Have you ever been given a reading list that’s written, translated, and selected exclusively by and for men? Odds are you’ve rarely seen any that aren’t. If you want to appreciate the cannon while also living in a world where women exist, this is the list for you. These books and translations are some of the best and most lauded of all time, and yes, they’re by women.
It was, I must confess, a little hard to compile. The Odyssey was first translated by a woman only in 2017! But don’t despair. It’s all here for the taking.
The Iliad and the Odyssey
Homer’s epics have been translated MANY times, but these, by Caroline Alexander and Emily Wilson, respectively, set an incredible standard.
Close as can be to the ancient Greek, this translations has garnered heaping praise. “[T]he guard has changed, and a new gold standard has appeared”, said New Criterion at the volume’s publication. This edition even manages to retain the original line numbers from the Greek.
This work, too, matches the original Greek as closely as possible. “A staggeringly superior translation―true, poetic, lively and readable, and always closely engaged with the original Greek”, said Harvard classics professor Richard F. Thomas. Iambic pentameter imitates the lyricism of the original Greek, and the volume also includes translation guides and maps.
Antigonik and An Oresteia
For both of these it is possible to turn to Anne Carson, a Canadian translator and classics professor. Carson’s translations are modern, elegant, and never condescending. In stead of translated, the works seem brought into the light, with all their strangeness and fierceness intact.
How is it that Jane Austen, often the only woman on a reading list, is still under hyped? I had a guy in a bar tell me once that if people like Austen it’s because they haven’t read a lot of books. He really said that. Family conflict, human stories, and scathing humor makes Austen worth reading, with characters you really will love, and hate.
It’s a staple for a reason, and if you’re not sure you’ll relate to these people’s problems, you’re wrong. Fuckboys, impending poverty, poor decisions, and character growth you can get behind. Plus, it may be a period piece, but people still love their sisters. You’ll relate.
Another classic people want to avoid, but it has everything: deaths, fire, lies, weddings, blindness. I wouldn’t exactly call Jane a relateable character, but she’s understandable, I think, when you see everything she’s been through. And she’s incredibly decisive.
Images via Amazon