The Odyssey under the blitz.
At the end of a book I came across a mention of E.V. Rieu. He was born in London and was the son of Charles Pierre Henri Reiu an Orientalist. E.V. Rieu was a scholar much like his father, and was associated with Oxford.
During the blitz in London he was translated the Odyssey, which started a Penguin Book series on the classics. The book was published in 1946 and according to his son, “[h]is vision was to make available to the ordinary reader, in good modern English, the great classics of every language.”
I can’t help think of him sitting at his desk working on his translation. The air cool outside. He has moved it from the window, to prevent glass from blowing inward. He is making a translation while buzz bombs rained down on london. It is said that he made the translation, while reading it out loud to his wife and children. I can imagine them sitting behind the couch turned towards the wall.
I imagine it like this. He scribbles a few lines, reads the results to his family. There is a sound in the sky, omnious and strange as it echoes through the sky.
It had a tearing, rasping sound…describe as a “two-stroke” motorcycle engine. You could hear it fly over London, and most would listen for the engine to cut off for that is when the bomb will fall. Imagine it like an early version of a cruise missile, or like a flying motorcycle filled with explosives that finds its way over your town, runs out of gas and plummets to the earth to reek havoc and death. I imagine that people would count off the seconds before the explosion.
He writes a few more lines: “Tell me, O Muse, of the man of many devices, who wandered full many ways after he had sacked the sacred citadel of Troy…”
“That is very nice,” whispers his wife.
The sound of the buzz bomb comes in through the window. She looks up from her sewing and looks to the window, the girls look to the window as well.
Sirens and fire engine bells ring in the distance. Tommorrow you may read of a shopping center going up in flames.
E.V. Rieu speaks again. He wants his family to look back to him, to leave the war outside the window and listen to his words: “…Now all the rest… were at home, safe from both war and sea, but Odysseus alone, filled with longing for his return and for his wife…”
He feels her hand reach out and touch his.