"this terrible thing we're witnessing now is / not unique you know"
December 4, 2017 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Antigonick, a "comic book" of Sophocles' tragedy, is one of Carson's strangest works. It dramatises its own eccentricity, evoking a portrait of the author in a state of distraction; the words of the translation are printed in handwriting (Carson's own), almost entirely without punctuation, in tiny capital letters that are both neat and a little frantic. The illustrations (by the artist Bianca Stone) are a surreal assortment of icy landscapes, domestic interiors, gothic houses, unravelling spools of thread, precarious staircases and drowning horses, which are printed on transparent vellum that overlay the text, and which relate only occasionally to what is happening in the play.
Anne Carson's take on Antigone is impressively powerful

Can't Stop Screaming, Judith Butler
Every line of Antigonick is printed in boldface handwriting, emphatic, as if something urgent and excessive has to be loudly said. The title and the format suggest that this is a translation of Sophocles’s Antigone with illustrations. From the start, however, contemporary elements intervene: stage directions are inserted within brackets, characters cite contemporary critics, and the scenes are referred to as “episodes,” reminding us how even the contemporary television series has a precedent in ancient Greece. This translation is not wrestling with every word or phrase, trying to find felicitous English for the classical Greek, but skipping lines, adding some from contemporary discourse, distilling and dispersing the textual effects of this play for our time. In place of a loyal translation, a different kind of transposition and search for equivalence takes place here. Carson evokes something similar when, in 1999’s Economy of the Unlost, she indirectly cites Mallarmé in describing thought’s “best moments” as “vibrating” with the disappearance of the object of thought.
Antigonick, by Anne Carson
In her updated rendition of the play she calls the Antigonick by Sophokles, Anne Carson fashions a protagonist with the headspace of a suicide bomber. Her Antigone is in love with the idea of martyrdom, and the fact that she is so public about it undermines her noble motives. Born from the incest of Oedipus, she has a cursed life, so this is a respectable way out for her. Carson highlights the aspect that she is more than slightly crazed when she responds to king Kreon's question: "And you with your head down you're the one?" With the one-word reply, "Bingo."
Anne Carson ‘translates’ Antigone
Translation should embody an act of thanks to the original. It should celebrate its own dependence on its source. It concentrates scruple and trust, however recreative or anarchic its instincts. It is an informing craft which, sometimes enigmatically, reveals within or adds to the original what was already there – particularly where the text has been translated, imitated, adapted a hundredfold. Anne Carson has often achieved this exigent ideal. But not this time.
Anne Carson’s Collapse of History
Much of the drawings’ magic comes from the complete anonymity of the figures depicted. While Stone portrays members of the Chorus with human bodies, their heads are replaced with cinder blocks. They are literal blockheads, robbed of agency, incapable of doing little more than offer observations as the destruction of the play unfolds. Elsewhere, human forms become amorphous: a lone figure sits at the end of an empty dining room table, two androgynous bodies scowl at each other at the end of a bed. Essentially faceless, these figures are unrecognizable as anyone from the text. Is that Antigone and Ismene holding hands in the second plate? Which character stands in solitude at the center of a ravine?

The images’ anonymity is central to Carson’s text as well. Antigonick documents a collapse of history, where narratives are no longer strictly linear, but repeat endlessly.
and, somehow, adapted for the stage:
It's About Time to See 'Antigonick'
In 'Antigonick,’ ancient tragedy explodes in modern forms
Antigonick - "Antigone is one of the most widely performed plays in the world. Poet Anne Carson’s experimental translation of Sophocles’ tragedy incorporates 2,500 years of its performance and interpretation. The play’s emotional core persists even as we view Antigone through all of the ways she has been viewed and used throughout her history."

I take it as the task of the translator to forbid that you should ever lose your screams.
posted by the man of twists and turns (5 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
I saw the Shotgun Players performance of the piece. It was and continues to be the most moving theatre production I’ve ever witnessed. It was simply astonishing. Nice post!
posted by Failure31 at 11:17 PM on December 4, 2017

Carson is one of my favourite contemporary poets, writers, visionary.

Nox made me and my best friend weep. We read it together in one sitting and it tore us up. I'll never forget that experience.

Autobiography of Red also holds a special place and was similarly read in a single gulp.

I have red doc> on my shelf waiting to be read but I'm avoiding it because I know once I read it, it it'll be over too soon. Antigonick is on my tbr. Great post.
posted by Fizz at 11:33 PM on December 4, 2017

The illustrator/artist, Bianca Stone, is amazing and is a brilliant poet in her own right.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:23 AM on December 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

the banality of stichomythia

It's been a long time since I read "Agamemnon In Jerusalem". What's banal about it?
posted by thelonius at 5:20 AM on December 5, 2017

I don't throw this term around lightly, but IMHO, Carson is a genius. I find her poetry, essays, and translations of equal exceptional quality. Seek all three out.
posted by gwint at 8:17 AM on December 5, 2017

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