The opening lines of Blacktip Island artist and writer Rosie Blenny’s emoji translation of Homer’s Ancient Greek epic ‘The Odyssey.’ (image courtesy of Rosie Blenny)
In an effort to revive interest in Classical literature, a Blacktip Island artist and writer is translating Homer’s Ancient Greek epic poem ‘The Odyssey’ into an all-emoji format, she announced Thursday.
“I wanted to update an old chestnut, make it culturally relevant again,” Rosie Blenny said. “The goal’s to get younger generations interested in literature. Sure, using only emojis limits the number of characters I can use, but a picture’s worth a thousand words, so I reckon I’m in good shape.
“I was going to do the obvious and start with ‘The Iliad,’ but it’s pretty dry, and bogged down with all the names and speeches,” Blenny said. “The Odyssey’s got lots of whizz-bang action and is way more of a page turner. Or screen scroller. I’m releasing it in short, daily installments to keep up folks’ interest.”
Local artists praised the idea.
“It’s a brilliant cross-textual take that truly speaks to what it’s like to be alive in this time and place. And that one,” local artist Jerrod Ephesians said. “The Odyssey’s about a sea voyage, after all, and Blacktip’s surrounded by the sea. That naturally lends itself to speak to the in-common experiences of Blacktippers and the Ancient Greeks. I think people underestimate how expressive you can be in emoji.”
Others in the island’s literary community weren’t so sure.
“It’s an interesting concept, certainly, but I’m not sure emojis will deliver the desired level of nuance to the story,” Tome Time book club president Helen Maples said. “There are aspects of Ancient Greek society emojis simply can’t convey. The worry is that could easily lead to misinterpretation.
“What Rosie is doing is essentially creating a new text that’s a hollow echo of the original,” Maples said. “Any meaning or has import it has will spring from the call-and-response between the old and the new. If there is any. Personally, I don’t see the point, but if it gets kids reading, I suppose I’m all for it.”
Others on the small Caribbean island were looking forward to the work.
“It’s literature, so it’ll be better for the kids than Aquaman or manga or whatever comic books they’re reading now,” George Graysby said. “Hell, I loved the Classic Comix version of Moby Dick when I was in high school. That puppy got me a ‘C’ in 10th-grade English without having to slog through that boring great brick of a book.”
Blenny said she has other translations planned.
“If this proves popular, I’ll do Shakespeare’s sonnets next,” she said. “I can publish one a day, and emojis naturally lend themselves to iambic pentameter.”