In response to:
On Not Translating Racine from the January 2, 1969 issue
To the Editors:
May I be permitted some observations on Mr. Weightman’s review of The Complete Plays of Jean Racine in your issue of January 2
Mr. Weightman seems to think “the only way to derive authentic enjoyment from Racine is to know French and join the minority of French-speakers who can think themselves back into the austere beauties of the seventeenth century.” But is this true? Apart from the numerous testimonies of appreciation of my versions I have received, I myself, as a very young boy, was first made aware of Racine by listening to a friend of the family relating (in English prose, of course) the story of Andromaque. So convincing did the reactions of the characters to each other’s emotions seem, that I was at once drawn, as by a magnet, to Racine and have remained a devotee ever since. While later knowledge of Racine’s dramatic use of language, which Mr. Weightman well illustrates, greatly enhanced my admiration of his genius, it was not by any means the basis for it. The urge to translate his Théâtre Complet, therefore, arose precisely because I wished to convey to cultured English-speakers, who were unable to appreciate him in the original, something of his authentic greatness as a dramatist of unerring psychological insight and profound tragic vision. I did try, of course, also to capture some of his verbal magic, however difficult the task, and how far I have succeeded in my objective—whether, on the one hand, Professors Wheatley, Brée, and Tinkle are right, or, on the other, Professor Weightman—must be left to the future to decide. In any case, it is encouraging to know that already one American University is using my Racine translation in their theater history and dramatic literature course….