Friday, May 24, 2013

Appetitive: Review-- Anne Carson's Antigonick

A friend of the family gave me a copy of Antigonick for my birthday. I was excited to read it. Two of my best friends both raved over it and I generally love Anne Carson. However, as much as I hate to admit this, I just didn't get it.

It wasn't bad, but it wasn't really anything. It was a loose, quasi-postmodern translation of the Sophokles play with a sprinkling of moderately interesting language, quotes from Hegal, and some rather confusing drawings. It conveyed a sense of futility and desolation that reminded me of (but did not follow the tradition of) Camus, but not much more.

And there was a weird mute character, Nick, who "measures things". What things?-- well, as an audience, we don't know. My initial thought was that he provided a measure-- like the chorus was supposed to do in the ancient world. The chorus reacted, related stories, and as helpless witnesses, stood in for the audience. However, the chorus often has such insight (in their philosophical or mythical flights of fancy) or such blindness (when they are used for dramatic irony) in comparison to the audience, that I thought maybe, especially for a modern audience, Carson envisioned that it would help to have a character reacting-- thus measuring-- the play as a sort of intermediary. This idea made sense to me. And yet, that's not what he seems to be doing. Nick appears only once in the stage direction at the end of the play on the final page: "exunt omnes except Nick who continues measuring." This, in combination with Kreon and Eurydike's linguistic games surrounding the phrase "nick of time," inclined me to believe he was literally measuring.

I thought that I must be missing something, so I looked up a  couple of reviews online. It seems I didn't miss much. One review saw spirit and inspiration and one review hated the anachronistic touches, but neither seemed to be working with something fundamental that I missed.

One review reminded me that this is the second work of Anne Carson's in succession about mourning the loss of a brother (see Nox, which I loved). However, I'm kind of wary of such a biographical insight for obvious reasons.

1 comment:

  1. I thoroughly enjoy being confused by Anne Carson's work. I saw a modern dance production based on her translation of Euripides' Alkestis at BAM, and I did not get it at all. If someone other than Anne Carson had been responsible for it, I probably would've hated it. For whatever reason, I think she can and should do whatever she wants, and what she does is vital for the continuation of interest in Classics. I will have to read this.