Richard Whitaker, Emeritus Professor of Classics at the University of Cape Town, translated the famous Iliad by Homer into what he calls “South African English”. The self-published Iliad of Homer: A Southern African Translation appeared in July this year and took Whitaker 10 years to complete. Local as well as international media took note of this feat:
The “Iliad” has been translated into dozens of languages, including more than 70 versions in English, over the past four centuries, by scholars, poets and even a British prime minister. Only one has the word “braai,” South African for barbecue.
Richard Whitaker, the Emeritus Professor of Classics at the University of Cape Town, said he wanted to celebrate South African English, a patois that takes in words from Afrikaans and the country’s 10 other official African languages, while helping his students to gain a clearer understanding of the polemic poem.
As Homer noted, the Trojans love nothing better than a good braai after fending off Achilles and his horde of assegai-wielding Greek impi.
Well, that is according to one retired classics professor who has spent more than 10 years putting Homer’s epic poem about the Trojan war into a South African context.
In this video from The Wall Street Journal Whitaker discusses some of the translation choices he made:
- Not playing? Watch on The Wall Street Journal