Jo-Marie Claassen


NP Van Wyk Louw (1906-1970) was a giant of Afrikaans literature. Jo-Marie Claassen saw the first production of his verse drama Germanicus in 1956 while still at school, and again when it was performed at Stellenbosch in 1972. Being from a bilingual family, she was inspired to translate this Afrikaans masterpiece so that the rest of the Anglophone world could enjoy it. This she at last managed almost forty years later, after her retirement from the Department of Ancient Studies at Stellenbosch University. Her translation aims to retain the sweeping grandeur of the original and has tried to remain faithful to both Louw's exhilarating poetic vision and his dramatic portrayal of the corruption inherent in absolute power, a topic still very apposite today. Jo-Marie is the author of two scholarly books and many academic articles, mostly on the Roman poet Ovid, who was exiled by the emperor Augustus about twelve years before the events portrayed in this drama.

Smashwords Interview

Who are you?
I retired from the University of Stellenbosch's Department of Ancient Studies in 2001. I still engage actively in research. I am best known internationally for my work on Ovid's exile. I have published two books on exile: "Displaced Persons: the literature of exile from Cicero to Boethius" (Duckworths/U Wisconsin Press, 1999) and "Ovid Revisited: the Poet in Exile" (Duckworths/Bloomsbury, 2008) and many articles. I have also published on Cicero, women in Antiquity, the classical tradition in South African architecture and the teaching of Latin. "Germanicus" is my first published translation.
Why did you undertake this translation?
I was 16 when I first saw this drama produced in its original Afrikaans version (1956). I was at school, taking Latin, but had never heard of Tacitus, or of the hero Germanicus, for that matter. When, much later (1972), I was teaching Latin and ancient history at Stellenbosch University, I saw the Afrikaans play again, and was then struck by the powerful force of the poet's language and by the way Louw had transformed a fraught passage of history into a compelling drama. The weaknesses and strengths of Tacitus' hero are very well displayed in the weaknesses and strengths of Louw's hero. I felt then that this drama should be brought to the attention of an international audience.
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Price: Free! Words: 43,330. Language: English. Published: May 10, 2013. Categories: Plays » Ancient & Classical
This is the first translation into English of the verse drama Germanicus by the Afrikaans poet N.P. Van Wyk Louw. The work was based on the first three chapters of the Annales of the Roman historiographer Tacitus. The drama has been considered a highlight in Afrikaans literature since its publication in 1956.

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