Barely five months after the publication of his annotated translation into Maltese of Albert Camus' La Chute (Il-Waqgħa), Prof. Toni Aquilina from the Department of Translation, Terminology and Interpreting Studies has produced another translation, this time of the four-act play Caligula / Kaligula by the same author.
Camus had originally written Caligula in 1938 for his Équipe du Théâtre in Algeria. It was however put on stage for the first time at the Théâtre Hébertot in Paris in 1945.
Camus loved theatre and had high hopes for this particular play, meant to cement his ideas about the Absurd in a tangible manner, not just on the level of ideas.
Within his cycle de l’absurde which also includesanother play, Le Malentendu, Caligula deals especially about the theme of freedom. After the death of his sister and lover Drusilla, the protagonist is brought face to face with a fact of life – men die and they are not happy / les hommes meurent et ils ne sont pas heureux. He then strives to bring this realisation to its logical conclusions at the cost of tyranny, persecution and injustice all round. Obsessed with the impossible, he indulges in freedom without limits. Of course, the author thinks this is not the right sort of freedom, the reason being however that Caligula makes the cardinal mistake of repudiating men – son erreur est de nier les hommes.
The idea for Caligula / Kaligula came to Albert Camus first of all through his reading of La vie des douze Césars / The life of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius. He found in the latter the ingredients which according to him were the essence of tragedy: ‘violence with regard to sentiments, and cruelty with regard to action’. We are also told by Jean Grenier, in his preface to the Pléiade edition of the author’s work, that Caligula was meant to imitate God all-mighty, but denounced by the playwright for his deafness and blindness, something we see him do on other occasions as well. Finally, one can also detect inCamus’s Caligula an influencefrom Le Prométhée enchaîné by Aeschylus, which he hadadapted for hisThéâtredu Travail when he was still a member of the Communist Party in Algeria.
Caligula, Sisyphus, Prometheus: three heroes bumping head on into the impossible.
The translated work was presented during the Campus Book Festival on 24 March 2021.
Revisit the launch and discussion below: