Not Sapphic for Germaine
When Germaine Greer bites her host's hand, she does it so elegantly he hardly knows that his fingers have fallen off.
There I am last night, cheerfully giving the TLS prizes for literary translation at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London - and recalling proudly what has been our best 'translator' moment of the past few months, even years, the new poem by Sappho, reported by Martin West of All Souls, Oxford, in our TLS edition of June 24.
Then up comes Professor Greer on to the stage to give the Sebald Lecture on a theme of literary translation. And she chooses Sappho.
How thoughtful, I think.
I am almost waiting to hear 'and first some praise for our sponsor', or something like that.
But Professor Greer soon makes clear her dim view of male professors in ancient universities who think they know who Sappho was, what she might have written and why she might have written it.
As for the TLS poem, attributed to the 'middle aged Sappho', it is an implausible mixture of different fragments, assembled according to no logic that she can see, and wholly unworthy in any case. TLS readers have already been able to read two contemporary poet translators who seemed to disagree
The audience is rapt at her bravura. The TLS Editor is rapt at her bravura, though quietly wondering why there is so much blood on his hosting hand.
No more details now. An article based on Professor Greer's speech will appear, I hope, in a future edition of the TLS and we can take on the argument from there.