I love a good epigraph.
A well-chosen, thoughtful epigraph can establish the tone for the book journey you’re about to embark on. However many authors spend a lot of time and effort on finding the perfect epigraph only for it to be skimmed over by most readers.
For the reader who does consider the epigraph, its true significance may not become apparent until the end of the book, by which time it has been long forgotten.
It’s time to rectify this sad, sad wrong.
It’s time to save the epigraph from obscurity!
Today I’m confused.
I’m not sure which Man Booker longlisted book I should jump into next. I thought I would check to see if their epigraphs might help me to decide one way or the other.
And Zadie Smith’s epigraph is….
According to wikipedia, the Hausa are one of the largest, most homogeneous ethnic groups in Africa, primarily based in Nigeria. Many Hausa proverbs have two corresponding, but interrelated parts that display balance and cohesion in a poetic way.
When the music changes, so does the dance, tells us that we should adapt to what is coming our way. It’s another way of saying we should ‘go with the flow’ and embrace where we are and what we’re doing right now. It can also be claimed by those who wish to create change or reinvent themselves.
The ones we love…are enemies of the state –
Antigone, Sophocles (translated by Seamus Heaney, 2004)
I studied Antigone at school, but sadly remember very little from it. Perhaps the most interesting part in this choice of epigraph is that it is actually a quote from Heaney’s 2004 play, The Burial at Thebes, which is classified as a version of Sophocles’ play.
Antigone’s main themes were personal freedom versus civil disobedience, fidelity and love of family, natural law versus law and human error.
Whereas Heaney’s play, according to Wikipedia has,
conflicts between individual freedom and the imposition of restrictions by state, as well as the conflict between Divine Law and Civil Law.
The play contains many digressions from the Greek original, Heaney adding Irish idiom and expanding the involvement of some characters such as the Guard. Relevant to the time of its writing, Heaney also adds in “Bushisms”, referencing George W. Bush and his approach to leadership, drawing a parallel between him and the character of Creon.
Both books appear to cover big themes that have vexed the human condition since we began recording it.
Which one should I read next?