Daisy Dunn put a sexed-up Catullus among the p…

Daisy Dunn put a sexed-up Catullus among the pigeons. Now it’s Pliny’s turn:

Daisy Dunn’s plan after we meet in a cafe near her regular haunt, the London Library, is to play a game of tennis. “My whole life people have always quoted Betjeman at me because I’m Dunn and there’s Joan Hunter Dunn,” she says. “So I thought I might as well pick up a racket.”

Certainly, Dunn, 30, has something of the Betjeman’s home counties heroine about her. A soft-spoken English rose, the classicist grew up in Wimbledon and now lives in Surrey. She’s absolutely not the type you’d suspect of causing a furore with her use of the f-word, but three years ago Dunn did just this.

Helen Morales holds the chair in Hellenic studies at the University of California. Reviewing Dunn’s book, Catullus’ Bedspread: The Life of Rome’s Most Erotic Poet, for the Times Literary Supplement, she criticised Dunn’s translation of Catullus’s invented word fututiones as “nine consecutive f****”.

“[Fututiones] conveys an exaggerated amount and needs translating in a way that captures the originality of the term, the excess implied and the humour in the poet’s urgency,” Morales sniffed.

For weeks afterwards, erudite TLS readers bombarded the letters page, some insisting that Dunn’s rendering was far preferable to previous attempts at conveying Catullus’s lasciviousness.

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