Monday, May 30, 2022

Colette's last hit, Tanizaki's puppets, McBain's police work - the wash of blue and white which was the sky


Some of these books have to got back to the library.  Let’s write ‘em up.


Some Prefer Nettles (1929) by Tanziaki Junichiro.  A married couple has fallen out of loe with each other, and the wife in love with someone else.  They should divorce, probably, but then what’s the hurry.  Every literature has, at some point, its divorce novels, and here is a Japanese example.  It is mostly from the point of view of the shallow Westernized husband, whose Westernization is described in two fine scenes, one where he buys a multi-volume Richard Burton Arabian Nights in order to read the dirty parts (which he never finds), and another where he visits his Western “mistress,” who is a Russian-Korean prostitute working in a brothel.  Some readers may wish the story had a different point of view character, but I had a good laugh at him.

My puzzle was how this tight but flatly-written domestic novel is a candidate for “greatest novel by greatest Japanese writer.”  Let’s see what Donald Keene says in the “Fiction” volume of Dawn to the West (1984):

Some critics consider this to be Tanizaki’s finest work, not only because of its intrinsic literary excellence  but because it presents both subtly and effectively the great transformation in Tanizaki’s life from a worshiper of the West to a believer in the Japanese heritage.  (759)

The intrinsic excellence is unspecified, and the last part is not remotely an aesthetic quality.  So I am still puzzled.  The Japanese cultural detail, including several substantial sections about the puppet theater, is of high interest, the ironies of the marriage are well-observed, etc. etc.  But “finest” and so on, I don’t see it.


Cop Hater, Ed McBain (1956).  I am continuing my education in the history of crime fiction with a key police procedural, the first of a long line of 87th Precinct novels that abandon any hint of a puzzle mystery for the grind of ordinary, tedious police work.  Or at least make steps in that direction.  My sense of the realism of Cop Hater is based entirely on subsequent cop shows deeply influenced by these novels, so what do I know.

Salvatore Lombino was a classic hack writing science fiction under these pseudonyms and crime fiction under those, more or less settling for the McBain name when these books became his biggest hits.  In classic hack fashion, his prose can get kinda purple, when I would expect nothing but plainness:

The clear silhouettes of the buildings slashed at the sky, devouring the blue; flat planes and long planes, rough rectangles and needle sharp spires, minarets and peaks, pattern upon pattern laid in geometric unity against the wash of blue and white which was the sky.  (1)

A little purple is all right with me.  I enjoyed this book, and if I were a real fan of mysteries I would seek out more, but really I would rather know what else was out there.


Gigi (1945) by Colette.  Age 71, writing in occupied Paris, Colette writes the biggest hit of her life, a novella about a fifteen year-old girl being groomed to be a courtesan by her grandmother and great-aunt, both courtesans themselves.  The story is not as creepy as it sounds only because it is not clear what is going on for quite a while.  Maybe the grandmother is just unusually obsessed with etiquette, or something.  And the real story of the story is Gigi’s subtle resistance, ultimately successful, to her groomers.  The character in the 1958 Vincente Minelli musical is surely aged quite a bit?

The book titled Gigi includes the novella and three other pieces.  “The Sick Child” is the saddest thing, a lovely piece about the imaginative life of a boy bedridden with polio.  “The Photographer’s Wife” oddly has more detail about the lost profession of pearl stringing – “Because I had, in the old days, a pearl necklace like everyone else” (2nd paragraph) – but the title character takes over by the end.  “Flora and Pomona” is not a story but an extended wander through Colette’s love of flowers, plants, and even, why not, fruit.  Colette mostly writes at my reading level, but with that last one she kicked me around pretty hard.  The flowers, the parts of flowers, just to begin.  Good for my French, I tell myself.

“Gigi” is easy to find in English.  The next two stories are in the big Collected Stories, although all translation above is mine.  “Flora and Pomona” is in a 1986 collection of Colette’s essays titled Flowers and Fruit.  All a pleasure to read, setting aside the difficulty of the French.


Friday, May 27, 2022

The Suppliants by Euripides - O grief, O grief!

The Suppliants, or The Suppliant Women, by Euripides, c. 423 BCE, or perhaps a few years later depending on how certain passages link to specific incidents in the Peloponnesian War.  A curious play, hardly one of Euripides’s best.

The story is familiar.  It is Seven Against Thebes and Antigone on the other side of the wall, with the grieving mothers of the soldiers lost fighting Thebes petitioning Athens to help them recover and bury the bodies of their sons.  The victorious Thebans, forbidding burial, are committing what we would call war crimes.  Virtuous Athens, led by Theseus, is willing to go to war in the name of human rights.

THESEUS:  By my many noble deeds

I have made myself a byword to the Greeks:

They count on me to punish wickedness.  (71)

You can hardly say The Suppliants is not relevant.  My impression, which is why I prefer the earlier date, making a Trilogy of Grief with Andromache and Hecuba, is that Euripides is working on dramatizing the costs of war but has not yet rejected, in disgust, the Athenian experiment.  Or whatever happened.  The Trojan Women is eight year or so in the future.  I should save some of these thoughts for The Trojan Women.

ADRASTUS:  Cities!  You might use

Reason to end your troubles; but with blood,

Not words, you ruin your affairs. – Enough!  (84)

What strikes me about both of the passages I have quoted is that they do not seem, in the context of the play, ironic.  Up above I placed a stereoscopic photograph of the Temple of Theseus,, taken circa 1870, owned by the Getty Museum.  One strange aspect of The Suppliants is that it is, for Euripides, a pious play, telling a religious story.  Why does Athens have a Temple of Theseus?  Why, down that road, is there a shrine to Capaneus, who is not even Athenian?  Well, there is a story about that – and here is the story.  We have stepped back to the Greek drama as origin story.

I have wondered about the role of the producer, to use our word, the money man, in the plays we have been reading.  Different wealthy citizens acted a producer of the Dionysian plays in different years.  Some apparently sent over the minimum funds while others spent lavishly; some were hands off while others were more involved.  Really just like Hollywood producers.  I wonder if the Suppliants was something like a commissioned play.  The producer sacrificed at the Shrine of Capaneus, got what he wanted, and now owes Capaneus a favor.  Euripides is then juggling his own concerns with those of his money guy.  I don’t know any of this, but I wonder.

Regardless, the emotional core of the play, the thing that makes it some kind of tragedy, is the mourning of the mothers and children for the fallen soldiers.  “O grief, O grief!” (87) as Adrastus says.  A god drops in at the end to wrap things up, but until then the action, and the sorrow, has been utterly human.

I’m reading the Frank William Jones translation.

The play next week is The Clouds by Aristophanes (423 BCE).  This one is unmissable.  Aristophanes sets aside his feud against Cleon for a year to instead go after a very special guest star.  Do not miss The Clouds!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Dorothy Richardson's Interim, book 5 in Pilgrimage - It went on and on. It seemed to be going toward something.

My piece about Dorothy Richardson’s The Tunnel (1919) was a bit late, and now I’ll write up Interim (1920), the fifth novel in the Pilgrimage series, a bit late.  All this relative to the novel-a-month readalong mostly taking place on Twitter, useful for many reasons but mostly for Neglected Books posting startling archival finds like the actual article the protagonist Miriam is reading in the highbrow dental trade journal The Dental Cosmos.  And that’s the second literary dental trade journal encountered so far in Richardson’s books.  When Katherine Mansfield reviewed The Tunnel, she seemed to be a bit frightened by Richardson’s capacity to remember details like this.

Last time I worried about the metaphysics; now I’ll just wallow in the prose.  Look at this – Miriam is reading:

She plunged back into Norway, reading on and on.  Each line was wonderful; but all in a darkness.  Presently on some turned page something would shine out and make a meaning.  It went on and on.  It seemed to be going toward something.  But there was nothing that any one could imagine, nothing in life or in the world that could make it clear from the beginning, or bring it to an end.  (382)

Now Richardson is writing about the metaphysics of fiction.  Is Miriam reading Pilgrimage?  Aside form the word “Norway” the passage is a good self-description.

She read a scene at random and another and began again and read the first scene through and then the last.  It was all the same.  You might as well begin at the end.  (383)

What on earth is she reading?

Ibsen’s Brand [1867] is about all those worrying things, in magnificent scenery.  You are in Norway while you read.  That is why people read books by geniuses and look far-away when they talk about them.  (383)

Two or three fine pages of young intellectual discovery. 

People go about saying ‘Ibsen’s Brand’ as if it were the answer to something, and Ibsen knows no more than any one else. . . . (384, ellipses in original)

The aggressive italics are a normal feature of Richardson’s style.

Interim is mostly a boarding house novel, in which Miriam meets many curious neighbors, many of them medical students, one even, exotically, Canadian.  But the novel begins with a marvelous long chapter where Miriam spends Christmas with the family of some former students from her brief time as a teacher in Backwater (1916), three novels ago.  In a kind of climax, Miriam begins remembering earlier Christmases.  Curiously, as interior as Miriam is, she does not do much remembering.  Everything is now and forward.  So this scene was a surprise:

‘Didn’t you love it?’ broke in Miriam presently.  ‘Do you remember—’ and she recalled the Noah’s ark as it had looked on the nursery floor, the offended stiffness of hthe rescued family, the look of the elephants and giraffes and the green and yellow grasshoppers and the red lady-bird, all standing about alive amongst the stiff bright green trees.  (298)

And on and on, like Ibsen, for a couple of paragraphs.  A paper theatre, a kaleidoscope, various dolls.  On and on to the point that she puts her hosts to sleep.  A lovely couple of pages in a lovely chapter.  Richardson, a real innovator, gets in line with a long English tradition of charming fictional Christmases.

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Knights by Aristophanes - Here, put on this wreath and pour a libation to Stupidity

The Knights
(424 BCE), the second surviving Aristophanes play.  The target is the demagogue, a familiar figure today, and thank goodness because otherwise much of The Knights, without scholarly help, and sometimes with, is cryptic.  But anyone will understand this method of succeeding in democratic politics:

CHORUS: We’ve found a villain even deeper,

A crook, a wheedler and a creeper,

Full of every crafty wile,

A man of truly perfect guile!  (62)

The villain, Aristophanes’s arch-enemy Cleon, is defeated by means of creating an even worse demagogue (that's him above, the sausage-seller).  One cheer for democracy.

When the play was first performed Cleon was, apparently, sitting in the front row.  In the original Greek, there is a comment that the Cleon character’s mask should not be too recognizable, to avoid a slander suit.  As Alan H. Sommerstein (Penguin edition) adapts the bit:

Oh, and by the way, you needn’t be afraid to look at his face.  It won’t look like the real one.  You see, our sponsor was a bit worried in case you-know-who might – you-know-what.  Ah, but he’ll be recognised all right; as I say, we’ve a brainy audience!  (44)

It is clear enough that the translation of Aristophanes requires more adaptation than the tragedies.  Too many puns, parodic quotes from Euripides, local references, and comic songs.  Sommerstein identifies appropriate Gilbert and Sullivan tunes for his songs.  I can imagine Tom Stoppard or Richard Bean salvaging The Knights, which in Sommerstein’s more compromising version – this idea more for performance, that annotation more for students – is sometimes rough going.

Not that there are not some classic gags in Sommerstein:

DEMOSTHENES: You don’t even believe in the gods.

NICIAS: I didn’t use to, but I do now.


NICIAS: Because if there weren’t any gods, I wouldn’t be so bloody god-forsaken.  (37)

Then there is the nose-blowing gag, a precursor of gross-out comedy, which begins:

PAPHLAGONIAN: Blow your nose, Thepeople [Demos], and use my head to wipe your hands! [He kneels in from of THEPEOPLE, who begins to blow his nose.]  (70)

And the joke keeps going, acted out in disgusting detail in front of the citizens of Athens, who were likely howling.

Another line I liked, a motto for Aristophelian comedy:

Here, put on this wreath and pour a libation to Stupidity.  (44)

I remind myself that we have here a five-year run of Aristophanes plays; I find The Knights  more interesting as a chapter in that run than on its own.

If you were at the International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama in Cyprus last summer you could have seen a performance of The Knights.  I have borrowed a photo of their sausage-seller.

Next week is the last of our informal Euripides trilogy of grief and suffering, The Suppliants (c. 423).  The story should look familiar.  After that, also from 423, is an Aristophanes masterpiece, The Clouds.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Zola and Gissing in Dorothy Richardson - ‘You understand about books, don’t you,’ she said wistfully.

The Tunnel is by far the longest book in the Pilgrimage series – almost 300 pages! not actually long – and it contains the longest chapter in the series, Chapter 3, 43 pages long, a day at the dentist office.  Per the usual Richardson method, there has been no previous hint that Miriam is working in a dentist office, and it will likely take a reader a page or two to figure it out her employer is a dentist, not a doctor.  “’Morning, pater, got a gas case?’” (32).

Chapter 4, 25 pages long, sees Miriam walk home and visit some friends after work.  It is a day in the new London life of Miriam.  The two chapters together are a quarter of the novel.

I associate this “typical day at work” device with Zola, who used it frequently, repeatedly in the department store novel The Ladies’ Paradise but also in L’Assommoir, The Belly of Paris, and Germinal.  The “typical” day establishes an underlying rhythm to which Zola can add counter-rhythms and disruptions.  That is essentially what Richardson is doing.

Perhaps, though, you remember the piece I wrote a month ago about the curious preface Richardson wrote for the 1938 edition of the (almost) complete Pilgrimage, in which she makes the curious claim that Proust is the first successor to Balzac in French “realism,” skipping Flaubert, a blatant influence on Richardson, and also Zola.  So I am reading this chapter thinking “Ah, the Zola device,” when I get to the part where Miriam begins discussing novels with the wife of one of the dentists, in particular hoping Miriam will help her pick some books from Mudie’s Lending Library, and particularly in particular:

‘We’ve been reading such an awful one – awful.’

Miriam began fingering her gold-foil [dentistry detail]. Mrs Orly was going to expect her to be shocked. . .

‘By that awful man Zola. . . . ‘

‘Oh, yes,’ said Miriam, dryly.

‘Have you read any of his?’

‘Yes,’ said Miriam carefully.  (62-3)

Which is the first I’ve heard of that.  Miriam, our writer in formation, is reading Zola, in French.

‘You understand about books, don’t you,’ she said wistfully.

‘Oh, no,’ said Miriam.  ‘I’ve hardly read anything.’

‘I wish you’d put those two down [on the lending library list].’

‘I don’t know the names of the translations,’ announced Miriam conceitedly.  (Ch. 2, 63)

Richardson likes to put adverbs after the word “said,” but these are unusual intrusions by the narrator.  The particular novels Miriam recommends are Lourdes and La Rêve (The Dream).  She is being conceited.

But my point is that this is obviously Richardson’s nod to her predecessor, this appearance of Zola amid the bookkeeping and appointment tracking and anesthesia that makes up the typical day.

I could only think of one example of a British novel that used the same device: Mr. Bailey, Grocer (c. 1891) by Harold Biffen, an example no less important because it is imaginary.  It is a novel “so dedicated to the principles of mimetic realism that nothing happens in it at all” as Adam Roberts describes it in his perceptive piece on George Gissing’s New Grub Street (1891), in which Mr. Bailey, Grocer appears.  The imagined novel is so conceptually perfect that there is no reason to read Gissing’s novel, and certainly not the novel itself, to understand it.  Mr. Bailey, Grocer has become a touchstone for me, or maybe more like a boundary stone for the limits of fiction.  Richardson often seems to be getting close to Mr. Bailey, Grocer, the novel of the most perfectly described ordinariness.

I don't know that Richardson read Gissing, but it did surprise me when the second proper name in The Tunnel, after "Miriam," was "Mrs Bailey," her landlady, not, at least at this point, married to a grocer.

New Grub Street is well worth reading for other reasons, the main ones described by Roberts.  Another Gissing novel, The Odd Women (1893), is even more relevant for The Tunnel.  Set at almost exactly the same time as Richardson’s novel, it is about young women who learn stenography and typing in order to have an independent life without marrying or being a governess.  Or a life acceptable by their class­ – the novel is deeply classist.  Half of the novel is about a woman who marries badly to avoid the terrible alternatives, and the other half about the odd woman who trains the odd women but finds herself tempted, against her convictions, by marriage. 

I see why the status of The Odd Women has grown over the last thirty years, even if it is not exactly a great novel (Gissing, as a prose writer, is good but kind of heavy).  I recommend it to any reader of Pilgrimage.  I recommend New Grub Street to everyone who can stand Victorian novels.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

If writing meant that, it was not worth doing - The Tunnel, fourth book of Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage

The Tunnel (1919) by Dorothy Richardson, the fourth book in the Pilgrimage series, is what I will write about here.  There are always interesting things in these books.

1. Our autobiographical heroine is now in London, working in a dentist office and living in a little room in St. Pancras.  The genre of the novel is “young woman in the city.”  The previous novels, where Miriam was a teacher in Germany, a teacher in North London, and a governess, were all false starts, but Richardson, and thus presumably Miriam, will work as a secretary – office manager, maybe – for the dentists for ten years, so maybe this roman is finally going to start fleuving.

Three false starts in the first three novels is just one more reason why Richardson is neglected.  Patience testing.

2.  Richardson’s method continues to be relentlessly interiorized, inside Miriam’s head all the time, and fragmented, with lots of the usual writing that connects scene to scene missing.  The reader is tossed into the pool headfirst, over and over again.  A mass of material results – lots of extraordinary social detail, like all of the stuff where Miriam learns to ride a bicycle, and lots of questionable but at least provocative thinking from young Miriam.  I have been wondering, though, how it is all being shaped by Richardson.  Really, if it is shaped.  My prejudice is that all else equal, shaped is more artful than unshaped.

Both Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf reviewed The Tunnel in 1919.  Both were, at that point, the authors of one book each, so this is early, before their major works.  But I assume they were both better readers than I am, and both vote that Richardson’s novels are unshaped.

Mansfield: “Only we feel that until these things are judged and given each its appointed place in the whole scheme, they have no meaning in the world of art.”

Woolf: “We want to be rid of realism, to penetrate beneath it, and further require that Miss Richardson shall fashion this new material into something which has the shapeliness of the old accepted forms.”

These are both positive, if skeptical, reviews.  Many thanks to Neglected Books for collecting these reviews among so much other useful material.

3.  In real life, Richardson reconnected with a high school friend around this time (1894 if I am dating the time of the novel correctly).  The friend was recently married to a young writer who turned out to be H. G. Wells.  I mean, he always was, but in 1894 he had not yet published a novel, just a mass of short stories and newspaper writing, so he was not yet, you know, H. G. Wells.  Anyway, this sounds so unlikely to me, but it happened, and if it happened it went into Pilgrimage, so there is some fascinating stuff about Miriam hanging around with the Wells circle.

One way Pilgrimage is perhaps shaped is as a portrait of the artist as a young woman, and much of that theme is developed in the “Wells” chapter.  For example:

[T]he business of the writer was imagination, not romantic imagination, but realism, fine realism, the truth about ‘the savage,’ about all the past and present, the avoidance of cliché . . . what was cliché? . . . (Ch. 6, 122 ellipses in original)

Rows and rows of ‘fine’ books; nothing but men sitting in studies doing something cleverly, being very important, ‘men of letters’; and looking out for approbation.  If writing meant that, it was not worth doing. (Ch. 6, 130)

To write books, knowing all about style, would be to become like a man.  Women who wrote books and learned these things would be absurd and would make men absurd.  (Ch. 6, 131)

Many great lines in Chapter 6.

I’ll save #4 for tomorrow.  Zola and Gissing tomorrow.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Hecuba by Euripides - Good words should get their goodness from our lives

So what is Hecuba to him, exactly?  Shakespeare would have meant the Hecuba from Seneca’s gruesome Troades (1st century CE), not the Hecuba of Euripides (c. 424 BCE), and from Ovid.  Maybe I should revisit Seneca and Ovid soon.  The image below, borrowed from the Met, is a 1606 Italian illustration of Ovid showing Hecuba and her servants murdering Polymestor.  The Romans preferred the murders to be onstage, so to speak.

Hecuba, famous for having fifty children, or more, if she had fifty sons, lost all but three of them in the Trojan War.  In this play, she loses two more. Only Cassandra outlives her mother, and not for long.  Euripides tells a story of suffering, of grief piled on grief until the poor mother loses her humanity.

A lot of Hecuba should look familiar by now: the two-part structure, one part for the cruelly sacrificed daughter and another for the crassly murdered son; the pointless religious sacrifice of a young woman, like she is just a kind of sheep; the double-talking, self-interested heroes who are cowardly politicians, not heroic in any way.  The gods are replaced by ghosts this time.  “There is none but goddess Suffering herelf” Hecuba laments, plausibly (43, Arrowsmith).

At least one thing is close to new.  Euripides begins what will be an extended argument, over many plays, linking the corruption of the leaders, the heroes, to the decline of civilization.  I have no doubt the argument is political, a response that is still perhaps mere disquiet at this point to the suffering of the Peloponnesian War.  The Athenians know they are the good guys, fighting for the right reasons, yet they end up sounding like “that crowdpleasing, honeytalking, wordchopping” (106, Carson) Odysseus:

ODYSSEUS: You barbarians don’t know how to treat your friends as friends,

how to venerate men who die beautiful deaths.

The result is: Greece on top!

And your fate matches your policy.  (114, Carson)

This speech is the justification of a human sacrifice.  Athens on top!

Hecuba, in a couple of curious places, makes an argument about the source of good and evil, and connects the concepts to the playw0right’s, and politician’s, great instrument, words:

Good words should get their goodness from our lives

and nowhere else; the evil we do should show,

a rottenness that festers in our speech

and what we say, incapable of being glozed

with a film of pretty words.

                                                    There are men, I know,

sophists who make a science of persuasion,

glozing evil with a slick of loveliness;

but in the end a speciousness will show.

The impostors are punished; not one escapes

his death.  (62, Arrowsmith)

Some of this may be true, some false.  These ideas will return.  Agamemnon, with whom she is arguing here, certainly gets his punishment soon enough.  Like the Greek audience, we can enjoy the sinister irony when Agamemon just doubts that women are capable of revenge.

                                            But women?

Women overpower men?  (47, Arrowsmith)

I read, and am using, both the William Arrowsmith and the Anne Carson translations.  I liked them both.

Next week’s play is The Knights (425 BCE) by Aristophanes, which I remember as being much like The Acharnians but with new jokes.

Friday, May 6, 2022

The Acharnians by Aristophanes - what I’m going to say may be unpalatable, but it’s the truth

The Acharnians (425 BCE) by Aristophanes, his third play and our first.  It is a chaotic joke machine, so no wonder I did not remember it at all, but it is a good introduction to Aristophanes, who, along with his lost competitors in the comedy festivals, is literally inventing stage comedy, playing with many of the rhetorical devices comics use today: satire, ridicule, nonsense, obscenity, silly wigs, topical jokes, ethnic humor, goofy costumes, and cheap personal attacks.  Anything for a laugh.

It is curious to remember that the named targets of the personal attacks were likely in the audience, pretending to laugh along with everyone else, while of course thinking about how to get revenge on Aristophanes later.  The feud with Cleon, leader of the radical anti-Spartan faction in Athens, began with the previous, lost play, and will continue through at least three of the next four plays.

Another way, then, that The Acharnians introduces Aristophanes well: will I always need so much annotation, so many notes about people and events and parodies of other plays?  Yes, pretty much.

In The Acharnians a citizen farmer makes an independent peace with Sparta, allowing him to live as he did before the Peloponnesian War, which mostly means eating and drinking, a lot more fun than wartime deprivation.  He has to dodge angry generals and the Acharnian chorus, whose village still suffers form Spartan attacks, but it all works out, for him at least:

I’ve got the skin; there’s time at least

To give ourselves another feast.

Let’s have the toast with three times three –

‘Hail to the champion’ – that’s me.  (104)

We are at the very end of the play here, so the farmer is not just celebrating but asking for victory in the dramatic competition, which The Acharnians in fact won.  Aristophanes plays are almost by definition self-conscious, full of parody and references to his own and other plays, even sending a character meant to be identified as himself onto the stage, if I understand the relevant scene correctly.  The peak of the pastiche postmodernism is the long scene where the farmer begs scraps of costumes and speeches from a pompous Euripides, culminating in a Defense of Comedy:

Don’t hold it against me, gentlemen, if, though a beggar – and a comic poet at that – I make bold to speak to the great Athenian people about matters of state.  Not even a comedian can be completely unconcerned with truth and justice; and what I’m going to say may be unpalatable, but it’s the truth.  (71)

And this is what we’ll get from Aristophanes for the next twenty-five years.  A number of his plays – at least five as I count them – are better than this one.  But this is the idea.

Page numbers and translations are from Alan H. Sommerstein’s Penguin Classics translation.

Sadly I could not find an image of the pig children emerging from the sack – I did not think to look for the eel – so a depiction of pigs by The Pig Painter will have to do.  Visit the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge to see this masterpiece for yourself.

Next week’s play is Hecuba by Euripides, generally thought to be one of his best.  I remember it as tightly written compared to Andromache.  I also remember it being full of truly horrible events.  I plan to brace myself and read it twice, in William Arrowsmith’s and Anne Carson’s translations.