- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Applause Theatre Book Publishers; Reprint edition (31 July 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1557830061
- ISBN-13: 978-1557830067
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.9 x 21.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,018,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Life Is a Dream (Eric Bentley's Dramatic Repertoire) Paperback – 31 Jul 1996
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This volume was one of four called The Classic Theatre, and it was a considerably helpful publishing undertaking, consisting of Italian Renaissance plays, French neoclassical plays, German neoclassical plays, and these. The books were available as mass-market paperbacks, too, that either a poor student or a thirsty lay reader could afford to lay hands on. It was an important series, and one more reason why Eric Bentley, for a number of years, was an international treasure and a boon to the English speaking world's cultural memory of its European dramatic heritage.
Bentley not only managed to lay hands upon new translations by the South African poet Roy Campbell, he had to edit their final form after Campbell's untimely death in 1957. Campbell was a poet admired by Eliot and the Sitwells, and an enthusiastic scholar of Spanish, whose reputation was damaged by his admiration for Franco. Even now, his translations are readable. I don't read Spanish, and can't attest to their accuracy, but I trust Bentley when his Preface says that John Garrett Underhill's and Denis Florence MacCarthy's translations were unreadable, Edward Fitzgerald's (of Calderon only) were readable but too free, and Lord Holland's excellent translations were all of extremely minor plays.
So the publication of Campbell's translations for the BBC, at the cost of considerable posthumous trouble, was a serious boon to readers. It's okay to disparage the translations now, but it's not okay to do so in a bratty, ungrateful style, uncognizant of the paucity of available translations of Spanish plays either then or now. This volume at the moment occupies something like its centrality in 1959, since it's the only anthology of Golden Age Spanish theatre available, as of this writing, as a Kindle e-book. Even the other volumes of the series are not. We should be grateful it exists, and grateful for its wide availability.
If the author of the snotty review on these pages is such an excellent scholar of Spanish (including, apparently, both Castilian and the sayagues dialects) to impugn these translations, and enough of a connoisseur of English verse to tell us they constitute doggerel, I hope he'll give us the benefit of some new translations of his own. In the meantime, if he can't muster any humility, he might try to conjure up a little basic gratitude. This book is still in print because it still fulfills a need. And even if it didn't, it helped pave the way for the publication of new translations both in the short term and the long. And in fact, the situation with regard to English translations of Spanish drama isn't so great, even now, that anybody can afford to be too sniffy about these.
Translations are like plays, in that the pioneering ones often get superseded. We read Golden Age Spanish drama, not because the early plays are all masterpieces (though some are), but because they are fascinating precursors. Otherwise we'd read only Cervantes and Lope, and only a handful of plays by each. If you want to be crabby about translators whose work has been excelled by their successors, why not include playwrights? One might as well be complaining that the translations include Tirso de Molina instead of Lorca.