Ubi fera sunt.
Ubi fera sunt. By Maurice Sendak. Translated by Richard Lafleur. Mundelein, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 2016. Unpaginated. $24. By definition, Neo-Latin continues up to the present moment, which has spawned a cottage industry of sorts that in a sort of reverse translation process, renders works originally written in a vernacular language into Latin. One thinks, for example, of Cattus Petasatus, Quomodo invidiosulus nomine Grinchus Christi natalem abrogavit, Winnie ille Pu, Alicia in terra mirabili, and of course Harrius Potter et philosophi lapis. Now we have Ubi fera sunt.
Where the Wild Things Are was first published in 1963. The text and illustrations are by Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), who was generally recognized at his death as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, children's book artist of the twentieth century. He went on to write and illustrate many more books afterward, but Where the Wild Things Are is the work on which his reputation rests: it has sold over twenty million copies to date, won the 1964 Randolph Caldecott Medal for "the most distinguished American picture book for children," and in 2015, a half century later, was ranked first in Time magazine's list of the "100 Best Children's Books of All Time." Two film versions exist (the 1973 one with music and narration by Peter Schckele and the 2009 one directed by Spike Jonze), as do translations into French, German, Spanish, Hebrew, and even Finnish.
Ostensibly this is a story about a boy who gets angry at his mother because he got sent to bed without his dinner, but this catastrophe leads to an imaginary voyage and a menagerie of fanged monsters, here presented in the remastered images that were prepared for the fiftieth anniversary edition. Here is how the Latin version begins:
Ea nocte Maximus vestem lupinam gerebat et faciebat malum unius modi et alterius. Mater eius eum appellavit, 'ferum!' et Maximus dixit, 'Comedam te!' Missus est, igitur, ad lectum sine edendo quidquam. Illa ipsa nocte in cubiculo Maximi silva crescebat et crescebat et crescebat, dum de camara eius pependerunt vites et parietes circumundique facti sunt mundus et oceanus praeterlapsus est cum cumba privata Maximo et per noctem diemque enavigavit.
I should probably stop here, in part because the words without the pictures really do not do the story justice.
What to do with this, of course, is the question. One can enjoy it as a novelty, at several different levels: the Latin generally follows classical usage, but those who once had some Latin but forgot most of it will find that lexical and syntactical choices that align well with English have been favored. What is more, as past president of the American Classical League, the translator has had the idea of using this book as a means to teach Latin via a story that is familiar to many of his Anglophone readers. Accordingly there is a website with classroom tools (http://www.bolchazy.com/Ubi-Fera-Sunt-Wherethe-Wild-Things-Are-in-Latin-P3892.aspx), including a vocabulary list and a guide to pronouncing Latin.
This is one of those little projects that will not change the course of western civilization, but it is a charming trifle that offers eloquent testimony to the enduring value of Latin and to the fact that NeoLatin lives on, even now. (Craig Kallendorf, Texas A&M University)
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|Title Annotation:||NEO-LATIN NEWS|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2017|
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