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Switch: The Complete Catullus by Isobel Williams

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During the latter phases of covid, Isobel Williams completed the challenge of completing her celebrated translations of Catullus. The poems that had proved impossible when she was preparing Shibari Carmina, published to acclaim in 2021, relented. Now she has completed what almost eluded 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 struggle was intensified by the presence of a third element, something that made Catullus come alive, his 'tormented intelligence and romantic versatility'. The 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. 'Collage and college in one slim course, her little book teaches and teases...

Her treatment of selected poems is literary charcuterie as neat as it is naughty. Criticism ceases to be inky assessment and becomes a rally, tease and treat... Shibari Carmina embellishes the literature by looping the poet in a crib spun from and around his own confections.

If you fail to enjoy this sado-masochistic gem as much as I have, you can always flog it...' said Frederic Raphael in The Critic. It joins Carcanet's celebrated Classics series, and like its incomplete predecessor it is illustrated with bondage drawings by the translator herself. She has also added a 'who shagged whom' chart so readers can move confidently from one engagement to the next.

Carcanet

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