Sunday, December 22, 2013

Appetitive: Thoughts on the Audio Aeneid

I have a confession to make: I've never been able to get all the way through the Aeneid-- until a few months ago.

I was assigned the Mandlebaum translation in my first year of undergraduate study. I think I managed to get through Book 6 before my interest entirely ebbed away (and the only part I actually liked was Book 5-- the funeral games). I tried again to get through the whole thing when I read Book 8 in the Latin my third year in college. I managed to get through Books 1 and; 2 (and obviously Book 8 in the Latin), but no further. Then, a few summers ago, I tried to read it again for my own edification with the Fagles translation. Once again, I just failed to get through it. Then, two years ago, when I read Book 2 in the Latin, I tried again with the Fitzgerald translation, but it was a failure.

There's something about the Aeneid that just fundamentally doesn't appeal to me. I'm not sure what it is. I just would rather be doing something-- anything-- else. So, since I have a 30 minute walk each way from my apartment to class every day, I decided to get an audio version so I could feel like I was doing something productive on my walks. It worked. I finished the Aeneid in about a week of walking and house-cleaning (audiobooks have save the state of my apartment).

I recommend this version. It's the Fagles translation, which is colloquial without straying too far from the text. Simon Callow's narration is a little over the top (and his female voices are quite annoying), but it kept me engaged in the story while I was doing other things. I actually noticed some interesting things (how many of Aeneas' actions are motivated by omens, for example).

Once I finished that, I started downloading other audio books of various other classical texts (including Ian McKellen's wonderful reading of Fagles' Odyssey). It makes me feel productive on my walks to and from class. More recently, I've been listening to Paul Cartledge's The Spartans, in order to study for my Greek history survey exam.

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