Wednesday 10 December 2014


There’s something horrible – crime scene-ish – about the CIA-related memos with bits blacked out. Someone with something to hide has violated the text. Here’s a page from Tony White’s Shackleton’s Man Goes South (Science Museum, 2013) in which he reworks this kind of thing as part of a novel:

Text that would allow us the full import is concealed, and the result is a piece of writing that suggests, teases, frustrates. The reader has to work hard, without getting anywhere. The same thing happens with ancient texts that survive only as fragments: with these, the concealment is not deliberate, but the reading experience can be similar. Earlier this year I bought a book of translations of Ancient Egyptian texts in translation (The Tale of Sinuhe and other Ancient Egyptian poems, Oxford World Classics) precisely because I found the layout of text on some of the pages – half-lines, phrases, single words, separated by white spaces – both visually and mentally compelling.

What will survive of us is fragments, if that. Here’s a piece of Sappho discovered in 2005:

For the text written clearly in Greek, and for Anne Carson’s translation of fragment 58 – both previous and new fragments – and her comments, see here. A reworking – translation into Greek? – by Anne Carson of some of the redacted CIA stuff would be something.

No comments: