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Friday, February 19, 2010

The Golden Ass (or, my first DNF of 2010)

I’ve wanted to read THE GOLDEN ASS (TGA) by Apuleius for quite a while. I first noticed it on the list of 1,001 Books To Read Before You Die. When I read CS Lewis’s TILL WE HAVE FACES I found out that the original story of Cupid and Psyche is included in TGA and that made me want to read it even more. And since it fit perfectly into the Really Old Classics Challenge I figured that was just the push I needed to read it.

I downloaded a few chapters from Project Gutenberg (PG) and started reading excitedly. That was just after New Years. It is now late February and I haven’t gotten very far.

The problem is not the story, at least I don’t think it is. The problem is the translation. The version on PG includes a note by the translator stating his reasons for doing the translation; it is dated 1566. According to PG, “The original spelling, capitalisation and punctuation have been retained.” Yikes.

To give you an idea of what this translation is like, here is the first paragraph of the first chapter:
As I fortuned to take my voyage into Thessaly, about certaine affaires which I had to doe ( for there myne auncestry by my mothers side inhabiteth, descended of the line of that most excellent person Plutarch, and of Sextus the Philosopher his Nephew, which is to us a great honour) and after that by much travell and great paine I had passed over the high mountaines and slipperie vallies, and had ridden through the cloggy fallowed fields; perceiving that my horse did wax somewhat slow, and to the intent likewise that I might repose and strengthen my self (being weary with riding) I lighted off my horse, and wiping the sweat from every part of his body, I unbrideled him, and walked him softly in my hand, to the end he might pisse, and ease himself of his weariness and travell: and while he went grazing freshly in the field (casting his head sometimes aside, as a token of rejoycing and gladnesse) I perceived a little before me two companions riding, and so I overtaking them made a third. And while I listened to heare their communication, the one of them laughed and mocked his fellow, saying, Leave off I pray thee and speak no more, for I cannot abide to heare thee tell such absurd and incredible lies; which when I heard, I desired to heare some newes, and said, I pray you masters make me partaker of your talk, that am not so curious as desirous to know all your communication: so shall we shorten our journey, and easily passe this high hill before us, by merry and pleasant talke.
So, what did you think of that?

I’ve tried, really I have, but this is simply taking too much effort to read right now. I think I might enjoy the story if I had a different translation, but at the moment I’m tired of the whole thing. I’m calling it quits on this one.


Anna said...

I think I would have died from boredom. At least you gave it a try.

Diary of an Eccentric

Serena said...

LOL...looks like Piers the Plowman that I read in College for an honors seminar! Fun stuff to read with an authentic -- or what scholars think is authentic -- accent.

At least you tried...maybe you should get another translation.

Michelle said...

Looks as if it's translated into Middle English. Not totally unreadable, but not particularly accessible to people today.

I would suggest, if you really want to look into the Pyramus and Thisbe myth, get a copy of Ovid's Metamorphoses. It's in there. Ovid is where Shakespeare got the Pyramus and Thisbe story he put into Midsummer Night's Dream.

It's a great story, if you can find the right translation!

bermudaonion said...

Hey, at least you gave it a try - I'm too intimidated to.

Amateur Reader said...

Boy, are you right. Dump this translation. But not Apuleius!

The Robert Graves translation from 1951 is excellent and eminently readable.

Heather J. said...

Anna - Oh and did I ever TRY!

Serena - Yeah, now I just need a volunteer to read it to me. :)

Michelle - You're right, it isn't totally unreadable, and in another frame of mind I might actually enjoy it. Unfortunately my brain just doesn't want to work that way right now. :(

bermudaonion - I don't blame you!

Amateur Reader - I hope to try again with another translation, but not for a while (I need a break!) Thanks for the Graves suggestion - I'll look for that one next time.

Alyce said...

Ok, I admit it, I was drawn to this post by the title. :)

I think you can be excused for giving up on this one.

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do...LOL! I almost had a DNF with The Aelf Club in January, but I managed to slog through. It was a trial! If I wouldn't have been reading it for a blog tour, I probably would have put it down.

pussreboots said...

I think you could finish but not by reading it straight through. Maybe a few pages a week and let it take you the whole year if you need it. That's what I'm doing with Marcel Proust right now.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

What does it say about me that I find the title of your post so funny?! Clearly, a week home with the kids (no school for winter recess) had me giggling like Bart Simpson whenever possible.

I would have given up with that translation as well. I wonder if there's a newer (more readable) translation available.

Rebecca Reid said...

yeah, translations can kill a good really old classic. I hope you can try again with a new translation sometime! I've heard this one is irreverent and funny!

Elisabeth said...

I read this one in college & don't remember which translation we used, but I DO remember laughing all the way through it!

Heather J. said...

Alyce - hehehe! I figured the title would get some of you ... :)

Michelle - Yeah, it was just TOO MUCH of a slog for right now, especially since I don't HAVE to read it.

Puss - I'm definitely going to go back and read it - in another translation - in the future, I just can't do it right now.

Dawn - Does it make you feel better that I was laughing as I typed it?!

Rebecca - I certainly will!

Elisabeth - I've heard it is really good, but this translations was just too much for me.

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