Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Christopher Logue | Poet, 85

Christopher Logue, 85, an English poet acclaimed for his multivolume modernization of the Iliad, died Dec. 2 at his home in London.

The modernization was noteworthy for lasting four times as long as the Trojan War itself; even more noteworthy for its use of evocative anachronisms such as Uzis, helicopters, and aircraft carriers to conjure the world of Homer's Bronze Age warriors; and still more noteworthy for having been accomplished without Mr. Logue's knowing a word of Greek.

His death was announced by his publisher, Faber & Faber. Mr. Logue's life was a fittingly picaresque epic that also included being imprisoned in a Crusader castle, writing a pornographic novel, acting in films by the director Ken Russell, and committing a modest armed robbery at the age of 8.

Though he wrote more than two dozen well-received volumes of original Modernist poetry, Mr. Logue remained best known for his English-language Iliad, a project on which he embarked in 1959 and worked in intense fits and starts for more than 40 years.

He would come nowhere near to reworking the 24 books and more than 15,000 lines of Homer's epic, for, as the British newspaper the Independent pointed out in 1991, Mr. Logue "has accounted for one line every three days on average; at this rate he should be through by about 2080."

Mr. Logue, who used earlier English translations as points of departure and consulted frequently with scholars of Homeric Greek, took pains to stress that his Iliad was not a translation but an adaptation.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Logue's Homer loosed the wrath of scholastic purists and some critics. But it was overwhelmingly lauded - even by classicists - for the combined power of its luminous language, cinematic imagery and hurtling pace. These things, reviewers said, lent his account of the decade-long conflict between Greece and Troy in the 12th century B.C. a force heard in few other English versions.

- N.Y. Times News Service