From my diary

The third unfinished project on my desktop is a translation from the Latin of the Life of St Nicholas by John the Deacon, who lived in Naples in the middle of the 9th century.   John was bilingual, and created his work by translating the Greek Life by Methodius – the one that defeated all my translators.

It is a hard thing to pick something after a year or more, even if you are reasonably well-organised, unless you leave a file of notes written to your future self as to where you were and what you were doing.  (Memo to self: do this next time!!)  So I spent the end of yesterday and a couple of hours today trying to work out what I had, and reorganising the working directory.

The Latin text was printed by Mombritius in his Sanctuarium in 1477 or 1478 – it’s undated.  I did OCR this and create a corrected file, but then I concluded that it was a bit too rough to work with; spellings, punctuation, etc.  The text was printed again from some Vatican manuscripts by Falconius in 1751, who helpfully placed chapters 13-15 as an appendix and instead inserted a bunch of chapters from completely different Life of St Nicholas.  Luckily the BHL volume specifies this, and I had prepared an electronic text with a note to myself about just this.

I had also divided the text into 15 files, and I had started the translation of chapter 1.  I vaguely remember finding it very hard work indeed, which was why I stopped.

I’ve now sorted out the directory, and done a little more on chapter 1.  After a year of Latin, it is less difficult.  It really does help to establish exactly what the construction is, and to footnote a query if not sure, for later examination!  Mind you, in a couple of sentences I have already come across two words which are not in my QuickLatin.  The word order is horrendous sometimes, although the case of the words makes clear their function.  Was John trying to show off in his prologue, like some dull Victorian German editor, I wonder?  Let us hope that it settles down in the next chapter!

So all I need now is time and motivation.  I shall start grinding away.


4 thoughts on “From my diary

  1. Thank you again for all the translations you produce and make freely available. It is a contribution to the expansion of knowledge. May you have a very merry Christmas season.

  2. Re: hagiography, there is some that is clearly “Bob writes a Christian novel,” because there’s ancient Greek novels that are exactly like that. So yeah, there’s the Recognitions of Clement. No doubt there. And then there’s stuff like Paul and Thecla that’s a little more realistic, but that we’re told was made up.

    But frankly there are some well-documented miracles of living saints that are just jaw-dropping, and don’t seem to have happened for any particular reason, other than coolness or kindness or beauty.

    And then… there are things that seem to have really happened, but people are very cloudy on the details, or different people are very clear on different details that don’t reconcile. Did the same thing happen more than once? Or are people remembering things incorrectly, or remembering incorrectly about the events told to them by others?

    For example, I know at least two different versions of the “multiplication of ice cream cones” story about Bl. Solanus Casey in Detroit; and it’s been implied that there are several more in circulation. But every time people talk about this incident, they apparently talk about different people having been present, and different things having been said and done, while leading up to the incident. So it would seem that the “official” version that is listed in the official biography is probably not the only time that Bl. Solanus was pulling ridiculous numbers of ice cream cones out of his empty desk, and telling people that ice cream was pleasing to Jesus and Mary.

    And since the guy did a lot of weird-but-logical things repeatedly, often saying similar things about his actions to multiple groups of people, I would suspect that he would also have a tendency to duck around natural laws multiple times for the same reasons, as well. People who bilocate don’t usually do it just once, either.

    But the “official” version features a friar who was known, prominent, alive, and in easy proximity to the biographer, whereas the other versions seem to feature normal Detroit people who live farther away than the next dorm room at the friary, or have moved, or died, or just weren’t paying attention to the call for information on Casey’s life. So the biographer judged the official version to be the only credible one, but didn’t really talk about whether he’d checked out the circumstances and participants of the other versions.

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