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I put off reading Ovid for far too long; this outstanding audio version from Naxos finally pulled me in. Metamorphoses is a wide-ranging account of Greek mythology, focusing on changes. Sometimes the changes are simple changes in fortune, "from good fortune to bad," as Aristotle put it, but often they are changes in physical form: a rape victim is transformed into a bird, a self-obsessed youth is transformed into a flower. Jason and Medea are here; so are Achilles, Ulysses, Aeneas, and many of the Roman gods. The versions of myths given here underlie many of the references in Shakespeare and Dante. Listening to this audiobook is like finally getting past the footnotes to a rich primary source.
It doesn't hurt that David Horovitz's voice is wonderful - almost a physical pleasure to listen to. The translation is by Ian Johnston, who has provided, both online and through Naxos, wonderful versions of Homer.
Ovid's poem is famous for the subtle transitions from one story to the next. They are, at times, almost imperceptible; you start out listening to a story about Orpheus and Eurydice and suddenly realize Orpheus is now telling a story about Venus and Adonis. (And maybe within that story, Venus in turn tells a story about Atalanta.) It sounds more confusing than it is, but you do have to pay careful attention. I recommend keeping a table of contents handy. The PDF that comes with the audiobook provides a useful track listing, and there are other outlines of the structure available on the Internet.
32 of 33 people found this review helpful
Like most 50-something professional types who went to college before computers, I first encountered Ovid’s masterpiece in a paperback edition of Rolfe Humphries’ free verse translation (1955). Admittedly, I never finished it (even without the Internet, I had a short attention span) but much later I tackled Arthur Golding’s much earlier (1567) metrical, rhymed rendition. Golding’s use of a 14 beat / 7 stress line degenerates too easily into the singsong of ballad meter but was saved (for me) by the delightful invention of his language and the continuity of rhyme.
My callow youth aside, I suspect the lack of rhyme and regular meter to be at the heart of my lack of interest in Humphries’ translation. When reading I need the handholds of form, especially with extended poetic ventures.
Listening, however, is a completely different experience. Intricate poetic invention, the completely unexpected (but absolutely perfect) word or phrase, the inverted syntax that adds grandeur or emphasis, is easier to take in with the eye. What the ear needs is a coherent story that skims along. Ian Johnston’s translation does just that; it is straightforward and unadorned. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying it’s simple-minded. After all, this is Ovid’s Metamorphoses. There is enough invention here even without conscious poetic craft to dazzle the imagination.
One example will suffice. As in every printed version I’m familiar with, this epic of transformations is itself one continuous transformation. You’re listening to one story and then realize with a start that you’re in the middle of the next one. By the slightest of slight-of-hand, Ovid has used one character or location or detail in the first tale to segue into the next. Like the stones rising into men and women or Arachne’s shrinking into a spider, the poem is in a constant state of flux. It is a technique that, irony of ironies, gives the work its permanence and coherence.
David Horovitch’s performance is simply superb. His pacing is as easy on the ear as Johnston’s translation. His voice is a treat to listen to. And he understands the shape of sentences and ideas, presenting them with just the right edge of humor, horror or wonder.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
I had always assumed that this classic would be dry and inaccessible, and only bought this on a whim because a credit was about to expire. I am so glad I did. The audio book is like having a really interesting stranger tell you a long fascinating rambling story, full of characters that you have heard of but never really paid attention to. It was a really refreshing way of hearing a story, or rather a family of stories, without the usual scene setting and incidental mood narrative of modern fiction, somehow the stories are stronger for being recounted almost as hearsay.
I presume that this is a fairly modern translation, because it never sounded dated or obscure. David Horovitch's reading is spot on, soft or forceful, whiny or enthusiastic, to fit the need.
I really wish that someone had read this to me when I was very young, it would have given me an insight into many of the classic characters that tend to get wielded by intellectuals when they are bragging, safe in the knowledge that you never had a classical education: this story is the foundation for that education, and this audiobook is no more challenging than a great fairytale.
There are some real gems in here, I will listen to it again and again, and enjoy it every time - I wonder if that is why it has survived for over 2000 years?
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
Enjoyed every minute, but want to read it again! this time taking notes! beautifully narrated.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful