The Italian of the Iliad


June 21, 2016 by AK

LanguageHat is wondering, “why would the Iliad be taken as a measuring-rod for Italian”? Namely, in Elena Ferrante’s first Neapolitan novel, My Brilliant Friend,

A teacher is said to speak “Italian that slightly resembled that of the Iliad,” and since the Iliad is not in Italian, I was puzzled.

My guess is that there must exist a definitive, influential Italian translation that has become the Iliad for most Italian readers. It is probably Vincenzo Monti’s 1810 version, in eleven-syllable blank verse. It is Monti’s vocabulary, style and possibly meter that Ferrante probably referred to.

Gnedich’s Russian translation, with its imitation hexameters, is excellent but more peripheral, as it were, in the Russian literary tradition. In The Golden Calf, Vasisualy Lokhankin declaims not hexametrically but in iambic pentameters.


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