Orhan Pamuk has an appreciation of C. P. Cavafy in today’s NY Times Book Review focusing on his best-known poem, “The City” (a sidebar gives the Keeley/Sherrard translation, which I am not happy with, but then there are no really good translations of Cavafy; see this ancient LH post for my attempt at one). Pamuk has nice things to say about the poet, his poem, and his city, Alexandria, but what leads me to post is this bit towards the end: “A longtime friend once published a selection in Turkish, working from Edmund Keeley’s translations…” That made me sad. Theoretically, you would think any Turk interested in foreign literature, and especially Cavafy, would learn Greek as a matter of course; the countries are right next to each other and their histories and cultures are inextricably intertwined. In fact, of course, the longstanding mutual fear and loathing makes that a utopian thought. How I dislike nationalism! (I also dislike ignoring the strict rhyme and meter of Cavafy’s great poem when you’re translating it, but that’s a separate issue.)
While I’m on the Times Book Review, I might as well quote the most educational correction I’ve seen in a while:
A review on Dec. 1 about “Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion,” by Anne Somerset , misstated the successional status of Queen Anne’s father before he became King James II. He was the heir presumptive of Charles II , not the heir apparent. (Generally, in the British system of royal primogeniture, the heir apparent, in contrast to an heir presumptive, is one whose claim to the throne cannot be superseded by the birth of a closer heir.) As the brother of Charles, who had no legitimate offspring, James was heir presumptive, but could have been displaced by the birth of a legitimate child to Charles.
I did not know that!