By Dr Vaidehi Nathan
The Iliad of Homer, translated by Richmond Lattimore, with introduction and notes by Richmond Martin, The University of Chicago Press, Pp 599(PB), $15.00
Richmond Lattimore (1906-1984) is a name recognised by readers for his translation of the Iliad and other Greek classic. His translation of the New Testament was published posthumously. The Chicago University Press has come out with a paperback edition of the translation of the Iliad first published in the 1950s, with a sumptuous introduction to the translation and the poem by Richard Martin, Professor of Classics at Stanford University.
Martin rejects the politicised interpretations of the epic poem and says “It is not about a clash of civilizations, much less so a contest between evil and good. Unlike many a later epic (including Virgil’s Aeneid), this poem does not deal with ethnic, national, religious, or ideological conflicts and aspirations. In fact, it is difficult to determine the poem’s real protagonists: the Greek Achilleus and his victim Trojan Hektor, are attractive and repellent in equal degrees… the Iliad is about heroes as humans, and what constitutes humanity.”
Using archeological evidences and several sources that have tried to date the Trojan war, Martin gives the background or the setting to the reading. He says Greeks and Romans in ancient times had little doubt that “there once existed a mighty city of Troy” a few miles inside the coast on the Black Sea. By the seventh century BC a town was established by Greek in the ruins of an earlier state and they called this new state Ilion. Iliad got the name from this.
There has been a constant debate on whether Iliad was based on any historical event. “It was the labour of the amateur, rather than academics, that paved the way to a new understanding of the Iliad’s historicity” says Martin. After detailing the several excavations done, he concludes “In short, the discoveries of a few generations showed that something like the war depicted in the Iliad could well have taken place, at the site of Hisarlik…”
Martin also discusses the various translations of Iliad by such eminent men as George Chapman, Alexander Pope, FW Newman, and Robert Fitzgerald among others. Of course, only through a longer acquaintance with the entire poem, and by rereading it in variety of versions, will the reader be able to judge. Ultimately the choice among translations is a matter of taste. For many, Lattimore’s will remain the most lucid and yet elevated — “noble” — of recent attempts.
Richmond Lattimore in his Translator’s Note written in 1951 says “Matthew Arnold has stated that the translator of Homer must bear in mind four qualities of his author: that he is rapid, plain and direct in thought and expression, plain and direct in substance, and noble… I have tried as hard as I could to reproduce the first three.”
The translation of the poem is supported by chapter-wise notes, glossary of names and bibliography.
(The University of Chicago Press1427, East 60th Street Chicago, IL 60637 USA, email:[email protected], website:www.press.uchicago.edu)
Exposing the macabre world of blood suckers and organ trade
By Dr Vaidehi Nathan
The Red Market: On the Trail of the World’s Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers, Scott Carney, Hachette India, Pp 254(HB), Rs 550.00
“Forget the days of grass-skirt-wearing cannibals on tropical islands, our appetite for human flesh is higher now than at any time in history” — this creepy words of introduction by Scott Carney sets the tone to his bone-chilling book The Red Market: On the Trail of the World’s Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers. What we read in the following pages are real stories that would make the worst vampires and cannibals look like angels.
Human material are stealthily supplied to medical schools for studies, children are smuggled to make western family units complete, pharmaceutical companies mercilessly try drugs on the sly on unsuspecting poor victims, touts buy kidney and liver from the hapless for a pittance and sell it to the rich at hundreds of times of profit. Spirituality too chips in. There is a Buddhist sect in Bhutan, in which the monks are required to carry instruments from human bodies to constantly remind them of the impermanency of the world. This translates into a flute from tibias and prayer bowls cut from the crowns of skulls!
“In Egypt, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, entire villages sell organs, rent wombs, and sign away rights to their bodies after death — not only under duress, but also in mutually agreeable transactions.”
In Tamil Nadu, an area where tsunami victims live has been nick-named ‘kidney-vakkam’ because almost all the women there have sold away their one kidney for as low as $800 dollars. Says Carney, “Third world sellers are very easy to find, and they offer a cost-effective solution to the problem. A transplant at an Indian hospital costs about one-twentieth of what it does in the United States.” But the whole selling and buying is shrouded in sleaze, with donors getting a raw deal. After the extraction of the organ, they are left to fend for themselves, without any follow-up medical help. In fact, the donors and recipients do not even get to know the identity of each other, which used to be an ethical requirement when transplants started in the 1950s. Carney says that when he visited “six of the fifty” hospitals where illegal organ transplant was taking place, according to the Indian government, doctors told him “donors and recipients would come to great psychological harm if they were ever allowed to meet each other.” Such was the social disparity.
The international cost of the organs has been calibrated as kidney transplant $259,000, livers $523,000, pancreas $275,000, intestines $1.2 million.
That is the story of live transplants. Now to the cadaver business. In China the executed prisoners are stripped off all parts of the body, including the skin. A plastic surgeon, Guoqi Wang testified in front of the US House of Representatives in 2001 and said “…the body would be rushed to the autopsy room, rather than the crematorium, and we would extract skin, kidney, livers, bones, and corneas for research and experimental purposes. The skin was subsequently sold to burn victims for $1.20 per square centimeter.” Sometimes he said the prisoners were alive and were writhing in agony. The government paid him in cash $24-$60 for each successful harvest.
Children are routinely kidnapped at a very young age and given in adoption to foreigners who want to make a ‘unit.’ While in most cases the adopting parents are assured that everything was above board and legal, the truth is otherwise. Carney tracked down at least one American family who had adopted a kidnapped child from Chennai.
Then there are these monsters in human form who squeeze a human dry of blood to make a few extra rupees. Pappu Yadav of Gorakhpur kept men captive in a tin shed next to his cattle-shed and extracted blood from them twice a week. When they were about to die, he would put them on a bus so that their death will not be connected to him. A lucky man who escaped from his shed exposed the blood trade. Subsequently, the police raided several such blood dairies.
The human egg market is a thriving business in Cyprus. And the surrogacy is a commercial success in Gujarat. The heartlessness with which human beings indulge in cruelties against the fellow beings is unfathomable. Recently cases of field trials of medicines on humans came to light in Bhopal. This is a rather common practice. Sometimes the victims are paid volunteers. But in most cases, all over the world, they are unsuspecting guinea pigs. The author himself says he rented his body out for drug experiment.
These unethical commercial transactions of human body parts happen daily. According to a World Health Organisation estimate, about ten per cent of the transplants are obtained on the black market. This could only be a modest estimate. As long as there is a steady demand, the supply would follow. In this, norms can only help give a better deal to the seller or donor. But then, who can guarantee against unscrupulousness and human voyeurism?
Scott Carney is an investigative journalist with a decade of experience in experiment living and researching in India.
Nauseating, unbelievable, and hard to digest facts stare at the reader at every page. Carney has used a nonchalant tone of writing that adds extra effect of macabre. Read it to understand from how life begins when a human is dead.
(Hachette India, 612/614 (sixth floor), Time Tower, MG Road, Sector 28, Gurgaon-122 001).