Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The First Translation of Edgar Allan Poe Into Modern Greek

Emmanuel Rhoides

Greece was a primary inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe. As a child he studied Greek and Latin literature, during which time his love for Homer developed. Because he considered Homer to be one of the most important writers ever, and Plato too, he excelled in Hellenic studies. His love for Greece led him to even lie to people that he had visited Greece, which he did not. Furthermore, one of his literary idols was Lord Byron, who had gone to Greece to fight for Greek Independence against the Turks, and it was in Greece that he died. In 1827 Poe made an attempt to follow in Byron's footsteps, but it did not come to pass. Nonetheless, Greece can be read throughout his works.

Edgar Allan Poe was made known to the Greeks through the French translations of Baudelaire. The first translation of his works was that of Emmanuel Rhoides (1836-1904) in the 1877 issue of Parnassos. It was a translation of "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar". Despite the fact that Romantic ideas spread widely in the Kingdom of Greece ever since the Greek Revolution against the Turks, Poe's arrival in Greece took more than 28 years after his death.

Rhoides never hid his enthusiasm for Poe. Among his many translations, that of "The Black Cat" stands out. This short story belongs to Poe's tales of horror and mystery. His translation is more of an interpretation rather than a faithful version of the original. Nonetheless, Rhoides' example was followed by many: Pericles Yannopoulos, Apostolos Melahrinos, Napoleon Lapathiotes, Mitsos Papanikolaou et al. Even today, Poe is among the most translated authors in Greece.

Previously, in 1866, Rhoides published a controversial novel, Pope Joan (Ἡ Πάπισσα Ἰωάννα), an exploration of the legend of Pope Joan, a supposed female pope who reigned some time in the ninth or tenth century (which was in fact a time of great turmoil for the papacy). Though a romantic novel with satirical overtones, Rhoides asserted it contained conclusive evidence that Pope Joan truly existed and that the Catholic Church had been attempting to cover up the fact for centuries. The book's scathing attacks on what he viewed as an uneducated, uncultured, superstitious and backward clergy were controversial, and led to Rhoides's excommunication from the Greek Orthodox Church which perceived that its own clergy was the real target of those attacks. It's no wonder that Rhoides would eventually discover Poe through Baudelaire.

Rhoides' translation of "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar"

Rhoides' translation of "The Black Cat"