Comparative Perspectives on Utopia - Proceedings of Synapsis: European School of Comparative Studies XI
She Exits to Utopia
← 32 | 33 → LAURA CARETTI
Utopia is a historical concept. It refers to projects for social change that are considered impossible. Impossible for what reasons?
—HERBERT MARCUSE, The End of Utopia, 1967
A girl holding a small amphora is the first character to appear on our stage. She comes out of the backdrop of an imposing palace into the open space in front of the audience. Just a silhouette in the dim light of dawn. After a while, we see that she is followed by another young girl whom she addresses: ‘ὦ κοινὸν αὐτάδελφον ’Ἰσμήνης κάρα’. These are the first words given by Sophocles to his Antigone. And we shall begin our close reading of the first scene of this tragedy precisely from Antigone’s appeal to the strong bond that unites the two sisters, daughters of Oedipus.
All translators have come up against the difficulty of rendering the original expression in Greek. Most of them go for a simplified ‘My own dear sister, Ismene …’,1 similar to the Italian ‘Ismene, sorella mia’2 and the French ‘Ismène, ma soeur’ in Cocteau’s translation.3 Others expand the phrase ‘Ismene, my own true sister, O dear one,/ Sharing our common ← 33 | 34 → bond of birth’,4 or they cut it to ‘My own sister Ismene, linked to my self’.5 George Steiner, in his famous book on the many Antigones, whose drama has been told and retold throughout the centuries, stresses the complexity of what he calls ‘the...
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