Richard Howard

My Novel, My Novel

Mourning Diary By Roland Barthes Translated by Richard Howard (Hill and Wang, 261 pp., $25) The Preparation of the Novel By Roland Barthes Translated by Kate Briggs (Columbia University Press, 463 pp., $29.50)   I. In retrospect, Roland Barthes once observed, his career as an intellectual began with the modest aim of revolution: It seemed to me (around 1954) that a science of signs might stimulate social criticism, and that Sartre, Brecht, and Saussure could concur in this project.

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The Oresteia of Aeschylus by Robert Lowell Greek poetry was born in the similes of Homer, and reached its maturity— and surprising modernity—in the metaphors of Pindar and Aeschylus. This may not be obvious to those who have only read their classics in English translation. Homer's style seems to pose no problem for the translators, all of whom faithfully describe Achilles charging the Trojans "like inhuman fire." But for some unfathomable reason they balk at translating even the simplest of Greek metaphors. This is without justification either ancient or modern.

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