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Homer’s Iliad Translated into South African

After 10 years of long hard work, retired South African university classics professor Richard Whitaker has finished his poetic translation of Homer’s war epic The Iliad into the South African language.

The translation comprises of a flexible 5-beat line, usually 10 or 11 syllables long and uses many South African English worwords sucas amakhosi (commanders), kgotla(assembly), outspan (unyoke), kloof (glen), sloot (ditch), assegai or umkhonto (spear). The translation work provides also a glossary with the meaning of unknown South African words explained in standard English.

According to the book’s website, the work is aimed at the general reader of literature, but it could be particularly useful as a text to teach from, since the translation pattern follows the Ancient Greek text and virtually corresponds line-for-line with the source text.

The ancient Greek epic poem telling of the battles and events during the last weeks of the Trojan War and of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles has been translated to date into almost all languages of the world and has seen more than 70 different versions in English alone.

Whitaker’s translation has been praised by many scholars and academics, while it also received the attention of various international media. Whitaker explained in his book’s preface that he believed the South African language could and should be “reflected in poetic translation,” while he tried to bring the Homeric epic closer to the South Africans.

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