Annoyance of Clunky Translations

I find that Lucretius' On The Nature of Things to be too clunky. I tried to make it easier by finding a better audiobook.  My frustration—which I admit is a minor frustration rather than a major one—is three-fold.

First, I cannot switch out the clunky translation in my current set. While that small book does not take that much space in my bookshelf, just knowing that there is a whole book, and probably 'books' occupying my bookshelf that I do not want bothers me. I am beginning to understand why people joke that "The Great Books of the Western World" is just a living room decoration to indicate to guests of the families intellectual superiority.

Since I am a amateur bookbinder myself, I am thinking that I could possibly tear down the book, remove the pages that I do not like and then rebind the entire book. But then if another translation comes along that I find more worthy of a seat in my personal bookshelf, then I will have to repeat the whole process again.

The best solution is the sad realization that I should buy the books of each author individually. Not only can I replace the books without difficulty, I can also lend out books knowing that I can find an easy replacement. (Though, I rarely lend out books to friends.)

I know that many people are going to tell me, "Boohoo. The translation is slightly more difficult, and you can't find an audiobook? Well, tough it out. Just bear through the awkwardly worded translation for this book and move onto the next book." I agree that I feel blessed to even have this set to read, but the length of the audiobook is around 10 hours long. If I am going to leisurely read a book at that same pace without stopping for 10 hours, I would not want to struggle and beat my head against a wall if there was another translation with better supplementary resources. A book should be difficult because the content is difficult, not because of awkwardly chosen and badly placed word choice.

Second, I found a newer but much less accessible translation which I find to be much more readable. However, the book was published during that sweet spot where it is too old to be in public domain, but not new enough to have a digital eBook version. The cost of both the book and the accompanying audio-book totaled to be a whopping $50. Since I wanted my reading experience to be as enjoyable as it could possibly be, I decided to spend the extra money and buy the newer translation and audiobook.

Lastly, I guess I am just frustrated at the leaps and bounds that it took to find a better translation, an accompanying audiobook, and helpful study guides/commentary, even with search engines to help guide my research. I cannot imagine the difficulty of finding quality material prior to the internet or even prior to "The Great Books of the Western World". Even then, these materials are still largely inaccessible or uninviting. Most people do not have the time, the willingness, nor the energy to sit down and slog through difficult, awkwardly translated texts during their leisure time.

Perhaps, it is time for the Great Books curriculum to be adapted for the everyday 21st century audience. If we want the classics to be talked about and enjoyed by every citizen as vocally expressed by the Editors, then the classics should be available through various mediums like audio books, film, and graphic novels, not just through books. As a teacher, perhaps I should take the first step in updating the curriculum.


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