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Switch : The Complete Catullus

Williams, Isobel
Format: Paperback
Publisher: CARCANET PRESS LTD (Carcanet Classics)
Published: August 31, 2023
ISBN: 9781800173392
220 pages
Country of publication: United Kingdom

£16.99

During the latter phases of Covid, Isobel Williams completed her celebrated translations of the polyamorous ancient Roman poet Catullus. The poems that proved impossible when she prepared Shibari Carmina, published to acclaim in 2021, finally surrendered to her. ‘Translating Catullus has been, for me, like cage fighting with two opponents, not just A Top Poet, but the schoolgirl I was, trained to show the examiner that she knew what each word meant.’ The conflict was resolved by a third component, the context of shibari, a Japanese form of rope bondage with its own knotty terminology. Due to its severe restraints Catullus came alive in all his ‘tormented intelligence and romantic versatility’. Critics called the work ‘explosive and impactful’, ‘one of the most exciting translation volumes of recent years’, ‘lyrical, funny, engaging, and insightful’, ‘a bracingly foul, but also a shrewd and funny Catullus’ – ‘Isobel Williams’ naughty translation puts the Roman poet in a bondage dungeon.’ He will never be quite the same again.

Switch joins Carcanet’s Classics series. Like its incomplete predecessor it is illustrated with bondage drawings by the translator herself. She adds a ‘who shagged whom’ chart so readers can move confidently from one engagement to the next.

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