Carlo Gébler has carved out quite a niche for himself.
In I, Antigone, which is of course based on Sophocles’ Theban Plays, the eponymous heroine tells the story of her father, Oedipus Rex, as well as her family’s deep, violent history. This is not Gébler’s first such adaptation, having already published – also with New Island Books – a version of Aesop’s Fables and, more recently, a selection from Boccaccio’s The Decameron. The relevance of the latter, which was directly inspired by the Black Death, to our current moment hardly needs unpacking. But what draws Gébler (and us) to ancient texts by Aesop and Sophocles is nothing specific; rather, these texts are for him simply timeless, what they stage eternally relevant. No matter what befalls us, it seems, they’ll always be worth revisiting.
I, Antigone, as with Gébler’s other adaptations, is told in a simple, though at times lyrical manner that seems itself wary of crowding out what wisdom the contemporary reader might glean from the ancient story. He’s also careful to retain an element of estrangement in the book’s tone, which tends to the archaic: “From the lesser God to my father to me, Antigone…”
Much of the book concerns a time well in advance of Antigone’s birth, and this is key to what Gébler is getting at: that we act under circumstances, and with an inheritance, over which we have little control. That our own pre-histories form us more than we’d like to admit.
Words: Luke Warde