AND NOW for a different sort of PEN activity: Bernard Knox, former director of the Center for Hellenic Studies here, received the first PEN/Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award for his book "Essays Ancient and Modern," published last year by Johns Hopkins. Knox is the first recipient of this new $5,000 prize, which is given for a collection of previously published essays; his book was selected by a panel of judges-historian Simon Schama, critic Susan Sontag and poet Robert Hass. The volume includes memoirs of Knox's experiences as a combatant in the Spanish Civil War and as a guerrilla in France and Italy during World War II, as well as material on a wide range of classical subjects.
Knox replied that Richmond Lattimore's was "dated" and relied too much on the once-fashionable theory of oral formulas (conventional phrases by which oral poets could fill out lines and build up long poems-e.g., "the wine-dark sea" and "rosy-fingered dawn"), while Robert Fitzgerald never intended to take on the Iliad, but was talked into it after the success of his Odyssey translation. Fitzgerald, it seems, had really wanted to do Vergil. "Fortunately," said Knox, "he got to translate The Aeneid before his death, and it's magnificent."
Also available is a collection of Argentine master Jorge Luis Borges's film criticism. If you remember that Borges was blind during his later years, this seems like a bad joke, but the frequently obscure (in all senses) material in Borges's In/And/On Film comes mostly from the '30s. As might be expected, Borges's take is not the usual one. For one thing, he hated "King Kong": "A carnal or romantic love for Miss Fay Wray brings to perfection the ruin of this gorilla and of the film as well."
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