All great ideas come in the shower. It is axiomatic.
At least I think this is a great idea. I want to run it by you guys before I commit to it–maybe it is not a great idea! i trust you to tell me to save my ink if not.
So, most of you are probably peripherally aware that I studied Greek in college, and this is what my degree is in. Classics remains one of my abiding passions in life, which is actually understating it a bit. When I was studying, I naturally had to read Antigone at some point, which is a play by Sophocles about Oedipus’s kids and how great they did not turn out.
I fell in love with it. So hard. I was genuinely surprised at how different the play seemed to me in Greek–I’d even played Antigone before, because she is a young girl and therefore one of the few terrifyingly awesome Greek leads a youngster can play. And all the translations I’d ever seen were super excited about the Damn the Man aspect of the whole thing, the radio for the people attitude of Antigone toward monarchical power (which she tells to stuff it at great length, hooray democracy).
But reading it for myself, aside from the sheer astonishing beauty of the Greek text, I was struck by how not at all about that the play seemed in my eyes. Yes, Antigone tells Creon to take a long walk of a short pier, yes, she buries her brother and puts family above government, yes there is some Ra Ra Athens subtext about how kings are bad and should be defied–though all of this is enormously played up in French and American translations where we have a vested interest in shitting on kings.
But to me, what the play was clearly about was this strange, fucked up girl. What it was about was sex and death. The political stuff is like an intermission before we get back to this necrophiliac incestuous instinct playing itself out horribly but gorgeously. It’s not a mistake that the famous choral ode in Antigone is not about sticking it to the man, but about the power of the sexual drive.
Anyway, as you can tell, I was and am super into this idea of Antigone. It was the first time I thought: I could translate this ancient thing and actually say something new (ish. There’s no such things as new-new in Classics, but I could make it Different. I could make it wild and strange). And at 21 I resolved to translate it.
I’m 32, and it hasn’t happened. I got really busy with publishing fiction and I didn’t finish my graduate program and Life Happened. And now I’m at a point where I still want to do it, I would be quite upset if I died without doing it, but writing work piles up month upon month and I can’t really squeeze in a major project that has no external impetus to complete, where no one would care if I never did it but me. And it’s tough sell to my bank account to write what amounts to a new book without some kind of bill-paying ability attached to it.
And the thing is, no academic press would be interested in a translation by me. I have an undergrad degree, I am an SFF writer which is like not being a writer at all in academia, and Antigone has been translated a whole lot. Plays are brutally hard to get published and academic press contracts are some of the worst I’ve ever seen. So even if I did it, it would probably sit on my hard drive and cry bitter Grecian tears.
And in the shower today I was thinking about how I am useless for not having done this thing yet and I thought: huh. But, you know, hoo-rah democracy. I don’t need an academic press.
But I do need a way to keep myself on the rails if I ever hope to even write it.
Which brings me to Kickstarter.
So what if I did a Kickstarter project to fund a new translation of Antigone?
It is easily as much work as a full novel, as I’ll have to brush up on my Greek and do a tremendous amount of research, some of which only comes in expensive books. I’d have no intention of doing a Super Accurate Translation, as that’s been done and handily by many folks. I’d be translating the feeling, using all my fun postmodern language tools to make the plethora of words for screwing and dying Greek has into something rich and new in English. I could make my gothsexrage Antigone come alive. If we hit a certain amount I could hire an artist to illustrate it, a certain amount above that and I could include a collection of original poems on classical subjects. I’d put it out on the Kindle (plus BN and epub, Smashwords, etc) and Lulu, (or maybe even serialize the process online) and it could be something really extraordinary, something that doesn’t interfere with my novel options, without getting lost in the labyrinth of the academic presses in which I have little clew these days.
This is my thought. It excites me. I look at my Great Scott (mother of all Greek dictionaries) on the shelf and give it the come-hither look. I remember that I have my old 21-year-old translations of the first several scenes on an old hard drive. I wonder if it a thing that wants to exist, if it was a thing people would support.
What do you think?