... dramatizes the suffering of the women of Troy after the city’s defeat by the Greeks. The play’s reputation has created a subterranean impact ... This tragedy’s monumental standing makes Carson’s decision to rewrite it as 'A Comic' (the subtitle) provocative and risky.
It’s a joy to come across a mistress of the art taking rumbustious pleasure in revisiting the matter of poetry itself ... Simultaneously straight-talking and experimental, the Canadian has been reclaiming the classical tradition as an essential resource since the 1980s ... her writing remains as fierce as ever. At this #MeToo moment protesting against the objectification of women, her Trojan women are drawn as literally animal, the spoils of war ... Carson’s purposeful play bypasses nostalgia for the kind of traditional forms on display in another creative revisioning.
For me, Bruno’s strange, crude, and somehow completely evocative images do what acting can’t. Carson’s adaptation of Sophocles’s Antigone, Antigonick (2012), was in its original manifestation an art book illustrated by Bianca Stone; as successful a presentation as that was, this is even more splendid. In any case, if we can have both the words and images, why not? And if we can have almost all of Euripides’s words of Trojan Women and all of its spirit rendered by the premier adaptor-translator of the Greek tragedies (if not our best classically Greek-inspired poet) and see it maskless without having to go to the local amphitheater, why not?
Carson is an exceptionally gifted translator, but here she has deliberately cast aside literal translation. By abandoning Euripides’ original words and syntax, and indeed the task of literary translation itself, Carson lays bare the central emotion of the women in the play and forces us to feel in our very nerve endings what it is like to be abandoned ... there is brilliance in Carson’s seemingly improbable conception of the play as a comic book—the daring change of format has the effect of heightening and revitalizing the primary drama of women objectified and enslaved ... The language that Carson uses is purposefully bold—she slyly mixes the stylized formal conventions of Greek drama, such as the poetic lyricism of choral odes, with the casually modern colloquialisms of her main characters’ soliloquies, a combination that startles but creates arresting effects ... Carson manages to make her eclectic blend of verbal elements work, the catastrophic extremes of the story made more buoyant and easier to absorb by the coolly chosen words and the humorous comic-book tone ... Carson’s aim in recent works is clearly to unsettle her audience—she offers straight talk one minute and madcap play the next. In The Trojan Women, her remarkably synthesizing imagination brings traditional Greek drama and the contemporary comic book into strange and wonderful balance.
Carson and Bruno employ a cast of largely dog and bird versions of the play’s characters, making use of that ironic comics convention of giving us anthropomorphic animals that we connect with more intimately despite them being visually one step removed from our own conception of humanity. Carson’s text blends modern idiom with more lyrical language, something echoed in Bruno’s loose and lively art which juxtaposes modern iconography with classical allusion. In the process they bring the thematic heart of the play to the foreground, underlining the loss not just of individual lives but also of a way of life and a culture, and the impact that war has not simply on the vanquished but also on the victors ... uses visual metaphor, inventive panel-to-panel storytelling and the specific narrative tools of comics (particular mention for the effectiveness of the chorus scenes here) together to give us a treatment of the original play that will undoubtedly prove an entry point to the work of Euripides to the uninitiated, but will also allow those familiar with the text to see it through new eyes.
Set in post-war Troy, this wrenching comics-poetry update of Euripides’ tragic play by MacArthur fellow poet Carson and artist Bruno embodies feminine narratives with wry lyricism ... Yet the cleverness and agility of this graphic work amplify its tragedies ... Herald Talthybius, a hulking raven, outlines the prize for perfect feminine obedience ... Such is the story of war and genocide throughout history, and in Carson and Bruno’s expert hands, it strikes as powerfully contemporary.
Bizarre, haunting, and hallucinatory illustrations by Bruno render the tragedy’s characters as animals ... What results is a gnarly, perfectly inscrutable dreamscape of Euripides’ tragedy ... I can merely speculate about Carson’s and Bruno’s intentions, but I can’t help sensing a touch of hostility in them. In the absence of legible symbology, I feel baited into pseudo-intellectual interpretations such as these. (The inherent asexuality of overalls? My God!) But perhaps, in its own bewildering way, this unmanageable little book does manage to capture something of the spirit of Euripides’ somber tragedy. There is, after all, something hostile about the play itself: First performed for an Athenian audience at the height of the Peloponnesian War, The Trojan Women is an unsparing look at the devastation and moral corruption that war inspires ... Bruno’s illustrations surely capture something of the tragedy’s tone: bleak, bleak, bleak ... Of course, for all its morbidity, there remains the essence of Euripidean playfulness and pitch-black humor ... For someone who’s devoted her life to the work of translation, Carson seems unconcerned with longstanding tenets of the practice—say, for instance, the notion that one ought to approximate what the characters actually say. This frenetic, unhinged interpretation seems to put forth the argument: if you can’t keep the words, the original syntax, why not abandon the pursuit of literal translation altogether?—why not abandon certain details, all historical context, even the species of the dramatis personae? ... When I look back on the Greek translation classes I took as an undergraduate, and the halting, uncertain tones with which we students fumbled through Herodotus and Sophocles—or on the translations we read and their formal, surreally ornate prose—it’s hard not to see value in a project as strange and manic as this one. After all, the magnificence of the theatrical production—of which Euripides’ text is a mere blueprint—has been lost to time. Who are we to say that this vulgar little picture book isn’t the closest thing we’ve got to the spirit of the original performance? Maybe it translates Euripides’ liveliness, his bent toward experimentation, his refusal of easy answers and plodding pedantry.