Booklog: Euripides’ Orestes

This is a brief note to introduce the next formal Booklog, which will be a discussion of Euripides’ Orestes, a rather strange play that pits the claims of family not only against each other but against those of friendship.  I hope that it can be used to highlight certain older ideas about kinship and friendship as a means of pointing our way out of the moral trap of liberalism (which includes most of what is called conservatism).

An old-fashioned translation is available at the Classics-MIT website as well as more modern versions, such as one by Ian Johnston.  Of the published versions, I have no serious opinion, though I recommend against Oxford’s recent version done by Peck and Nisetich (also available on Amazon’s Kindle).  I’ll be using the old Loeb, though I have nothing to say against the more recent David Kovacs edition.

I am going to be sticking, for reasons of time and current work, to ancient literature for a while.  My friend Taki caught me reading the Odyssey on the Bushido last week and has seen fit to bestow mock admiration on me for this in his most recent column in The Spectator. The truth is that time is short, not only in the limited sense of what time I have available each day but in the deeper sense that old men should be aware that their time is running out.

I shall be interested in what people have to say about this play.  I don’t quite get it, myself, and, to tell the truth, I am no great fan of Euripides.  It is one of many plays in which he explores the tensions and problems of his own day by using stories from the Trojan War, which he sometimes equates with Athens wars with Sparta.  I have read little or no criticism on this play but will try to look up a few things over the next week or so.

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