Coffee Morning Words

I do not fear death, but I hope God gives me enough years to complete my vision. My pen moves across the page, time does not stop. A series of little breaks. The cultivation of self. Travelling to the island of Chios by boat this Saturday, the voyage eight hours across the Aegean Sea. The island faces Eastward, five miles off the coast of Turkey. I’ve never been that far before. Onassis was from Chios. My dear friend George Zymarakis, New York/Greek artist, is from there. Rumors that Christopher Columbus may have actually been from there. Bravo. I believe it.

My dear friend George Zymarakis often compares his 75 years of life to Homer’s The Odyssey. The first time I met him we talked about a lot of things, and at the end of the conversation he said that he was Odysseus and that after three Odysseys, he’d reached Ithaca. “Do you understand?” he asked. And I said, “What do you mean by Odysseys, George?” He turned his finger in the air, tracing the circumference of a slow motion frisbee. “Each Odyssey is a marriage, you see? Now I’ve reached my Ithaca.”

George has continually suggested I read Homer’s The Odyssey, the Fitzgerald translation, saying that we would then be on the same page.

At the bookstore last night, I could only find a different translation. A prose version of the Odyssey, translated by T.E. Shaw. The alternative was a specially bound and illustrated edition translated into rhyming verse. Horrid. I hate poetry that rhymes. Plus the T.E. Shaw version was only 4 Euros. I took it home, looked up this T.E. Shaw fellow. Turns out his real name is T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia of international fame.  At the beginning of the introduction he writes, “The twenty-eighth English rendering of the Odyssey can hardly be a literary event, especially when it aims to be essentially a straightforward translation. Wherever choice offered between a poor and a rich word richness had it, to raise the colour.”

It’s a shame that I’m just now reading this epic, but trust me, I’m reading as fast as I can. Also making my way through Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon and The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano. More on these works later.

To get a feel for the language of Shaw’s version:

By now the other warriors, those that had escaped head-long ruin by sea or in battle, were safely home. Only Odysseus tarried, shut up by Lady Calypso, a nymph and very Goddess, in her hewn-out caves. She craved him for her bed-mate: while he was longing for his house and his wife. Of a truth the rolling seasons had at last brought up the year marked by the Gods for his return to Ithaca; but not even there among his loved things would he escape further conflict. Yet had all the Gods with lapse of time grown compassionate towards Odysseus – all but Poseidon, whose enmity flamed ever against him till he had reached his home.

Okay. Too much computer for me. I raise my coffee mug to a new day, another private apocalypse in the spirit of personal and spiritual revelation. “Have a happy” as my dear friend George likes to say.

Gregory Frye

July 2011

Athens, Greece

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