Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Man and Gods, by Rex Warner

Rex Warner was an Oxford-educated classical scholar, translator, novelist and poet, who know W.H. Auden and held interesting jobs such as Director of the British Institute in Athens. He published this work in 1950, and I was given it as a school prize in the Summer Term of 1970; it has the sticker on the inside cover, with the headmaster’s signature. Hence it is nostalgic for me to re-read it.

The stories of Greek mythology are part of our Western cultural heritage. Think of the well-known stories of Icarus, Phaethon, Orpheus, Midas, Heracles, Oedipus and Antigone, all of which have inspired subsequent poems, plays, paintings, operas and so forth. Rex Warner tells the stories in a straightforward style, that often reflects a close translation of the original stories in Ovid. I cross-referenced with my edition of Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’, translated by Mary Innes, and found they were very close in many places. So the author has not allowed himself much license to retell and augment the stories – which may be just as well. His style is crisp, fresh, business-like and easy to read. You could not have a clearer, more concise version of the key Greek myths, which should be part of the mental furniture of any educated Western person.

No comments: