Today, on the occasion of Sidonius’ death on a 21/23rd August some 1,540 years ago, a striking piece of literary reception giving an unexpected twist to the famous Carmen 12 on the impossibility of writing poetry among the barbarians.
Playwright and stage director Hartmut Lange (born 1937, in exile to West-Berlin from the DDR in 1965), in his 1972 play Staschek oder das Leben des Ovid on the dilemmas of compromising with the powers that be, has the protagonist meet Sidonius in Bordeaux instead of meeting Ovid in Tomi, as he expected. Staschek persuades Sidonius to smear his hair with rancid butter to assuage the barbarians. These, indeed, become nicer, but the stench makes Sidonius vomit all the time and prevents him from reciting his ‘ode to Venus’.
The play is a vivid satire of cowardice and self-interest in the face of totalitarianism (Horace and Vergil figure on the wrong side whereas Ovid refuses to collaborate). In the end, everybody has to compromise one way or another, even Sidonius.
See the Reception/Germany page for fuller detail on discussions by Kurt Smolak and Theodore Ziolkowski.
Text to be found in Hartmut Lange, Vom Werden der Vernunft und andere Stücke fürs Theater, Zürich: Diogenes. 1988, 307-41, esp. 338-39.
Lo specchio del modello: Orizzonti intertestuali e Fortleben di Sidonio Apollinare is in print. Edited by Anita Di Stefano and Marco Onorato, it brings together the papers given at the homonymous conference, 4-5 October 2018 at the University of Messina.
Authors include Silvia Condorelli, Franca Ela Consolino, Anita Di Stefano, Maria Jennifer Falcone, Luciana Furbetta, Jesús Hernández Lobato, Marco Onorato, Aaron Pelttari, Stefania Santelia, Rosa Santoro, Joop van Waarden, Étienne Wolff, and Matthijs Zoeter.
Bust of Sidonius, one of thirty-four famous Lyonnais who adorn the corridors of the Hôtel du Département du Rhône in Lyon. The artist is the sculptor Joseph Bourgeot (1851-1910).
For another image of Sidonius, painted on the rear wall of the Assembly Room, see Gallery Page, “Sidonius in Art”
New on the Translations and Reception/Germany pages: entries on Karl Wolfskehl. The Jewish poet and translator Karl Wolfskehl (1869-1948), in the last decades of his life a refugee from Nazi Germany, first in Italy, then in New Zealand, extensively read and admired Sidonius’ work. An aestheticist in the tradition of Stefan George, he was sensitive to Sidonius’ particular style while his plight as an exile created a feeling of shared fates with Sidonius and his time “of festering and pregnant doom”.
A brand-new historical novel on Sidonius is forthcoming. Annabelle Grierson (in arte J A Grierson) has recently got her Creative Writing Master degree at Auckland University of Technology with a two-part novel breathing life into fifth-century history, with Sidonius among its protagonists. She was inspired by his letters, and the novels actually quote them, including the famous letter to Bishop Graecus (Ep. 7.7), which is cited almost in full. The first volume, entitled The Wars with Attila, centred around a fictionalised Avitus, is expected to be published next Spring. The second volume, centred around Sidonius, will be called The Last Roman.
For information, go here.