A new translation for a local readership.

12 Nov 2012 - 19:45

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The Iliad of Homer recently made the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

Emeritus Professor Richard Whitaker's The Iliad of Homer: A Southern African Translation (Cape Town 2012) has recently been published. The translation, which took ten years to complete, aims to make Homer's classic poem of the Trojan War more accessible to local readers, through using an English that acknowledges the influence of other South African languages. Words such as amakhosi, kgotla, outspan, kloof, sloot, assegai, umkhonto, veld and sjambok stud the text.

Whitaker says: "When teaching the Iliad in English I grew dissatisfied with the Anglo-American translations that I and my South African students were forced to use, since they were the only ones available to us. I came to feel that, on the one hand, 'kings', 'princes', 'palaces' and the like were remote from local experience. And, on the other hand, there were many elements of the Homeric world, such as payment of bride-price in cattle - which I translate as lobola - and warriors' winning praises in combat, that might resonate with South Africans. Also, it seemed to me that Southern African English by now had a vocabulary and register of its own that deserved to be reflected in poetic translation."

Even before it was published, this translation of the Iliad was warmly praised by the late Stephen Watson, Professor of English at UCT, and distinguished South African poet and critic. To learn more about the translation and to order the book, visit the book's website

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