by Marina Tsvetaeva, translated from the Russian by Angela Livingstone - £11.95 Angel Books (Angel Classics) (2012)
paperback ISBN 13: 9780946162819 | ISBN 10: 0946162816
Marina Tsvetaeva’s verse drama Phaedra is perhaps the most extraordinary of all literary treatments of the Phaedra legend. It is primarily about female passion, and its most powerful figures are the female ones. Dangerously high voltage runs through all of them – Phaedra herself; her Nurse from childhood; and even the offstage Antiope, Amazon queen and mother of the young hunter Hippolytus (son of Phaedra’s husband Theseus) with whom Phaedra falls in love and who represents a powerful counterforce of chastity.
Phaedra, completed in 1927, is written with sustained emotional pressure throughout its nearly two thousand short but saturated lines and its shimmering variations of rhythm, rhyme and assonance. Angela Livingstone has translated this little-known great work for the first time into English, with the same brilliance that prompted an American translator to call her version of Tsvetaeva’s Ratcatcher ‘the very pinnacle of the art of translation’.
Three long poems written at the same time as Phaedra are included along with the main work. Their depth of thought and feeling connects with Tsvetaeva’s intense epistolary relationship with Pasternak and Rilke, and fascinatingly fills out the themes and preoccupations of Phaedra. Angela Livingstone’s translations of these poems also appear for the first time in book form.
The translator’s introduction and editorial matter, including a glimpse of the original in her note on translating Phaedra, enhance the reader’s appreciation of this work, so strongly characteristic of its author.
(Price & availability last checked: July 2019)