The Anger of Achilles, Robert Graves’ 1959 translation of Homer’s Iliad, has been variously dismissed by classical scholars as an ‘outrageous sortie into the field of translation’ (Aldrich 1961) and a work of ‘sheer egotism’ (Rexine 1962), marred by its author’s‘scattered yapping’ (Dimmock 1960). And yet, it can be read with greater understanding if we approach it not merely as a literary anomaly, but as a refraction of Graves’ experience of ‘Shell Shock,’ or PTSD, following his front line service during the First World War. This paper proposes that the act of translation can itself be cathartic, creating a formalized textual space in which the translation of traumatic memory into narrative memory becomes viable, and that Graves used Homer’s epic as a tool to access his own occluded, traumatic past. By comparing The Anger of Achilles to R. Lattimore’s relatively literal translation of the Iliad (1951), it will illuminate the ways in which the former is deeply rooted in Graves’s experience of combat, his ensuing neurasthenia, and the personal Myth by which he made sense of both – the matriarchal mythopoetics of The White Goddess (1948).
McKenzie, L. (2021). “Through blackening pools of blood”: Trauma and Translation in Robert Graves’s The Anger of Achilles. Journal of Medical Humanities, 42(2), 253-261. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10912-020-09620-y