27 January 2010

On Epaminondas

What a weird trail!  Prompted, I admit, by the mention of Sarah Bakewell's book on Montaigne on "Start the Week" (BBC Radio 4) I dug out my unread copy of his selected essays and started to read.a

Aren't his sentences long? I wonder if there is a debate among translators about how much you can muck about with sentence and paragraph construction without violating the original author's style.

And in the first essay in this selection I find a mention of Epaminondas, a Theban general.

My only prior encounter with this ridiculous name, around which I struggled to get my tongue almost 60 years ago, was in a most egregiously racist children's story, of which I had not thought for half a century. Actually, it was not the one referred to in the heading link; it was "Epaminondas and his Mammy's Umbrella" (Sorry, I can''t provide full bibliographic details at short notice--but courtesy of the web you can read it here!)

I have no idea what to make of this. I have no opinion other than revulsion at the casual racism of fifty years ago--but a recognition that these were the default values which I shared as a child (I do remember being puzzled about the ungrammatical dialect).

This is an occasion for negative capability, and I note with interest but no conclusion that it is almost exactly a year since I last blogged on that.

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