Skilled ‘Shakespeare-translators’ like Margaret Atwood and Howard Jacobson should produce fascinating work
Natalie is a guest contributor for The Independent and writes. She was a guest contributor for The Times from 2006 - 2010. She has also written for The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and The Big Issue. She writes a monthly film column for The Reader's Digest magazine.
Monday 09 September 2013
No doubt Shakespeare purists will be livid at the very idea of someone fiddling with the sacred texts. But I can’t wait to see what Atwood and Jacobson do with such glittering raw material. Atwood has form for reworking a classic, after all: The Penelopiad, her version of the Odyssey, which focused on Odysseus’s patiently waiting wife, is exquisite. And if you aren’t intimidated by Homer you can probably stand up to Shakespeare.
My favourite Man Booker winners have always been the novelists who at least make a nod to dramatic structure; who don’t disdain tension or dramatic irony because of a mistaken belief that those belong to the low arts. Shakespeare had no such snobbery: to watch Romeo and Juliet is to agree to try not to bellow “Stop!” at various characters for at least an hour and a half.
Atwood and Jacobson are among the most poetic of Booker-winning novelists, which is hardly a surprise in Atwood’s case, since she also writes verse. Jacobson, meanwhile, chooses his words with the care of a comedian, knowing that word placement is as crucial as vocabulary if you’re going to make someone laugh. It’s not just what he says, but the way he says it.
When Shakespeare is performed in other languages, or when we see an English-language production of Sophocles, Racine or Lorca, we’re happy to embrace a translation. The only difference this time is that the translation will go from stage to page.
Natalie Haynes is judge for the Man Booker Prize 2013.
Broadcaster unveils Christmas scheduleTV
Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Black Friday 2014: Opening hours for John Lewis, Asda, PC World, GAME and Argos
- 4 Bill Cosby: Isn’t it obvious why his accusers have stayed silent up until now?
- 5 Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
Black Mirror Christmas special: Jon Hamm episode will see people 'blocked' in real life
Doctor Who Christmas Special 2014: Ominous 'Last Christmas' title could signal Jenna Coleman's departure
Zoella: YouTube sensation Zoe Sugg's debut novel expected to become overnight bestseller
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs
Naked free runner captured in breathtaking photographs above London's streets
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict