Books: An Officer and a Gentleman

THE AENEID Translated by Robert Fitzgerald; Random House; 416 pages; $20

Those who translate words from one language into another always find that truth and beauty cannot both be served. Something has to go. Voltaire's parting shot when he left Holland ("Adieu, canaux, canards, canaille!") may be accurately rendered in English as "Farewell, canals, ducks, rabble!" The only thing missing is everything that made Voltaire's remark so witty and memorably alliterative in French. If a four-word mot successfully thwarts attempts to export it, the problems posed by an epic poem more than 10,000 lines long, written two millenniums ago in a language...

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