Readers' reactions

September 15, 2000

A fortnight ago in The THES.. Mary Beard celebrated the 'dirty bits' being restored to the Loeb Classical Library

What a strange piece from Mary Beard about the "dirty" bits in classical literature. Has she really not read any translations published since about 1950?

Modern translators have been free for a long time to re-express the "dirty bits" however they wish.

To take her example from Catullus, poem 15, she seems delighted that the word "penis" will (at last?) appear. Peter Whigham's Penguin translation, of 1966, has "It is you/ & your punitive penis/ I fear".

As for the suggestion that students have relied on the Loeb library, one must ask: for what? A quick translation of an author too tedious to read in the original, perhaps, but for the genuine literary stuff there are so many (unbowdlerised) translations about that the Loeb (old or new) is the last place you would look.

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