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Iliad translated into 'South African'

2012-11-14 08:40

Johannesburg - As Homer noted, the Trojans love nothing better than a good braai after fending off Achilles and his horde of assegai-wielding Greek impi.

Well, that is according to one retired classics professor who has spent more than 10 years putting Homer's epic poem about the Trojan war into a South African context.

Richard Whitaker says he embarked on the odyssey after coming to the conclusion that existing Eurocentric translations did not resonate with South African students.

"I came to feel that, on the one hand, 'kings', 'princes', 'palaces' and the like were remote from local experience," he said.

Spears became assegai

"On the other hand, there were many elements of the Homeric world, such as payment of bride-price in cattle, and warriors' winning praises in combat, that might resonate with South Africans."

And with that, Troy was transported to the Highveld, commanders become amakhosi, spears became assegai and glens became a kloof.

But Whitaker does acknowledge his project's Achilles heel: Not every South African is familiar with the English, Afrikaans, Portuguese, Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and Tswana words that colour South African speech.

For that Whitaker provides a glossary.

Still, the text will seem less archaic to today's audience than older translations, making for a lekker (nice) read.

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