It will be boring, friends said. Why on earth are you spending two days doing that when you could be shopping, sleeping, swimming? But the recent workshop on Antigone’s Sophocles (with Brecht and Jean Anouilh thrown in as supporting artistes) was a true revelation. .
Antigone was the daughter of Oedipus – not a great start because he was a motherf..….well, you know that story. So already from a doomed family, her two brothers then murder one another, Oedipus dies and his brother, Creon, becomes king. One of Antigone’s brothers Polynices has rebelled against the state and is to be left outside for the dogs and vultures to pick over his bones. But Antigone decides to bury him and so the wheels of fate roll on when she is condemned to death. There will be more deaths that follow.
No relevance to today? Family versus state? Idealism? Dying for a cause? Conscience? All those themes, written in 441 B.C, wrapped tight in the most rhythmic, beautifully phrased prose:
‘My plans, my mad fanatic heart, my son, cut off so young…’
Suddenly, I saw the roots of King Lear and many other great works of literature. It was back to the source of things….
So, I have made enquiries about doing a part-time Classics degree. Not more Creative Writing – the route I thought I would take. Perhaps I am very impractical about this and I will end my days as a crusty, dusty and far from lusty would-be academic with whiskers and a snuff habit. I feel intoxicated by the Ancient Greeks – this was a time when skilful language was everything: it was valued, honed and considered an asset. Well, I want to be more skilful, understand the cadences of every sentence, the power of one adverb over another, to move people. (Brecht to be recommended too, for his poetry. Anouilh I found too sentimental.)
It is all in the lap of the Gods whether I get (and can afford – there is always that little sting) a place at the University. I may fall to earth pretty fast but hey, an academic friend of mine said it well:
‘I've found my own classical studies incredibly enriching. Not only have I experienced that amazing sense of connectedness with our vast cultural heritage (something that the educated person once took as given but which has been sadly lost in recent decades) but I've felt like a traveller into other minds. I feel I've rubbed shoulders with people recognisable as coming from the same species as ourselves but very different in other ways. The realisation that thought is words and that words do not correspond across all languages is humbling, liberating, and utterly vital for a writer. I love Ancient Greek because I feel that it is the evolving language of a people developing both their philosophies and the ways of expressing them in tandem. I also feel that I didn't really understand Byron and Shakespeare until I understood their exposure to the Classical tradition.’
So backwards to go forwards, really.
- Julia Bohanna
- Shortlisted Bath Short Story Award 2013 Runner-up Cinnamon Press Competition 2013 WNNER: Don Louth Writer of the Year (run by Reading Writers) WINNER: Bradt/Independent on Sunday Travel Writing Competition 2012. SHORTLISTED: Scott Prize (Salt Publishing) 2012 for a short story collection. Writer/ Journalist - assistant editor and writer for the art and books pages of Wolfprint. Most recently published in Independent on Sunday and short story anthologies: Sentinel Champions No 9, 100 Stories for Queensland, 50 Stories for Pakistan, 100 Stories for Haiti and From Hell to Eternity. In a recent writing competition, Joanne Harris described my writing as '...compelling (but quite creepy)'
- ► 2009 (13)
Prizes and Writing Awards
- Winner Bradt/Independent on Sunday Travel Writing Competition 2012
- Shortlisted for Salt Publishing's Scott Prize for short story collections 2012
- Finalist in Brit Writers' Award 2011
- 2nd in Sentinel Literary Competition 2011
- Whitechapel Society Anthology to be published 2010
- Shortlisted for the Mslexia Short Story Competition 2009
- Shortlisted for The Asham Award 2009
- Joint winner of the Penguin/Decibel Prize 2008 - Asian Invisible. Published as The Map of Me
- Highly Commended in The National Galleries of Scotland Short Story Competition 2008
- Runner-up in Segora Short Story Prize 2008
- Joint Winner of The Lancet Short Story Competition 2007: The Resurrection Girl.
- Runner-up in Virgin Trains/The Guardian Short Story Competition 2007: A Small Revolution
- Winner of the Woman and Home Short Story Competition 2006: Ghosts of Jamaica.
- Shortlisted for The Asham Award 2005
- Runner-up in the Good Housekeeping Short Story Competition 2003
- Winner of The Sunday Telegraph Tourism for Tomorrow Travel Writing Competition 2002: Wolves of Rumania. Winner
- Winner and also Winner of Most Original Short Story in the Competition in Trowell and District Writers' Competition 2006