Antigone

This is the perfect book to clutch when in the midst of a panic attack about the 2016 election. Creon’s actions as a tyrant are tiresome–from banishing Antigone to death because she buried her dead brother (Polynices, the traitor leading an invading army against his brother and the city of Thebes), to snarking about the blind man’s prophesy (“What now? What earth-shattering truth are you about to utter?”). Creon’s son Haemon is set to marry Antigone, madly in love with her, yet his stubborn father won’t relent from the death penalty for a crime that wasn’t recognized by the gods. A few of Haemon’s lines were perfect to be spoken by Trump’s progeny: “Now, you see? Who’s talking like a child?” and “If you weren’t my father, I’d say you were insane,” or even:

Now don’t, please, be quite so single-minded, self-involved, or assume the world is wrong and you are right. Whoever thinks that he alone possesses intelligence, the gift of eloquence, he and no one else, and character too… such men, I tell you, spread them open—you will find them empty.

There’s also a tirade that Creon gives about money worth quoting these 2,500 years later:

Money! Nothing worse in our lives, so current, rampant, so corrupting. Money—you demolish cities, root men from their homes, you train and twist good minds and set them on to the most atrocious schemes. No limit, you make them adept at every kind of outrage, every godless crime—money!

Robert Fagles never fails as a Greek translator. His rendition of Sophocles’ Antigone was lyrical, digestible, and makes sense to the modern reader. I also very much appreciated the intro section in this Penguin edition that Bernard Knox contributed about Greece and the origins of theater. Fun fact: the Greeks cut their wine with a ratio of 3:1 water to wine.

Turned on to reading this finally by discovering what a powerful impact it had on Virginia Woolf when she translated it from the original during her Greek lessons with Clara Pater.