote. Perfect for my day. :-)

  2. Maybe we’re also drawn to them for pure escapism

  3. Wonderful post. The Anne Carson translation is magnificent. Indeed, human civilization as we know it can be traced to the Greeks whose great tragedies survive and are still performed today for a reason.

    The Greek influence is something that marked your father’s work as a painter after spending many summers along the Adriatic with the University of Pennsylvania underwater archeological team recovering lost antiquities. It defines his early work as an artist.

    In truth, a case can be made that civilization begins with Euripides play The Eumenides. The moment that Orestes (Elektra’s brother), pursued by the Furies following his killing of his mother, Clytemnestra, surrenders himself to be tried in Athens, it marks the end of the cycle of violence — handing one’s need for vengeance over to the state in the belief that justice will prevail. The critical step away from the darkness of vendettas and into the light.

    • Yes, I do have a National Geographic article about his work with George Bass doing underwater archeology work in Turkey…I grew up loving his paintings inspired by Greece.
      Your final paragraph is very thought provoking…whets my appetite. It is such a fascinating period. Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful and enriching comments. It really means so much to me, you can’t know.

  4. Love the illustrations. The Greeks! The mythological gods and godesses are worse than everyday people in the average ghetto. no EQ among any of them. :-)

  5. Sounds wonderful.
    “Your soul is blowing apart.”
    The power possible in a sentence.

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