Sunday, April 7, 2013

Zombie Bulls and Riddling Cats

Ted Hughes
Faber & Faber

Short and sweet.
No, what am I talking about? Short and bitter. Bitter from beginning to end. And histrionic. And full of extreme behaviour. Oedipus and his family, in fact the entire character list, even the ones who only appear in reported speech all do crazy, over-the-top and generally fairly stupid things. But they don't have a choice; you can't escape Fate.
Ted Hughes' version of Seneca's Oedipus (that's the Latin one, not the Greek one) has no punctuation. Instead everybody's speeches are broken up into short phrases with long spaces between like this which is weird but works really well because of all the crazy histrionics the idea that nobody can manage more than a fragment of a sentence makes sense works
The language is somehow amazing yet simple at the same time and the story - well, curses, incest, patricide, a Sphinx, self-mutilation, spirits back from the dead, animal sacrifice, plague, zombie bulls - it's either an Iain Banks dream sequence or a Greek play - even if it is an English version of a Roman version of a Greek play.

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