Book #77

O Cruel Alexis by Virgil

Virgil's lyrical, wistful and often witty pastoral poems. 

I was around halfway through my struggle with Virgil’s pastoral poetry when a brand new idea occurred to me. Perhaps my recent lack of enjoyment with the Little Black Classics range isn’t my own fault. Could, perhaps, this be the fault of Penguin?! The more I considered this, the more I realised it was most likely a joint fault, however, I would like to discuss Penguin’s shortfalls and lack of foresight with this range. Sorry, Virgil.

Firstly, my main motivator in purchasing these tiny vignettes of hell, was to learn more about different genres, authors, countries, and people. I wanted to broaden my literary experience, and potentially find new loves. Penguin has prohibited me in doing so by making these so utterly horrible to read.

Take Virgil here; the poetry flows beautifully, his words are lyrical, and the scene setting glorious. Did I enjoy the poems? Did I hell. In many of these instalments, Penguin seem to have just randomly selected a chunk of text from a larger work, and deposited it within their eye-catching black covers. No context is provided, no explanation, nothing that will help the reader absorb and learn. That’s all, folks.

Secondly, translation. I’m no expert on this, but for many of the instalments I’ve absolutely despised, other reviewers are slating translation. Why would Penguin allow poorly translated works to be included in, what is effectively, a collection of the greats? Why sully their name, and make fools like me believe their work to be disengaging?

So – not my fault. Or partly not my fault. I’m sick of journeying through this bloody collection believing myself to be thick as mince, when in actual fact I am not entirely to blame.