As I prepare to write my next book, I decided to give myself a bit of practice to get into the proper writing shape, but tackling one of the pieces from my translation list - one of my favorite books of all times Thais of Athens by Ivan Yefremov.
The novel is a part-biographic part-fictionalized account of the life of a famous Greek hetera Thais. In her youth, she became acquainted with Alexander the Great (then too at the very beginning of his glorious path) and his close friends - Ptolemy, Hephaestion and Nearchos. Since then, their paths crossed through the course of a short era, during which Alexander built his empire. Thais became the only woman to witness the fall of the Persepolis and to enter Darius' great city with Alexander's army.
In order to introduce the book and its characters to the readers, as well as to do a bit of early promotion, I would like to post some excerpts from the novel as I translate each chapter. (The chapters are quite long - so it won't be every day). And while fabulous illustrations were created when the book was first published in the former Soviet Union, I intend for it to be a separate project entirely and plan to illustrate it myself. I will be posting some of the illustrations along with the excerpts.
These posts will be available under the label "Thais" for easy access from the main blog page. Here are two excerpts from the first chapter Earth and Stars.
"Ptolemy could not take his eyes off the stranger who appeared from the foam and thunder of the sea like a goddess. Coppery face, gray eyes and raven-black hair – an unusual appearance for an Athenian struck Ptolemy deeply. Later he realized that the girl’s copper tone tan allowed her to not be afraid of the sun – the bane of so many Athenian ladies of fashion. Athenian women tanned too thickly, turning purplish-bronze like the Ethiopians, which was why they avoided appearing outdoors without cover. But this one was like the copper-bodied Circe or one of the legendary daughters of Minos with blood of sunlight, and stood before him with all the dignity of a priestess. No, of course she was not a goddess or a priestess – this small, very young girl. In Attica – as in most of Hellas – the priestesses were chosen from the tallest fair-haired beauties. But where did her calm assurance come from, the precision of her movements, as if she was in a temple and not standing before him on an empty shore in the nude, as if she too left her clothing at the distant Phoont Cape? Kharitas, who bestowed magical allure upon women, frequently appeared as girls, but they were an inseparable threesome – and this one was alone!"
"Egesikhora did not keep them waiting long, re-appearing in a long white peplos, completely open along the sides and held in place with a single woven tie at the waist. Her strong muscles rippled under the smooth skin. The Lacedemonian’s hair flowed like gold down her back, curling into thick tendrils below her knees, making her lift her head higher, opening her strong jawline and powerful neck. She was dancing the 'Hair dance' – 'Cometike' – accompanying herself with her own singing, rising high on tiptoe and resembling the splendid statues by Callimachos – those of the Spartan dancers who undulated like fire, as if they were about to take off in their ecstasy.
"A general sigh of admiration greeted Egesikhora, twirling slowly in the power of her own beauty."