Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Burton Raffel Writer and Translator Passes Away

Sometimes when translators are good they do not get credit for what they do.  They become invisible if their work is great, and only become noticed if they make mistakes or are vocal about making changes from the canon of an accepted piece.  Burton Raffel didn't translate my favorite version  of Beowulf.  But he did make a version available that was accessible and brilliant.  His translations on other works of the era, Lancelot: Knight of the Cart, Perceval the story of the Grail, Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight, were magnificently done in that the works had poetic fiber, and he made certain that the translated versions maintained that, but also revealed themselves as clear to understand for modern readers.

Raffel was also a poet, and writer of prose.  He taught English and Classics in many settings, including overseas, and was made Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Arts and Humanities and professor emeritus of English at the University of Louisiana/Lafayette where he taught since 1989.

“Quickly, the dragon came at him, encouraged
As Beowulf fell back; its breath flared,
And he suffered, wrapped around in swirling
Flames -- a king, before, but now
A beaten warrior. None of his comrades
Came to him, helped him, his brave and noble
Followers; they ran for their lives, fled
Deep in a wood. And only one of them
Remained, stood there, miserable, remembering,
As a good man must, what kinship should mean.”
― Burton Raffel, Beowulf  

 “Art does not have to be dull, to be effective; the artist does not have to be a bore, to be real.”
― Burton Raffel, 41 Stories

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