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Literati Pay Tribute to Robert Fagles

“We have a small but mighty army here to honor Robert Fagles tonight,” Academy of American Poets president Tree Swenson joked as she introduced the lineup of authors who had come to celebrate Fagles’s translations of the Odyssey, the Iliad, and the Aeneid Tuesday night at the Times Center. Fagles was unable to attend the event himself, due to health problems, but the various testimonials were videotaped for him to watch later. J.D. McClatchy began by reflecting upon the influence of Alexander Pope on Fagles’s Odyssey, while Richard Howard read from some of Fagles’ original poetry, inspired by the paintings of van Gogh. Translator Edith Grossman summed up the evening’s spirit most concisely by noting that Fagles was “one of that small band of literary practicioners whose accomplishments seem superhuman;” as C.K. Williams observed, “the thing that makes his translations so memorable is that they’re done… with a true poet’s ear for language.”

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David Remnick and Charles McGrath (who were kind enough to stand still for this shot on their way out the door) each focused on Fagles the educator. “Just about everybody I know who went to Princeton took a Fagles course and was changed by it,” McGrath remarked.

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