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Novels, etc. in Latin

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Novels, etc. in Latin

Postby scotistic » Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:56 am

A while back there was some debate about Hobbitus Ille, to which I contributed. I have some more perspective about it now. I read Hobbitus around Christmastime; since then I have bought (in some cases merely dug out) and read (or in a few cases re-read), Winnie Ille Pu, Alicia in Terra Mirabilis (I have the original edition, not the new one that's been released recently), Regulus vel Pueri Soli Sapiunt, the Lingua Latina volumes Epitome sacrae historiae and Fabulae Syrae (when I bought and was working through the other LL volumes several years ago these had not yet been released), all the available Arcardius Avellanus translations (though I haven't gotten around to Pericla Navarchi Magonis yet), Harrius Potter (I finished et Philosophi Lapis and began but have not finished et Camera Secretorum). I also bought, but have not yet read, Nicholas Gross' translation of "Perfume", Fragrantia, together with his Glossarium Fragrantiae, which I have spent quite a bit of time with but haven't finished - more on that later - and just today Antonio Torres' translation Dominus Quixotus a Manica arrived, of which I haven't yet read much beyond his longish and wholly delightful introduction. Still on the docket is Tuomo Pekkanen's Kalevala Latina, which I've had for some time but have never gotten around to, although it looks great.

In any case, it's been a rewarding and sometimes challenging good time with a kind of text I hadn't spent much time on in the past. The vast majority of the Latin I've read has been mediaeval - especially though far from exclusively scholastic - with the classics as a fairly distant runner-up. Here are a few impressions:

Winnie Ille Pu is mostly good as a curiosity. The Latin is too advanced and idiomatic for beginners or intermediate learners, with a big vocabulary inadequately glossed and endnotes justifying its choices out of classical and postclassical authors. It's useless for students, because the content is too shallow to enjoy at the slow pace of someone struggling through it with difficulty. It's the kind of book that can only be fun if you can read it at a brisk and natural pace.

I found Alicia in Terra Mirabilis, by contrast, much easier and more enjoyable. The Latin is simpler, the content more interesting, and on the whole I found it very well done.

Regulus kind of irritated me. I'm not sure what it was, but while it never felt particularly hard I found myself still having to stop and puzzle about it fairly frequently. It didn't feel smooth and natural.

The Lingua Latina volumes were great, like everything in that peerless series. My only complaint is that I don't like the oversized format of the new volumes; it doesn't match the others and the paper and binding quality is not as high.

The Latin of Harrius Potter is not too hard, aside from some neologisms and workarounds for some sticky areas, but on the whole I found it flat, pedestrian, and uninspiring to read. Since this reflects the original quite well, it's not really a complaint about the translation.

The Arcadius Avellanus books were great. Mysterium Arcae Boule was particularly enjoyable, because unlike most of these books, I was totally unfamiliar with the story and had no original version to compare it to, mentally or otherwise. Avellanus is quite difficult for me to read compared to the rest of these. His Latin is definitely the best and feels most authentic and natural, but for that very reason it's the least suited for students. His vocabulary is huge and I learned a lot of new words, as well as coming across a few I couldn't find in any of my dictionaries. He has footnotes explaining some of his more obscure words, some short, some quite long and learned, and I found these very enjoyable, but scattered at random and not nearly numerous enough for my needs. Of all the above, Arcadius' translations are the ones I think I'm most likely to read again for sheer pleasure as well as profit.

I'm especially excited about Dominus Quixotus, which the translator says he has cast into the simplest Latin he can while remaining accurate and which looks fantastic. And I really can't rave enough about Nicholas Gross' work. As I said, I haven't started Fragrantia yet. The Glossarium Frangrantiae is a separate work. He explains that he began it simply as a glossary of the more obscure words needed to translate "Perfume", which is full of historical, chemical, botanical, and other curiosities; but this glossary blossomed into a kind of encyclopedic dictionary of rare and obscure Latin terms generally. Fragrantia itself is a small volume of only 335 pages; the Glossarium is a far more massive tome, over 500 pages. Many of its entries are only a line or two, but many of them are very long, going on for pages and pages of eclectic and amusing information. For instance, the entry on Austria gives a digest of the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian history before digressing on the careers of Hitler and Arnold Schartzenegger; the entry on ducks has a ludicrous amount of information on everything from mating habits to culinary recipes; that on the Jesuits has a quite detailed history of the Society, and so on. It's a fantastic compilation of entertaining material as well as a dictionary, written entirely in Latin but also frequently giving German and occasionally English and French equivalents for its main entries. I can't recommend it enough.

As for Hobbitus Ille, I stand by what I said in my Amazon review and the earlier thread. Its Latin is not up to the level of any of the books I've mentioned here, and it contains more than its share of outright blunders and poor choices. But a) it's explicitly targeted at a level of proficiency below what is required to read any of these other books, and b) I don't think its Latin is as bad as others have made out. I disagree with claims that it is not Latin or will actively harm learners. It's essentially a close crib of the English rather than a idiomatic translation into good Latin, but unlike most cribs its purpose is to provide an easy entryway into the Latin rather than to make the English more intelligible. Still I think that purpose is legitimate and is accomplished here. No, it doesn't provide students with a model of pure Latinity to emulate. But it does give them an opportunity to improve their confidence in basic vocabulary and syntax with ease and pleasure in a large amount of continuous and entertaining text. I imagine that a student who had more or less mastered Familiar Romana, for instance, but had not gone on to Roma Aeterna, might be able to read Hobbitus Ille happily while all of these other books were still a painful slog. I myself enjoyed it despite my not infrequent irritation at its shortcomings.

I'll be interested to see what people think of these and similar works. I've been thinking of getting Tom Cotton's translations of classic English novels next; if anyone has read them I'd be glad of an opinion.
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Re: Novels, etc. in Latin

Postby chodorov » Fri Mar 08, 2013 5:42 pm

Wow, you've read a lot. Do you think you'll be ready to move into the classical authors soon? I read familia romana and I'm about half-way through Roma Aeterna, but I find it very hard to get through. I might try to start over and read it from the beginning, and then try to jump into the classical authors.
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Re: Novels, etc. in Latin

Postby Nesrad » Fri Mar 08, 2013 8:46 pm

Chorodov,

It really depends which authors you choose and which editions you use. It's a good idea to start with Cicero's speeches or the first few books of Livy using annotated and/or bilingual editions and eventually try to free yourself from the translation. I wouldn't recommend spending too much time in modern translations, but if you must do so, Avellanus is the best choice.
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Re: Novels, etc. in Latin

Postby scotistic » Sat Mar 09, 2013 4:05 am

Chodorov, I've been reading classical authors for many years. I'm not reading these translations as a preparation for the classics but because I love Latin and want to read lots of it and sometimes am not in the mood for Roman politics or scholastic philosophy. However I also think that these sorts of books can serve a very useful purpose in bridging the gap between textbook Latin and the unadulterated classics.

For your situation I would recommend something like this: first, reread Familia Romana from the beginning. Along with each chapter read the corresponding chapter of Colloquia Personarum, and when you've come to the end of that, read the remaining chapters of Familiar Romana along with the corresponding chapters of Fabulae Syrae. This will help a great deal in consolidating what you've already learned and will also be fun. Next, put Orberg aside for a little bit and read Ritchie's Fabulae Faciles. This is a good continuation from Fabulae Syrae; it's another collection of mythological stories, but they're written in the idiom and with the vocabulary of Ceasar. Another book along these lines (there are lots) is Nutting's De America, which Evan Millner has recorded for Latinum: it's an entertaining digest of American history in the Ceasarian style. Next, read the Orberg Ceasar volume, which should not be too hard at this point; and when you've mastered that, Roma Aeterna and the other supplemental volumes should begin to seem much less challenging. That's my suggestion, anyway. Another treasure trove of fun and easy reading material which should be fine for your level is Beeson's Medieval Latin Primer - NOT the new edition of Harrington's Medieval Latin or the "Reading Latin" one, these are too hard.

I completely and utterly disagree with the suggestion to use dual-language or annotated editions of the classics at your level. That's a way to keep Latin a difficult and painful chore forever. I wasted years of study that way. The only way to learn Latin well enough so that reading it is easy and fun - and who would want anything else? - is to read a vast amount of it, and to do that you have to find stuff you can read easily and with pleasure. By all means keep looking at the classics. But you'll never get fluent enough to read them the way you read your native tongue if you stick to textbooks, annotated editions, and Loebs, and I say this as someone who has and has used and loves lots of each.

"I wouldn't recommend spending too much time in modern translations, but if you must do so, Avellanus is the best choice."

Why would you not recommend it? What's this about "must"? Of course no one "must" read modern books translated into Latin, but what's wrong with it? Nothing! But if the reason you "must" is because the classics are too hard for you (you sound like someone who doesn't regard any post-classical Latin as worth reading, which position I utterly reject), then Avellanus is most certainly not the best choice. Avellanus is excellent, but his Latin is so advanced that anyone who can read him for pleasure could already get along pretty well in the classics.
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Re: Novels, etc. in Latin

Postby Nesrad » Sat Mar 09, 2013 12:12 pm

scotistic wrote:I completely and utterly disagree with the suggestion to use dual-language or annotated editions of the classics at your level.


I think your disagreement stems from your use of the term "at your level". I was referring to what he should do after having learned all the grammar, in his case after finishing Roma Aeterna.

Eventually a beginner will have to read the classics. It's unavoidable. I don't see how you can discourage a beginner from using annotated editions, as if non-annotated editions could be used. As for bilingual editions, they can be very beneficial if used properly, keeping in mind that the objective should be to free one's self from the translation as much as possible. They helped me get over the hump of becoming accustomed to classical authors, and I quickly abandoned them altogether and now read mostly critical editions.

"I wouldn't recommend spending too much time in modern translations, but if you must do so, Avellanus is the best choice."


Why would you not recommend it?


Because the Latin is inferior, especially the style.

To the accomplished latinist, there is a huge difference between classical style and later Latin, especially translations made by non-native speakers.
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Re: Novels, etc. in Latin

Postby scotistic » Sun Mar 10, 2013 1:08 am

Nesrad, I really don't see your point. What if I were to tell you that the Elizabethans had the finest English style, later ages being unable to compare - would it follow that you should read nothing in English published after 1610? That would be ludicrous.

I readily concede that in general the Roman classics have the best Latin style. But that really has nothing to do with whether later Latin is worth reading. I don't know how to break this to you, but the overwhelmingly vast majority of surviving Latin is post-classical, and mostly written by non-native speakers. For the entire millennium in which Latin was the language of learning in the west, it was written by non-native speakers. Are you really going to claim that we should deprive ourselves of all those centuries of books because they are stylistically inferior to a small handful of supremely well-crafted Roman works? The idea would be ludicrous.

I read through all of Virgil about once a year, and have done so for a long time. To my mind he is one of the three or four most perfect poets, full stop. But I still thoroughly enjoy reading medieval Latin verse! It hasn't hurt me or my love for Virgil and Ovid any. I have read thousands upon tens of thousands of pages of scholastic philosophy and theology. Try some fourteenth-century metaphysics sometime and you will quickly find some truly barbaric and hideous Latin, enwrapping some of the most complex and subtle chains of reasoning ever produced by the mind of man. Very little of it has been translated into any language, so if you want to understand it, bad Latin it is. I haven't noticed that it's kept me from reading the Tusculan Disputations.
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Re: Novels, etc. in Latin

Postby chodorov » Sun Mar 10, 2013 11:18 pm

Re: Scotistic,

Oh, I see. Well, thanks for all that great advice! I've been meaning to get back into Latin for a while now, but I'm just always busy with school, Spanish, miscellaneous reading in English, etc. Hopefully I'll be able to get started on all that soon.
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Re: Novels, etc. in Latin

Postby Nesrad » Mon Mar 11, 2013 1:38 am

scotistic wrote:But that really has nothing to do with whether later Latin is worth reading.

If your goal is to study the history of physics, for example, then it would be a great idea to read Newton in Latin. If your goal is to study the Latin language itself, then it's a better idea to read the classics. I never suggested later Latin is not worth reading, don't be presumptuous.
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Re: Novels, etc. in Latin

Postby micheln » Wed Mar 19, 2014 2:39 pm

Hello Scotistic,

Very interesting comment. BTW I read your amazon review a while back and found it very helpful too - thanks for that! Could you make any reading list suggestions about the Mediaeval philosophy? I’ve noticed about the subtlety of the reasoning of that time, but don’t know where to start. I’d be most grateful if you could provide a few suggestions sorted from easy to harder to get me started. To give a bit of background, the main issue I’ve encountered has been the unfamiliarity of the types of reasoning they use. As for the language, I don’t think that will be an issue. Though my Latin level is very low (chapters 30 to 40 of Ritchie's Fabulae are exactly at my level), I’ve been able, on my own, to work through passages from such authors as John Cassian and Caesar given enough time. And in any case these are the sorts of texts that are best enjoyed slowly.
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