Magazine March 19, 2012, Issue

A Classic Renewed

(Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
The Golden Ass, by Apuleius, translated by Sarah Ruden (Yale, 288 pp., $30)

Translating makes a dirty, thankless business — except, of course, to those for whom the work is its own reward. The translator stands to readers rather as the piano player does to patrons in a frontier saloon, ignored if folks are having a ripping good time and shot if they’re not. It’s the realm not only of educated guesses, but of halting hunches as well, even when the translator is a scholar. Few arts are more inexact. This sticky predicament gets compounded when the work rendered into modern idiom hails from one of the ancient languages; critics may assail a

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