As a voracious reader and English Lit student I spent my first few years of university harbouring a secret indifference to classical literature. Enter Anne Carson and Autobiography of Red, the book that changed the way I understood classical myth and literature and kicked off my love affair with the works of Anne Carson. So saying I was cracking open Antigonick with the bar set high might be a bit of an understatement. I’m delighted to report I was not disappointed!
Antigonick, a translation of Sophokles’ Antigone, is worth a trek to your local bookstore just to see in person. Bianca Stone’s illustrations are set on translucent vellum stock, creating intruiging effects when overlapped with the hand-lettered text below.
Carson’s work is entrenched with a sense of play and wonder that seems almost childlike at times, and the sarcastic tone of the chorus feels wonderfully adolescent and indulgent. “You’re late to learn what’s what aren’t you” they tell Theban king Kreon, in a moment of “I told you so” that had me laughing out loud. The playfulness of Carson’s work almost tricks you into having fun with Antigone the way she does, and in Antigonick Carson brings you into a world that feels current, even though the story dates back nearly three thousand years. Her playful energy is not limited to the comic, as she easily captures moments that seem to luxuriate in cynicism — “Look here comes hope/wandering in/to tickle your feet/then you notice the soles are on fire”. These tonal peaks and valleys are what gives Antigonick its unsettling resonance.
As Carson writes of Aphrodite “you play with us, you play deeply”, I’d suggest that, Anne Carson, so do you — you play deeply. And your readers thank you!