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The Odysseys of Homer by Homer Trans by George Chapman: “There will be killing till the score is paid” PDF, ePub eBook

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The Odysseys of Homer by Homer Trans by George Chapman: “There will be killing till the score is paid” PDF, ePub eBook George Chapman was born at Hitchin in Hertfordshire in about 1559. There is some evidence that Chapman attended Oxford University but did not obtain a degree, but the evidence is rather scant. During the first part of the early 1590s Chapman was in Europe, in military action in the Low Countries fighting under the famed English general Sir Francis Vere. It is from this per George Chapman was born at Hitchin in Hertfordshire in about 1559. There is some evidence that Chapman attended Oxford University but did not obtain a degree, but the evidence is rather scant. During the first part of the early 1590s Chapman was in Europe, in military action in the Low Countries fighting under the famed English general Sir Francis Vere. It is from this period that his earliest published works are found including the obscure philosophical poems The Shadow of Night (1594) and Ovid's Banquet of Sense (1595). By the end of the 1590s, Chapman had become a successful playwright, working for the Elizabethan Theatrical entrepreneur, Philip Henslowe, and later for the Children of the Chapel. From 1598 he published his translation of the Iliad in installments. In 1616 the complete Iliad and Odyssey appeared in The Whole Works of Homer, the first complete English translation, which until Alexander Pope's, was the most popular in the English language and was the entry point for most English readers of these magnificent poems. The great Ben Jonson was also using Chapman’s talents in the play Eastward Ho (1605), co-written with John Marston. Both Chapman and Jonson landed in jail over some satirical references to the Scots in the play but both were quick to say that Marston was the culprit. Chapman also wrote one of the most successful masques of the Jacobean era, The Memorable Masque of the Middle Temple and Lincoln's Inn, performed on February 15th, 1613. Another masque, The Masque of the Twelve Months, performed on Twelfth Night 1619 is also now given as Chapman’s. George Chapman died in London on May 12th, 1634 having lived his latter years in poverty and debt. He was buried at St Giles in the Fields.

30 review for The Odysseys of Homer by Homer Trans by George Chapman: “There will be killing till the score is paid”

  1. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte May

    Quite possibly one of my favourite books! It was this novel that ignited my love for Greek and Roman mythology and antiquity - leading me to choose a degree in Classical Civilisations. I always look back on The Odyssey with fondness - I love all the monsters he faces and the gods who involve themselves with Odysseus' trials as he makes his way home after the Trojan War. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    So my first “non-school related" experience with Homer’s classic tale, and my most powerful impression, beyond the overall splendor of the story, was...HOLY SHIT SNACKS these Greeks were a violent bunch. Case in point: ...they hauled him out through the doorway into the court, lopped his nose and ears with a ruthless knife, tore his genitals out for the dogs to eat raw and in manic fury hacked off hands and feet. then once they’d washed their own hands and feet they went inside again to join odysseus.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    "Okay, so here's what happened. I went out after work with the guys, we went to a perfectly nice bar, this chick was hitting on me but I totally brushed her off. Anyway we ended up getting pretty wrecked, and we might have smoked something in the bathroom, I'm not totally clear on that part, and then this gigantic one-eyed bouncer kicked us out so we somehow ended up at a strip club. The guys were total pigs but not me, seriously, that's not glitter on my neck. And then we totally drove right by "Okay, so here's what happened. I went out after work with the guys, we went to a perfectly nice bar, this chick was hitting on me but I totally brushed her off. Anyway we ended up getting pretty wrecked, and we might have smoked something in the bathroom, I'm not totally clear on that part, and then this gigantic one-eyed bouncer kicked us out so we somehow ended up at a strip club. The guys were total pigs but not me, seriously, that's not glitter on my neck. And then we totally drove right by these hookers without even stopping and here I am! Only a little bit late! By the way, I crashed the car and six of the guys are in jail. Ask for Officer Scylla." Eh...Homer's right. Odysseus' version is better. P.S. Do not try this story at home unless, when you get there, you're still capable of shooting your arrow into a narrow aperture. Fagles' translation is excellent - the new standard - and Bernard Knox's enormous introduction is the best Homeric essay I've ever read. A good companion read is Hal Roth's We Followed Odysseus - maybe not the most eloquent of books, but he retraces Odysseus's voyage (as best he can) in his sailboat, which is a pretty rad idea. I recreated his route as a Google map here, with notes on each of the stops. I also wrote summaries of each book of the Odyssey for a book club discussion; I've pasted them in the comments thread below, if you're interested.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kalliope

    I have read The Odyssey three times. The first was not really a read but more of a listen in the true oral tradition. During embroidery class one of us, young girls on the verge of entering the teens, would read a passage while the rest were all busy with our eyes and fingers, our needles and threads. All learning to be future Penelopes: crafty with their crafts, cultivated, patient and loyal. And all wives. The second read was already as an adult. That time I let myself be led by the adventures and imagi I have read The Odyssey three times. The first was not really a read but more of a listen in the true oral tradition. During embroidery class one of us, young girls on the verge of entering the teens, would read a passage while the rest were all busy with our eyes and fingers, our needles and threads. All learning to be future Penelopes: crafty with their crafts, cultivated, patient and loyal. And all wives. The second read was already as an adult. That time I let myself be led by the adventures and imagination of the ‘resourceful’ one. Relishing on the literary rhythm of the hexameters I particularly enjoyed the epithets used by the bards to keep the attention of the listeners... Dawn of the rosy fingers was my favourite. By then my embroideries were far away from my mind. This third time I read it in preparation for tackling Joyce’s take on Homer. And this time, with a more detached stance, I have been surprised by the structure of the work, the handling of time, and the role of narration. And those aspects I take with me in this third reading. Of the twenty-four books, the first four or Telemachiad, are preliminary. Acting as an overture they take place not too long before the main action. The following four are another preamble, which take place roughly at the same time as the previous four. The son and the father are getting ready to meet almost at the end of twenty years of their separation with ten at the war and ten coming back. Then, and this was my surprise, what I always thought of as the core of the Odyssey: the magical adventures with the Cyclops and Polyphemus, the Lotus Eaters, the Sirens, Circe and the trip to the Underworld, the Laestrygonias, Scylla and Charybdis, the Sun God etc, forming what is called the Apologoi, are a very small part of the book. All of these eventful episodes take place along three years before the seven that Odysseus is amorously trapped by Kalypso. And these are narrated, after the fact, by Odysseus himself in just four more chapters (chapters nine to twelve). So, to what in my mind was the meat of the Odyssey is only 17% of the book. And if one recalls what a great deceiver Odysseus can be, one could always wonder at these fables. The rest, the remaining twelve chapters, or half of the book, is the actual Homecoming. What I have realized now is that The Odyssey is really about this Homecoming. And that is what we witness directly. All the enchanted adventures are told tales. Odysseus as the bard chanting his own stories in the court of the Phaeacians. A supreme teller since through his fables he has to build the image of the hero that his, possibly dangerous, audience see and do not see. Odysseus as myth and myth-maker. No wonder his epithet of ‘the resourceful one’. If the Homecoming had previously stayed in my mind as just an expected end, in which all the invective and riveting elements are drearily put at an end, as if one could already close the door and leave, the one I have read now surprised me by its dramatization. A different craft is at stage. The bard enacts the process of Justice performing through an act of Revenge. There is no layered telling of the tale. In the last half of the poem the pace and complexity of the various elements as they converge in the palace to play out divine retribution--in which success does not seem assured, not even to the great Odysseus who knows he has Athena’s support--, has seemed, this third time round, magisterial. And it is Penelope the patient, the apprehensive, the one who for twenty years has protected her mistrust with her weaving, the one who, with her threads, offers the needed opportunity that the resourceful hero is at pains to find. When she announces that she is about to end to the tapestry that has become her life, the beggar can then put also an end to the agony. Crafted Homecoming.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    Ever since I first read Homer’s epic describing the adventures of Odysseus back in my school days, three of those adventures fired my imagination: The Lotus Eaters, The Cyclops and the Sirens, most especially the Sirens. I just did revisit these sections of this Greek epic and my imagination was set aflame yet again. How much, you ask? Here is my microfiction as a tribute to the great poet: THE SIRENS This happened back in those days when I was a member of an experimental performing-arts troupe down in G Ever since I first read Homer’s epic describing the adventures of Odysseus back in my school days, three of those adventures fired my imagination: The Lotus Eaters, The Cyclops and the Sirens, most especially the Sirens. I just did revisit these sections of this Greek epic and my imagination was set aflame yet again. How much, you ask? Here is my microfiction as a tribute to the great poet: THE SIRENS This happened back in those days when I was a member of an experimental performing-arts troupe down in Greenwich Village. We would read poetry, dance and act out avant-garde plays in our dilapidated little theater. For a modest charge people could come in and watch for as long as they wanted. Somehow, a business executive who worked downtown in the financial district heard of what we were doing and spoke with our director about an act he has all worked out but needed a supporting cast and that he would pay handsomely if we went along with him. Well, experimental is experimental and if we were going to be well paid we had nothing to lose. The first thing he did was pass out our costumes. In addition to himself, he had parts for three men and three women. The play we were to perform was so simple we didn’t even need a written script. He was to be Odysseus from Homer’s epic and three men would be his sailors. As for the women, we would be the singing Sirens. So, after he changed – quite a sight in a loincloth, being gray-haired, jowly, pasty-skinned and potbellied – we went on stage and he told the sailors how no man has ever heard the hypnotic songs of the Sirens and lived to tell the tale but he, mighty Odysseus, would be the first. He instructed the sailors to tie him to the ship’s mast. They used one of the building’s pillars and when he cried out as the Sirens sang their song the sailors, who had wax in their ears, were to bind him to the mast even tighter. Meanwhile, three of us ladies were on stage as the Sirens, in costume, bare-breasted and outfitted with wings. We began singing a sweet, lilting melody. Mike – that was the businessman’s name – started screaming and the sailors tightened the ropes that bound him. The sailors were glad their ears were plugged as Mike screamed for nearly half an hour. When the ship passed out of earshot of the Sirens, the sailors unbound mighty Odysseus and he collapsed on our makeshift stage, a mass of exhausted middle-aged flesh. The audience applauded, even cheered and we continued our performance of Odysseus and the Sirens every night for more than a week. Then one night Mike outdid himself. His blue eyes bulged, the veins in his neck popped and his face turned a deeper blood-scarlet than ever before. And what I feared might happen, did happen – Mike had a heart attack. We had to interrupt our performance and call an ambulance. We all thought that was the end of our dealing with Mike aka Odysseus until our director received a call from the hospital. Mike told her he was going to be just fine and would be back on stage next week. We called a meeting and everyone agreed that we would suggest Mike seek psychiatric help but if he insists on playing Odysseus, he will have to take his act elsewhere.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Ansbro

    "I’m not normally a praying man, but if you’re up there, please save me, Superman!" —Homer (Simpson) Following James Joyce’s lead, I used Homer’s heroic story as inspiration and research for a novel-in-progress. But how can I, a mere mortal, do justice to the most famous epic poem ever written? An encounter with a work of this magnitude should be shared, rather than reviewed. Homer is the great, great, great (recurring) grand-daddy of modern literature and this colossus is as immortal a "I’m not normally a praying man, but if you’re up there, please save me, Superman!" —Homer (Simpson) Following James Joyce’s lead, I used Homer’s heroic story as inspiration and research for a novel-in-progress. But how can I, a mere mortal, do justice to the most famous epic poem ever written? An encounter with a work of this magnitude should be shared, rather than reviewed. Homer is the great, great, great (recurring) grand-daddy of modern literature and this colossus is as immortal as the gods within it. And what a tale this must have been, way back in the 8th century BC. Then, it was sung, rather than read, and I guess the first to bear witness must have been jigging about in their togas with unbridled excitement. Alas, I didn’t read it in ancient Greek, as Homer had intended. My copy was transcribed to a Kindle, rather than papyri, and translated by none other than the genius that was Alexander Pope (yep, I went old school on this). Odysseus, he of the title, otherwise known in Latin as Ulysses, embarks on a perilous, stop/start, um, odyssey, attempting to get home to Ithaca after fighting in the Trojan War for a decade. Such an amazing story, overflowing with an abundance of adventure. Poor Odysseus, having battled treacherous seas, wrathful gods, enchanting sirens and a Cyclops, then has to put up with big bad Poseidon weighing in with some nautical muscle and shipwrecking his boat! Plagued by setback after setback, the journey home takes TEN gruelling years to complete! And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, wife Penelope has meanwhile given up hope of him returning home alive and is being courted by one hundred suitors, none of whom are fit to kiss our hero’s sandals. This is by no means a page-turner and some background knowledge is required to appreciate the finer points. Pope has done an amazing job to remain somewhat sympathetic to the timbre of Homer’s lyrical story, and his rhyming couplets are a thing to behold: "But when the star of eve with golden light Adorn’d the matron brow of night." Beautiful! Homer (the poet, not the cartoon character) has fuelled the imagination of countless authors throughout the centuries, and therefore it would be sacrilege for me to award anything less than five heroic stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    The first line in Emily Wilson’s new translation of the Odyssey, the first by a woman scholar, is “Tell me about a complicated man.” In an article by Wyatt Mason in the NYT late last year, Wilson tells us “I could’ve said, ‘Tell me about a straying husband.’ And that’s a viable translation. That’s one of the things [the original language] says…[But] I want to be super responsible about my relationship to the Greek text. I want to be saying, after multiple different revisions: This is the best I ca The first line in Emily Wilson’s new translation of the Odyssey, the first by a woman scholar, is “Tell me about a complicated man.” In an article by Wyatt Mason in the NYT late last year, Wilson tells us “I could’ve said, ‘Tell me about a straying husband.’ And that’s a viable translation. That’s one of the things [the original language] says…[But] I want to be super responsible about my relationship to the Greek text. I want to be saying, after multiple different revisions: This is the best I can get toward the truth.” Oh, the mind reels. This new translation by Emily Wilson reads swiftly, smoothly, and feels contemporary. This exciting new translation will surprise you, and send you to compare certain passages with earlier translations. In her Introduction, Wilson raises that issue of translation herself: How is it possible to have so many different translations, all of which could be considered “correct”? Wilson reminds us what a ripping good yarn this story is, and removes any barriers to understanding. We can come to it with our current sensibility and find in it all kinds of foretelling and parallels with life today, and perhaps we even see the genesis of our own core morality, a morality that feels inexplicably learned. Perhaps the passed-down sense of right and wrong, of fairness and justice we read of here was learned through these early stories and lessons from the gods. Or are we interpreting the story to fit our sensibility? These delicious questions operate in deep consciousness while we pleasure in learning more about that liar Odysseus, described again and again as wily, scheming, cunning, “his lies were like truth.” He learned how to bend the truth at his grandfather’s knee, and the gods exploited that talent when they helped him out. The skill served him well, allowing him to confuse and evade captors throughout his ordeal, as well as keep his wife and father in the dark about his identity upon his return until he could reveal the truth at a time of maximum impact. There does inevitably come a time when people react cautiously to what is told them, even to the evidence their own eyes. The gods can cloud one’s understanding, it is well known, and truth is suspected in every encounter. These words Penelope speaks: "Please forgive me, do not keep bearing a grudge because when I first saw you, I would not welcome you immediately. I felt a constant dread that some bad man would fool me with his lies. There are so many dishonest, clever men..." Particularly easy to relate to today are descriptions of Penelope’s ungrateful suitors like Ctesippius, who "encouraged by extraordinary wealth, had come to court Odysseus’ wife." Also speaking insight for us today are the phrases "Weapons themselves can tempt a man to fight" and "Arms themselves can prompt a man to use them." There is a conflicted view of women in this story: "Sex sways all women’s minds, even the best of them," though Penelope is a paragon of virtue, managing to avoid temptation through her own duplicitousness. She hardly seems a victim at all in this reading, merely an unwilling captor. She is strong, smart, loyal, generous, and brave, all the qualities any man would want for his wife. We understand the slave girls that Odysseus felt he had to “test” for loyalty were at the disposal of the ungrateful suitors who, after they ate and drank at Penelope's expense, often met the house girls after hours. Some of the girls appeared to go willingly, laughing and teasing as they went, and were outspoken about their support of the men they’d taken up with. Others, we get the impression from the text, felt they had no choice. Race is not mentioned but once in this book, very matter-of-factly, though the darker man is a servant to the lighter one: "…[Odysseus] had a valet with him, I do remember, named Eurybates, a man a little older than himself, who had black skin, round shoulders, woolly hair, and was [Odysseus's] favorite our of all his crew because his mind matched his." Odysseus’s tribulations are terrible, but appear to be brought on by his own stubborn and petulant nature, like his taunting of the blinded Cyclops from his own escaping ship. Cyclops was Poseidon’s son so Odysseus's behavior was especially unwise, particularly since his own men were yelling at him to stop. Later, that betrayal of the men’s best interests for his own childish purpose will come back to haunt Odysseus when the men suspect him of thinking only of himself--greediness--and unleash terrible winds by accident, blowing them tragically off course in rugged seas. We watch, fascinated, as the gods seriously mess Odysseus about, and then come to his aid. We really get the sense of the gods playing, as in Athena’s willingness to give Odysseus strength and arms when fighting the suitors in his house, but being unwilling to actually step in to help with the fighting. Instead, she watched from the rafters. It’s hard not to be just a little resentful. Wilson’s translation reads very fast and very clearly. There always seemed to be some ramp-up time reading Greek myths in the past, but now the adventures appear perfectly accessible. Granted, there are some names you’ll have to figure out, but that’s part of being “constructively lost,” as Pynchon says. A book-by-book reading of this new translation will begin March 1st on the Goodreads website, hosted by Kris Rabberman, Wilson’s colleague at the University of Pennsylvania. To prepare for the first online discussion later this week, Kris has suggested participants read the Introduction. If interested readers are still not entirely convinced they want this literary experience now, some excerpts have been reprinted in The Paris Review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Renato Magalhães Rocha

    It's impossible not to smile when you start reading such a classic and, after only the first few pages, you realize and completely understand why it's regarded as one of the most important works in literature. I'm always a little anxious when I tackle such important and renowned books for being afraid of not comprehending or loving them - War and Peace and Don Quixote, for example - as they seem to deserve. Not that I'm obligated to like them, but I always feel such buzz comes for a reason and I try to at le It's impossible not to smile when you start reading such a classic and, after only the first few pages, you realize and completely understand why it's regarded as one of the most important works in literature. I'm always a little anxious when I tackle such important and renowned books for being afraid of not comprehending or loving them - War and Peace and Don Quixote, for example - as they seem to deserve. Not that I'm obligated to like them, but I always feel such buzz comes for a reason and I try to at least find out why. With The Odyssey, once again, I find that the ones who have read it before me were right: it's amazing. I didn't have plans to read The Odyssey any time soon - I've never devoted much time to epic poems and this one has more than 12,000 verses -, but because I've been eying Ulysses on my shelves for quite some time, I decided to prepare myself for it and read about Odysseus with a great group here on Goodreads. To call Homer's book simply "a preparation" for Joyce's work is now not only unfair, but also absurd to me. However, I'm glad that I finally read it, whatever the reason behind it was. The Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus's (Ulysses) journey back to his home Ithaca to return to his wife Penelope and son Telemachus after twenty years of absence. Our hero left his home to fight in the Trojan War - that alone lasted ten years - and encountered too many obstacles that kept him away for another ten years. Back in Ithaca, people had already lost hope that he could still be alive and his wife was being courted by suitors who wanted to marry her. Alongside the emotional and heartfelt story, what grabbed my attention here was the poem's style and structure. For a work that's believed to have been written in the 8th century BC, its quality and refinement certainly amazed me. Some of the story is told through flashbacks, some of it is told through different narrators and its narratives are non-linear, so I was positively surprised. I could try to write an analysis about the recurring themes on the book - vengeance, spiritual growth, hospitality - or try to decipher its symbolism - much has been written about Odysseus's bow, Laertes's shroud, the sea -, but I feel I would fail and wouldn't be able to do it in a deep level, especially after having read the great introduction and notes written by Bernard Knox. What kept me away from Homer's work was the fear that it would be too dense and heavy on mythology - it is mythological, of course -, making it hard for me to understand it. Although labored, the narrative is quite simple and easy to follow. Knox's notes were a great companion to fill in the details I needed to comprehend the book in a deeper level. Rating: it's my belief that a great book not only satisfy your expectations, but also inspire you to delve further into its writer's other works, similar subjects or even other books from the same time period. The Odyssey raised my interest about Greek mythology and The Iliad, so I guess it served its purpose with high colors. Because of that, 5 glowing and beautiful stars.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    What can I say about this book that hasn't been said already? I'm sure that the influence and importance of it has been discussed to death already, so I won't even get started on that. My reading experience was surprisingly pleasant: I didn't expect to get so invested! I found the language a bit hard at first, but once I got used to it (which didn't take all too long), I was able to fully enjoy the story. I'm glad that I finally read this classic piece of work, and it's definitely understan What can I say about this book that hasn't been said already? I'm sure that the influence and importance of it has been discussed to death already, so I won't even get started on that. My reading experience was surprisingly pleasant: I didn't expect to get so invested! I found the language a bit hard at first, but once I got used to it (which didn't take all too long), I was able to fully enjoy the story. I'm glad that I finally read this classic piece of work, and it's definitely understandable that it's as famous as it is.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Representation of Human: "The Odyssey" by Homer (translated by Robert Fitzgerald; read by Dan Stevens) I humbly declare this book to be the greatest literary work of mankind. If you don't learn Greek (worth it just to read this Meisterwerk, never mind the rest of the immortal trove of Greek literature) you can read it in so many translations that have become classics in their own use of the English language, Fagles and Mur If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Representation of Human: "The Odyssey" by Homer (translated by Robert Fitzgerald; read by Dan Stevens) I humbly declare this book to be the greatest literary work of mankind. If you don't learn Greek (worth it just to read this Meisterwerk, never mind the rest of the immortal trove of Greek literature) you can read it in so many translations that have become classics in their own use of the English language, Fagles and Murray, just to mention two. Oh, what the Hades, let's throw in a third, not just for its brilliant translation, but also owing to the exotic character behind it: no less than Lawrence of Arabia.   The Homeric poems were sung in a less-enlightened time, in comparison with the later Greek tragedies, and with the later epics too. Apollonius' Argonautica was composed, post Greek Tragedy, and his audience would have been, no doubt, familiar with Euripides' Medea. Questions such as how justice and revenge affect societies were addressed by Aeschylus in the Oresteia; likewise, the reception of the anthropomorphic gods, and their pettiness, was raised by Euripides in Hippolytus and the Bacchae. Furthermore, the real nature and brutality of warfare was also raised in the Trojan Women. Throw in how one state views another state, and questions of racial identity, and you have The Persians by Aeschylus, and Medea by Euripides. Additionally, if you include Philoctetes by Sophocles, and the issue of how youth should conduct themselves is also raised. If you consider, too, Ajax by Sophocles, and you find that the bloodthirsty myths of an earlier age are filtered through questions that C5 Athenian society faced. What is better, the brute force of an unsophisticated Ajax, or the sophistry and rhetorical arguments of Odysseus in Ajax? By the time we arrive at Virgil, and The Aenied, brutal events such as the death of Priam by Neoptolemus in Aeneid Book II, are tempered with a more enlightened approach. Neoptolemus is condemned for killing Priam, and rightly so, as mercy is important, and exemplifies the Romanitas of 'Sparing the humble, and conquering the proud'. However, Aeneas doesn't show mercy in his killing of Turnus at the end of Book XII.     If you're into Greek Literature, read on.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Leonard Gaya

    I first read Homer in the 19th-century French translation by Leconte de Lisle — the equivalent, say, of the 18th-century translation into English by Alexander Pope: a pompous, archaic and exhausting bore of a book. I kept my chin up and, after a while, tried another inflated Frenchman: the 1955 translation by the curly-moustached Victor Bérard (in the prestigious Pléiade edition, with an odd arrangement of chapters). A bit less depraved than the Parnassian poet, but all in all (alack!) not much better. And then I first read Homer in the 19th-century French translation by Leconte de Lisle — the equivalent, say, of the 18th-century translation into English by Alexander Pope: a pompous, archaic and exhausting bore of a book. I kept my chin up and, after a while, tried another inflated Frenchman: the 1955 translation by the curly-moustached Victor Bérard (in the prestigious Pléiade edition, with an odd arrangement of chapters). A bit less depraved than the Parnassian poet, but all in all (alack!) not much better. And then, only last year, came this new English translation by Emily Wilson, an American academic, and allegedly the first woman to translate Homer into English. And it is a damned refreshing take on Homer! Basically, it’s the first time I’m reading The Odyssey without dozing off on every other page. Yet, Wilson laid down a daunting challenge to herself: to keep the exact same number of verses as in Homer’s epic and transpose the Greek’s dactylic hexameters into the traditional (Shakespearian) iambic pentameter. An amazing feat indeed, and she pulled it off with ease, concealing, like an expert weaver, the technicalities of her achievement and dodging some of the ponderousness of the Homeric text (not least of which is the grinding epithets attached to each character, or some awkward similes that pop up from time to time): the result is an unaffected, luminous poem, sometimes energetic, sometimes delicate, that flows effortlessly, focusing our attention not on some turgid, embalming, purple prose, but on what is actually at stake in the story, and on the beat of the tale. A few things become glaringly apparent thanks to this new translation: Odysseus is not quite the wise and glorious war hero that we might think. He is, as Wilson states in her opening verse, “a complicated man”, who messes around with everyone he encounters and talks rubbish on every occasion, in short: he is an inveterate liar. So much so that, in the end, he could easily qualify as the first case of “unreliable narrator”. Most notably, when he is invited at the court of Alcinous and tells the story of his misadventures after the Trojan War — the famous embedded and somewhat fantastical tale (books 9-12) of the Cicones, Lotus-Eaters, Cyclopes, Aeolus, Laestrygonians, Circe, Helios, the dead, the Sirens, Charybdis and Scylla and Calypso —, we cannot help but wonder to what extent Odysseus is making all this up, to entertain his generous hosts. Later on, Odysseus will tell a completely different account of his adventures to other people, or a strongly expurgated version of the first tale to his own wife, misrepresenting himself to her. In short, he is indeed a consummated storyteller — a shining mask for the rhapsodist himself? If The Iliad is the grandfather of pretty much all literature, then The Odyssey is the grandmother: Aeneas, Sindbad, Gulliver, Robinson, Pym, Ahab, Nemo, are all descendents of Odysseus; Hamlet is a sort of echo of Telemachus; Excalibur is an ersatz of Odysseus’ mighty bow; James Joyce’s Dublin is a Homeric town. We might wonder, however, why Odysseus’ adventures have become a significant source of inspiration for writers and scholars who claim to be feminists, like Emily Wilson, of course, but also recently Madeline Miller, with her best-seller Circe, and a few years ago, Margaret Atwood and her Penelopiad. Clearly, most characters in The Odyssey express a form of mistrust towards the opposite sex: men believe women to be either nosy sluts or demi-hags; women would rather turn men into pigs or captives than actually deal with them. Even the fair queen Penelope — the only character who is on the level and the antithesis of the treacherous and fiendish Clytemnestra — is actually just as deceptive, weaving and unweaving her crewelwork to avoid standing up to the wolfish suitors. That being so, let’s save the old nanny Eurycleia, if you insist... But, after all, isn’t this gender suspiciousness at the heart of feminism? It is notable, by the way, that although Odysseus looks like the paragon of manliness and a confirmed skirt-chaser (Penelope, Circe, Calypso, Nausicaa), the fact of the matter is that he is either the punchbag of Poseidon (a male god) or a puppet in the hands of the goddess Athena (a female), who transforms him at will, stultifies his enemies and makes him the pin-up of every girl he encounters. I will confess: men are, at best, a bit ridiculous and irritating — if not “complicated” — in this old tale. To top it all off, the Odyssey is, at its heart, a tale of extreme violence. I’m not just thinking of the savagery of Polyphemus, the Laestrygonians or Scylla, all blood-thirsty monsters who decimate Odysseus’ crewmen. I’m thinking of Odysseus himself, probably the most blood-thirsty character in the whole poem. In actual fact, instead of coming back home as the one true king of Ithaca and properly claim back his throne and wife in a straightforward manner, he chooses (or instead follows Athena’s plan) to approach the suitors under the guise of a despicable old beggar, puts the devil in them — curses, insults and stools fly back and forth across the saloon on every page — and, when the time is ripe, gets into a shooting spree, slaughters the suitors pitilessly one by one (they are a bunch of more than a hundred dudes!), and tortures atrociously whoever, herdsmen or slave girls alike, got mixed up with them. The Odyssey ends with a big spring cleaning in a merry bath of haemoglobin... Which begs a nagging question: seeing how he behaves, might Odysseus himself not have killed his crew at sea (perhaps to gobble them up, since he is such a gourmand of meatballs and shish kebabs?), and later on have told all sorts of baloney about cyclops and shipwrecks to justify his situation?... Anyway, had Homer been working in Hollywood instead of Ancient Greece, he would indeed be on the same side as Peckinpah, Coppola, Scorsese and Tarantino! And now, let’s wait for Emily Wilson to work her magic on The Iliad…

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook read by Claire Danes .. I finished this Audiobook weeks ago - but the physical book - I’m throwing in the towel. I own the physical book - but I just couldn’t get myself to stay with it. I liked listening to Claire Danes ... I was fully engaged at the time ...(she was helpful for me staying interested )...but I’m already forgetting everything... I need to borrow another person’s brain!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    I mean, it's no Ulysses.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    I started this as I was told it is essential reading if I ever want to give a shot at reading Ulysses. I was a bit apprehensive and spent a long time deciding on which translation to choose. Finally it was Stephen's review that convinced me to go for the Robert Fagles' version. I have no way of judging how good a decision that was. This translation, by Robert Fagles, is of the Greek text edited by David Monro and Thomas Allen, first published in 1908 by the Oxford University Press. This two-volume edition is printe/>This I started this as I was told it is essential reading if I ever want to give a shot at reading Ulysses. I was a bit apprehensive and spent a long time deciding on which translation to choose. Finally it was Stephen's review that convinced me to go for the Robert Fagles' version. I have no way of judging how good a decision that was. This translation, by Robert Fagles, is of the Greek text edited by David Monro and Thomas Allen, first published in 1908 by the Oxford University Press. This two-​volume edition is printed in a Greek type, complete with lower- and uppercase letters, breathings and accents, that is based on the elegant handwriting of Richard Porson, an early-​nineteenth-​century scholar of great brilliance, who was also an incurable alcoholic as well as a caustic wit. This was of course not the first font of Greek type; in fact, the first printed edition of Homer, issued in Florence in 1488, was composed in type that imitated contemporary Greek handwriting, with all its complicated ligatures and abbreviations. Early printers tried to make their books look like handwritten manuscripts because in scholarly circles printed books were regarded as vulgar and inferior products — cheap paperbacks, so to speak. First up, I enjoyed the book, even the droll parts. It was fun to repeatedly read Odysseus's laments and Telemachus' airy threats about the marauding suitors. But now that I have finished it, how do I attempt a review? What can I possibly say about an epic like this that has not been said before? To conclude by saying that it was wonderful would be a disservice. To analyse it would be too self-important and to summarize it would be laughable. Nevertheless, I thought of giving a sort of moral summary of the story and then abandoned that. I then considered writing about the many comparisons it evoked it my mind about the Indian epics that I have grown up with, but I felt out of my depth since I have not even read the Iliad yet. With all those attempts having failed, I am left with just repeating again that it was much more enjoyable than I expected. That is not to say that it was an epic adventure with no dull moments. No. The characters repeat themselves in dialogue and in attitude, all major dramatic points are revealed in advance as prophesy and every important story event is told again at various points by various characters. Even though I avoided it as much as I can, I could not at times avoid contrasting my reading experience with that of the epics I have grown up with and I remember thinking to myself that in comparison this reads like a short story or a novella. Maybe this impression is because I am largely yet unaware of the large mythical structure on which the story is built. I intend to allay that deficiency soon. The characters are unforgettable, the situations are legendary and I am truly happy that I finally got around to a full reading of this magnificent epic. It has opened up a new world.

  15. 4 out of 5

    James

    Book Review 4 out of 5 stars to The Odyssey, published around 800 BC and written by Homer. I was tasked with reading this epic work as part of an Advanced Placement English course in between my junior and senior years of high school. I loved literature back then as much as I do now, and my reading habits probably grew from everything my teachers encouraged us to read during the summer hiatus and mid-year breaks. We sampled literature from all over the world, and this Greek tome was one of the many we read. We on Book Review 4 out of 5 stars to The Odyssey, published around 800 BC and written by Homer. I was tasked with reading this epic work as part of an Advanced Placement English course in between my junior and senior years of high school. I loved literature back then as much as I do now, and my reading habits probably grew from everything my teachers encouraged us to read during the summer hiatus and mid-year breaks. We sampled literature from all over the world, and this Greek tome was one of the many we read. We only read certain sections, as it's over 500 pages long, but I finished it on my own over winter break that year. It often depends on the translation version you read, as it might make it better or worse for you. I don't recall which one the teacher selected, but it must have been good as I did my quarterly papers on both this book and Homer's other work, The Iliad. The Odyssey was an amazing tale of a journey through the famed Trojan Wars in ancient Greece. Meeting all the gods and goddesses, understanding the genealogy and family structure, the plots between all their shenanigans and games... for someone with my hobbies and interests, this was perfect. The only part I found a bit dull was when it truly went into war-time battle descriptions, as reading details about fighting is not typically something I enjoy. But the soap opera-like quality of these characters cum deity realities was just absorbing fun. The lyrics and the words fly off the pages. The images and the metaphors are pretty. And if you know enough about Greek history, you almost feel as if you're in the story. About Me For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    To this day, the most interesting research project that I’ve ever done was the very first. It was on the Homeric Question. I was a sophomore in college—a student with (unfortunate) literary ambitions who had just decided to major in anthropology. By this point, I had at least tacitly decided that I wanted to be a professor. In my future lay the vast and unexplored ocean of academia. What was the safest vessel to travel into that forbidden wine-dark sea? Research. I signed u To this day, the most interesting research project that I’ve ever done was the very first. It was on the Homeric Question. I was a sophomore in college—a student with (unfortunate) literary ambitions who had just decided to major in anthropology. By this point, I had at least tacitly decided that I wanted to be a professor. In my future lay the vast and unexplored ocean of academia. What was the safest vessel to travel into that forbidden wine-dark sea? Research. I signed up for a reading project with an anthropology professor. Although I was too naïve to sense it at the time, he was a man thoroughly sick of his job. Lucky for him, he was on the cusp of retirement. So his world-weariness manifested itself as a total, guilt-free indifference to his teaching duties. Maybe that’s why I liked him so much. I envied a man that could apparently care so little about professional advancement. That’s what I wanted. In any case, now I had to come up with a research topic. I had just switched into the major, and so had little idea what typical anthropology research projects were like. And because my advisor was so indifferent, I received no guidance from him. The onus lay entirely on me. One night, as I groped half-heartedly through Wikipedia pages, I stumbled on something fascinating, something that I hadn’t even considered before. Who is Homer? Nobody knew. Nobody could know. The man—if man he was—was lost to the abyss of time. No trace of him existed. We can’t even pin down what century he lived. And yet, we have these glorious poems—poems at the center of our history, the roots of the Western literary canon. Stories of the Greek Gods had fascinated me since my childhood; Zues and Athena were as familiar as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. That the person (or persons) responsible could be so totally lost to history baffled me—intrigued me. But I was not majoring in literature or the humanities. I was in anthropology, and so had to do a proper anthropological project. At the very least, I needed an angle. Milman Parry and Albert Lord duly provided this angle. The two men were classicists—scholars of ancient Greece. But instead of staying in their musty offices reading dusty manuscripts, they did something no classicist had done before: they attempted to answer the Homeric question with field work. At the time (and perhaps now?) a vibrant oral tradition existed in Serbo-Croatia. Oral poets (guslars, they’re called there) would tell massive stories at public gatherings, some stories even approaching the length of the Homeric poems. But what was most fascinating was that these stories were apparently improvised. In our decadent culture, we have a warped idea of improvisation. Many of us believe improvisation to be the spontaneous outflowing of creative energies, manifesting themselves in something totally new. Like God shaping the Earth out of the infinite void, these imaginary improvisers shape their art from nothing whatsoever. Unfortunately, this never happens. Whether you’re a jazz saxophonist playing on a Coltrane tune, a salesperson dealing with a new client, or an oral bard telling a tale, improvisation is done via a playful recombining of preexisting, formulaic elements. This was Milman and Parry’s great discovery. By carefully transcribing hundreds of these Serbo-Croation poems, they discovered that—although a single poem may vary from person to person, place to place, or performance to performance—the variation took place within predictable boundaries. The poet’s brains were full of stock-phrases (“when dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more”), common epithets (“much-enduring Odysseus”), and otherwise formulaic verses that allowed them to quickly put together their poems. Individual scenes, in turn, also followed stereotypical outlines—feasts, banquets, catalogues of forces, battles, athletic contests, etc. Of course, this is not to say that the poet was not original. Rather, it is to say that they are just as original as John Coltrane or Charlie Parker—individuals working within a tradition. These formulas and stereotypical scenes were the raw material with which the poet worked. They allowed him to compose material quickly enough to keep up the performance, and not break his rhythm. But could poems as long as The Odyssey and The Iliad come wholly from an oral tradition? It seems improbable: it would take multiple days to recite, and the bard would have to pick up where he left off. But Milman and Parry, during their fieldwork, managed to put our fears at rest. They found a singer that could (and did) compose poems equal in length to Homer’s. (I actually read one. It’s called The Wedding of Smailagic Meho, and was recited by a poet named Avdo. It’s no Odyssey, but still entertaining.) All this is impressive, but one question remained: how could the oral poems get on paper? Did an oral poet—Homer, presumably—learn to write, and copy it down? Not possible, says Alfred Lord, in his book The Singer of Tales. According to him, once a person becomes literate, the frame of mind required to learn the art of oral poetry cannot be achieved. A literate person thinks of language in an entirely different way as a non-literate one, and so the poems couldn’t have been written by a literate poet who had learned from his oral predecessors. According to Lord, this left only one option: Homer must have been a master oral poet, and his poems must have been transcribed by someone else. (This is how the aforementioned poem by Avdo was taken down by the researchers.) At the time, this struck me as perfectly likely—indeed, almost certain. But the more I think about it, the less I can imagine an oral poet submitting himself to sit with a scribe, writing in the cumbersome Linear B script, for the dozens and dozens of hours it would have taken to transcribe these poems. It’s possible, but seems unlikely. But according to Ruth Finnegan, Alfred Lord’s insistence that literacy destroys the capacity to improvise poems is mistaken. An anthropologist, Finnegan found many cases in Africa of semi-literate or fully literate people who remained capable of improvising poetry. So it’s at least equally possible that Homer was an oral poet who learned to read, and then decided to commit the poems to paper (or whatever they were writing on back then). I submit this longwinded overview of the Homeric Question because, despite my usual arrogance, I cannot even imagine writing a ‘review’ for this poem. I feel like that would be equivalent to ‘reviewing’ one’s own father and mother. For me, and everyone alive in the Western world today, The Odyssey is flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood. Marvelously sophisticated, fantastically exciting, it is the alpha and omega of our tradition. From Homer we sprang, and unto Homer shall we return. [Note: I'd also like to add that this time, my third or forth time through the poem, I decided to go through it via audiobook. Lucky for me, the Fagles translation (a nice one if you're looking for readability) is available as an audiobook, narrated by the great Sir Ian McKellen. It was a wonderful experience, not only because Sir Ian has such a beautiful voice (he's Gandalf, after all), but because hearing it read rather than reading it recreated, however dimly, the original experience of the poem: as a performance. I highly recommend it.]

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pink

    Where do you start with a book such as this? An epic tale that has been around for almost three thousand years. I have no idea. What I do know is that I read it and loved it. I had little foreknowledge of the story and I haven't looked into the meanings or history too deeply. Instead I've tried to appreciate the story on it's own merits, getting swept away like Odysseus on the sea. There were quiet contemplative events and dramatic battles, personal struggles and wider societal issues. Gods and Where do you start with a book such as this? An epic tale that has been around for almost three thousand years. I have no idea. What I do know is that I read it and loved it. I had little foreknowledge of the story and I haven't looked into the meanings or history too deeply. Instead I've tried to appreciate the story on it's own merits, getting swept away like Odysseus on the sea. There were quiet contemplative events and dramatic battles, personal struggles and wider societal issues. Gods and heroes, kings and queens, nymphs and cyclops, a lot of deceptive weaving and a city full of ill fated suitors, what more could you want?

  18. 5 out of 5

    [P]

    My parents split when I was very young. The arrangement they made between them was that my brother and I would spend the weekends with our father, but would live, during the week, with my mother. One winter, when I was ten years old, it started to snow heavily and gave no indication of stopping any time soon. It was a Sunday morning and my brother and I were due to leave dad’s and return to what, for us, was home. The snow, however, had other ideas. To go home we had to catch two buses. The first was run My parents split when I was very young. The arrangement they made between them was that my brother and I would spend the weekends with our father, but would live, during the week, with my mother. One winter, when I was ten years old, it started to snow heavily and gave no indication of stopping any time soon. It was a Sunday morning and my brother and I were due to leave dad’s and return to what, for us, was home. The snow, however, had other ideas. To go home we had to catch two buses. The first was running late, but, otherwise, the ride, although slow, was pretty uneventful. We arrived in the centre of Sheffield sometime around one o’clock. It was then that things started to go awry. At the stop where we would usually catch the next bus, which was to take us into Rotherham, there was one already waiting. It did not, however, give the appearance of preparing to go anywhere; the engine was off and the driver was stood outside, smoking a cigarette. Being ten years old I did not want to ask the driver what was happening but I heard another potential passenger enquire as to when we would be allowed to board. ‘You won’t’ said the driver. ‘All buses have been cancelled due to the snow. I’m returning to the depot.’ At this a strange kind of panic overcame me. My brother and I were halfway between my mother’s and my dad’s, with no phone and our fare the only money in our pockets. Typically, my brother wanted to wait it out. The buses would start running again soon, he said. But I knew that wasn’t the case. The snow had settled, and heavy spidery flakes were still bombing the city. Waiting would only make it harder to walk; and walking, I knew, was inevitable. To return to dad’s was, relatively speaking, easier; it was closer and the route was straightforward; but, as when after the split, when we were asked which parent we wanted to live with, we instinctively felt drawn to our mother, despite the inevitable hardships. And so, our decision made, we set off through the snow in the direction of home, following the route the bus would have taken. Yet time and distance, we found, are deceptive. What had taken 25 minutes on a bus, would, we thought, only take us an hour. But the bus wasn’t a young child; it wasn’t cold and tired and scared. On the bus, home had always seemed close, just around the next corner; but as we mashed through the snow it seemed impossible, unreachable; it seemed, after a couple of hours, as though it no longer existed; nothing existed, except the snow, which is all we could see. Two or three times my brother fell down, and I, almost without stopping, dragged him to his feet, shouting encouragement into the snow. At some point night fell too; and still the heavy spidery flakes came down, punctuating the darkness. By this stage I could not have said why I was doing what I was doing; instinct had kicked in; one foot followed the other, regardless. I remember coming to a distinctive spot, a part of the journey that, by bus, always felt significant, because it meant only another five or ten minutes until we reached home. But on foot, mashing through thick boot-clinging snow, that last leg, which was up hill, seemed monstrous. Eventually we made it, of course. As we descended the hill on the other side we were met by my mother and her then boyfriend, who, we were told, could not bear to wait any longer and had started to walk to meet us on the way. And there it was: home; which is, I found, not a physical building, but the look in my mother’s eyes as she ran to greet us. [Odysseus in the Cave of Polyphemus by Jacob Jordaens] The point of this story is to illustrate how universal great literature is, for whenever I think back to that day, which is something that I do quite often, I am immediately reminded of The Odyssey, Homer’s immortal poem. My brother and I did not encounter any Sirens, or Lotus Eaters or Cyclops, but our walk through the snow was, in principle, a fight to get home, to overcome adversity and return to the familiar and comfortable. And, on the most basic level, this is just what The Odyssey is about. Following the war at Troy, as he sought to return to Ithica, to his wife and son, Odysseus had stumbled from one disastrous situation to the next, until the great warrior found himself entrapped on an island for seven years by Calypso, a Goddess. Eventually, with the help of Pallas Athena, he is allowed to leave; and so continues his famous, epic quest. “Men are so quick to blame the gods: they say that we devise their misery. But they themselves- in their depravity- design grief greater than the griefs that fate assigns.” It may seem like an unusual thing to say about epic poetry, but there is a tremendous amount of dumb fun to be had when reading The Odyssey. The tricking of Polyphemus – who Odysseus gets drunk and subsequently blinds – is probably the most famous episode, but I also particularly enjoyed the beautiful witch Circe, who turns a number of the ship’s crew into pigs. To the modern reader, The Odyssey is a fantasy, having much in common with something like The Tempest or A Midsummer’s Night Dream or even fairytales; indeed, to highlight a more recent example, one can draw a number of parallels between Homer’s work and the Lord of the Rings saga. In this way, I would say that it has a broader appeal, is easier to digest, and certainly contains greater variety, than the brutal, relentless Iliad. Despite the weird creatures, the faraway lands, the quest, and the prominence of a great hero, the heart of The Odyssey is conventional and domestic, in that it is concerned with values such as love and friendship and the importance of family. Again, this is in contrast to The Iliad, where honour and death and war are the focus. When Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, goes in search of news of his father he is given hospitality from a number of Odysseus’ friends, and their sons and daughters and wives, who are willing to do all they can to help him. Penelope, meanwhile, is, even after a number of years, and not knowing whether her husband is alive or dead, still resisting the suitors who have almost taken over her house. In fact, she even plays a trick on them, promising to take a new husband only after she has finished weaving a shroud, while unpicking it each night to make sure that she never does. “Now from his breast into the eyes the ache of longing mounted, and he wept at last, his dear wife, clear and faithful, in his arms, longed for as the sunwarmed earth is longed for by a swimmer spent in rough water where his ship went down under Poseidon’s blows, gale winds and tons of sea. Few men can keep alive through a big serf to crawl, clotted with brine, on kindly beaches in joy, in joy, knowing the abyss behind: and so she too rejoiced, her gaze upon her husband, her white arms round him pressed as though forever.” One thing I find refreshing about Greek myths, and by extension Homer’s work, is that women play such a strong role. It’s funny how hundreds of years later women would be seen as delicate, incapable creatures who need protecting by being locked up at home, and yet here their position, and personalities, are not dissimilar to the men’s. For example, Goddesses are worshipped and invoked just as much as God’s, and it is not the case that these Goddesses are concerned with flower arranging and children, they get their hands dirty, intervening and interacting with what is happening on earth, be that war or whatever. In fact, although The Odyssey is certainly Odysseus’ story [the clue is in the title], the second most important character is the grey-eyed Pallas Athena. Moreover, as noted earlier, Penelope, although upset that her husband is lost or dead, is no sap, while, conversely, the mighty Odysseus frequently bursts into tears. If you have read any of my reviews you will likely know that, when approaching translated literature, choosing the best translation is, for me, of paramount importance; so much so that there are books that I haven’t enjoyed in one translation, and later really liked in another. The question of which translation one should read becomes particularly critical when one is concerned with poetry. Part of me, I must admit, is resistant to the idea of translated poetry altogether, because I just cannot see how it can possibly bear any great or significant resemblance to the original. Yet I think this is less of a danger with epic, narrative poetry; with something like The Odyssey, the translator has a story to tell, and as long as he or she tells it faithfully they have done at least half the job right. For The Iliad I chose Robert Fagles’ critically acclaimed version. The reason for this is that I felt that his robust [you might uncharitably call it inelegant] style suited the material. I did, however, cringe frequently at some of his phrasing and word choices, which were far too modern for my taste. Therefore, for The Odyssey I went with Robert Fitzgerald, who, I believe, had a stronger ear for poetry and a more subtle touch. Yet, having said that, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Fitzgerald’s rendering to the first time reader of Homer’s work. I think the popularity of Fagles’ translations has much to do with how accessible they are; the truth is that most people don’t care about the use of modern language in an ancient Greek text; in fact, the average reader would likely prefer language that is recognisable to them. In comparison, Firtzgerald’s rendering is more of a challenge. Don’t get me wrong, his work is still readable and is, for the most part, easy enough to get a handle on, but some of his choices are potentially alienating or disorientating. For example, character and place names are spelt in a way that most of us will not recognise [Calypso is Kalypso, Circe is Kirke, Ithica is Ithika etc]. In most cases, deciphering these is, as you call tell by my examples, not especially difficult, but occasionally the spellings are outright baffling. The worst I can recall is Sirens, which in Fitzgerald’s version is Seirenes. When one encounters something like this, one is, unfortunately, taken out of the text as you try and work out what or whom exactly we are dealing with. However, as previously hinted, the strength of his version is that it stands up as poetry. I can’t, of course, say that it is the best or most successful version, not having read them all, but it is consistently smooth, beautiful and stirring. There’s one line in it, which is repeated throughout the text, about the dawn’s ‘finger tips of rose,’ that I was particularly taken with, and which, moreover, I have seen elsewhere translated in such disappointing and clunky ways. [Odysseus and the Sirens by Herbert James Draper] Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the poem is the sophisticated structure. I expected that it would be episodic, and it is, but I did not anticipate a non-linear narrative. The Odyssey begins in media res, with a significant proportion of the action already in the past. As we enter the story, Odysseus has been missing for many years, the suitors are surrounding his house in an effort to take his wife, and his son is about to begin his own journey for news of his father. Therefore, for quite some time the main character is off-stage, so to speak. When he does appear, he spends much of his time recounting the details of his life following the war in Troy. So, we only have access to the most exciting, and the most famous, episodes as flashbacks. What this highlights is the important role that oral story-telling plays in the text. Throughout, Odysseus and many other characters tell tales, be they fictional or true, as a way or bonding or sharing information or entertaining each other, in the same way that we do now. I have always found this interesting, this seemingly universal, immortal desire to give voice to, and share, stories with other people. It is something, as the rambling introductions to my reviews attest, that I feel compelled to do myself. At one stage, Athena turns Odysseus into a beggar, and the hero creates for him an entire history, fleshing out and breathing life into the character he is playing. So there you have it: a book that shouts loudly about home and family and so on, but which, in a more subtle fashion, is equally concerned with, as well as being itself an example of, the joy and importance of communication and human interaction.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    See article in The New York Times Magazine Section, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/02/ma... The Paris Review has excerpts: https://www.theparisreview.org/poetry...

  20. 4 out of 5

    J.G. Keely

    It's funny how many people feel intimidated by this book. Sure, it's thousands of years old, and certainly Greek culture has some peculiarities, but the book is remarkably, sometimes surprisingly modern, and most translations show the straightforward simplicity of the story. Perhaps like The Seventh Seal, The Odyssey has gotten a reputation for being difficult because it has been embraced by intellectuals and worse, wanna-be intellectuals. But like Bergman's classic film, The Odyssey It's funny how many people feel intimidated by this book. Sure, it's thousands of years old, and certainly Greek culture has some peculiarities, but the book is remarkably, sometimes surprisingly modern, and most translations show the straightforward simplicity of the story. Perhaps like The Seventh Seal, The Odyssey has gotten a reputation for being difficult because it has been embraced by intellectuals and worse, wanna-be intellectuals. But like Bergman's classic film, The Odyssey is focused on action, low humor, and vivid characters, not complex symbolism and pretension. It shouldn't really surprise us how modern the story seems, from it's fast-paced action to its non-linear story: authors have taken cues from it for thousands of years, and continue to take inspiration from it today. Any story of small people, everyday heroes, and domestic life we read today is only a few steps removed from Odysseus' tale. Unlike the Iliad, this book is not focused on grand ideas or a grand stage. The characters do not base their actions on heroic ideals but on their emotions, their pains and joys, their grumbling bellies. It is less concerned with the fate of nations than the state of the family and friendship. Since the story turns on whims instead of heroic ideals, it is much less focused than the Iliad, meandering from here to there in a series of unconnected vignettes drawn from the mythic tradition. Like The Bible, it is a combination of stories, but without a philosophical focus. There are numerous recurring themes that while not concluded, are certainly explored. The most obvious of these may be the tradition of keeping guests in Greece. The most honorable provide their guests with feasts, festivals, and gifts. This seems mostly the effect of a noblesse oblige among the ruling class. Like the codes of war or the class system, it is a social structure which benefits their rulership. Like the palace of Versailles of Louis XIV, keeping someone as a guest was a way to keep an eye on them and to provide camaraderie and mutual reliance amongst the fractitious ruling class. The second theme is that of 'metis', represented by Odysseus himself. Metis is the Greek term for cunning. It is a quick-witted cleverness that is sometimes considered charming and other times deceitful. Achilles tells Odysseys in the Iliad that he resents the clever man's entreaties, and those of any man who says one thing but thinks another. Odysseus later mimics this sentiment as part of an elaborate lie to gain the trust of another man. Such are the winding ways of our hero. He misleads his son, his wife, his servants, and his despondent father after his return, careful not to overplay his hand in a dangerous situation, arriving as a stranger. Each of these prevarications can be seen sometimes as cruel, but each deception has a reasoning behind it. He uses his stories to carefully prepare his listeners for his return, instead of springing it upon them unwarned. He ensures that he will be received upon the most profitable terms, though he also enjoys the game of it all. These acts of sudden, cruel cleverness are not uncommon in epics and adventure tales. One tale of Viking raiders tells of how, after sailing into the Mediterranean, their ship reached one of the cities of the Roman Empire. Though just a small outpost, the Viking chief thought it was Rome itself, since its stone buildings towered over the farms of his homeland. He hid in a coffin with a wealth of swords and had his soldiers bear him into the town, telling the inhabitants they wished to make burial rights for their dead king. When they were let in, the coffin was opened, the swords passed around, and the city sacked. What is curious is that while warriors like the Greeks or Vikings maintained a strict sense of honor and honesty, this kind of trick was not only common in their stories, but admired. The honor of the battlefield does not extend to the Trojan Horse (Odysseus' idea) or to the tale of Sinon in the Aeneid. The rule seems to be that if the tricks played are grand and clever enough, they are allowed, while small, mean pranks and betrayals are not. Not all the soldiers agree what is outsmarting and what is dishonorable (Achilles puts Odysseus in the latter camp), but there is a give and take there. What is most remarkable about Odysseus is not merely that he comes up with these tricks, but that he passes them off on proud, honorable men without incurring their wrath. Moreover, he does all this while having a famous reputation for being tricky. You'd think he'd get an intentional walk now and then. Odysseus was not as strong a character as Achilles or Hector were in the Iliad, though this may be because he was a complex character who did not rely on the cliche characterizations of 'the noble warrior'. He is not a man with a bad temper, nor a good one. He is a competent and powerful warrior and leader, but those are not his defining characteristics, either. Odysseus represents the Greek ideal of 'arete' as well as metis. Arete is the idea that a man who is truly great should excel in all things, not merely concentrate on one area of life. Even raging Achilles showed the depth of his arete in the Iliad when he served as host and master of the games. He was capable of nobility, sound judgment, and generosity, even if he didn't always put his best foot forward. Odysseus is likewise skilled in both war and domesticity, in the sword and politics, and he's clever and wily to boot. In the end, there isn't much room left over for negative character traits, which is what makes him feel a bit flat. What makes people interesting as individuals is not their best traits, but their worst. For Odysseus, this is his pride. After spending twenty years of his life away at war, leaving his wife and infant son behind, it's not surprising that he wants to return home with wealth and with his name on the lips of poets and minstrels. Between his pride, his easy smile, and his quick wit, he is the model for the modern action hero. He is not merely some chivalric picture of goodness, nor simply mighty and overwhelming, but a conflicted man with a wry sense of humor and above all, a will to survive. Don't read this book simply because it is old, influential, and considered great. Read it because it is exciting and approachable and thoughtful. Even without all the reputation, it can stand on its own. I read the Fagles translation, which was enjoyable and often lovely, though some modern idioms did slip in here and there. The Knox intro rehashes a lot of the introduction to The Iliad, but it's still very useful.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Luís C.

    Odyssey After the end of the Trojan War, Ulysses and his companions decide to return home, but in the middle of the path a horrible storm deviates them from the original route. Just one more difficulty, they have to face monsters like Cyclops and Mermaids, always overcoming them with cleverness astuteness. During one of these confrontations, all his companions are murdered and Ulysses has to continue his journey alone, but a generous king and the goddess Athena helps him. Finally, when he was a Odyssey After the end of the Trojan War, Ulysses and his companions decide to return home, but in the middle of the path a horrible storm deviates them from the original route. Just one more difficulty, they have to face monsters like Cyclops and Mermaids, always overcoming them with cleverness astuteness. During one of these confrontations, all his companions are murdered and Ulysses has to continue his journey alone, but a generous king and the goddess Athena helps him. Finally, when he was able to return to Greece, no one else recognized him, for he was twenty years away from home and everyone believed that he was dead, and to win back his beloved wife he defeated in battle all the suitors who wanted to take his hand.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘

    Odysseus is the ultimate anti-hero, and that's probably why - as much as he annoys me at times with his antics - I'll always prefer him to Achilles. Sure, one can't deny how unreliable and prejudiced he is as a narrator - just look at how he twists the reality when describing the Cyclops' life and culture - but that's precisely - in addition to the engaging structure - what makes The Odyssey so readable and less 'old-felt' than The Iliad. Well assuming you're reading a translation in verses, of course (but why wouldn't you now). I can Odysseus is the ultimate anti-hero, and that's probably why - as much as he annoys me at times with his antics - I'll always prefer him to Achilles. Sure, one can't deny how unreliable and prejudiced he is as a narrator - just look at how he twists the reality when describing the Cyclops' life and culture - but that's precisely - in addition to the engaging structure - what makes The Odyssey so readable and less 'old-felt' than The Iliad. Well assuming you're reading a translation in verses, of course (but why wouldn't you now). I can appreciate that Homer's trying to give his female characters a voice - much more than Virgile, anyway - but let's face it, as all classics it's still full of dudes who make the decisions (and end sleeping with every woman they meet, because why the fuck not?). Still a must-read as far as I'm concerned, at the very least to be able to notice how far the references spread (colonization will do that to you, nudge nudge Alexander the Great).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    I shelved this as "classic newly-read" only because I don't think I ever read a full version in verse. Parts in prose. And B-movies starring either Kirk Douglas or Anthony Quinn or Charlton Heston as the toga-clad avenger. Like butter, this translation of Fagles'. Loved how smooth it read. And the repeating tropes modifying various nouns: "sparkling-eyed Athena," "bright-eyed goddess," "Dawn with her rose-red fingers," "wine-dark sea," "Odysseus, master of craft," etc. What I shelved this as "classic newly-read" only because I don't think I ever read a full version in verse. Parts in prose. And B-movies starring either Kirk Douglas or Anthony Quinn or Charlton Heston as the toga-clad avenger. Like butter, this translation of Fagles'. Loved how smooth it read. And the repeating tropes modifying various nouns: "sparkling-eyed Athena," "bright-eyed goddess," "Dawn with her rose-red fingers," "wine-dark sea," "Odysseus, master of craft," etc. What threw me was how fast the trip-home chapters went: The Lotus Eaters, the Cyclops, Scylla & Charybdis, et al. Instead, it was the planning-to-kill-the-suitors chapters that spread out widely, on and on, until the anxious end. And, much as I enjoyed the comeuppance portioned out to the suitors, echoing in my head are the words of Adam Nicholson, author of Why Homer Matters, who cited "heroes" Achilles (in The Iliad) and Odysseus (in The Odyssey) as two of the biggest mass murderers of all time. Minor point. This is mythology. Plus, the gods willed it. Speaking of, what I'd give for a Mentor like Athena. Some classy dame who could swoop in like some deus ex machina in my many hours of need. Bright-eyed Athena, if you're still out there, I'll cook a bull in your honor (er, maybe a Perdue chicken instead). Hear my prayer! Well worth my time and effort, this one.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    I first read extracts of the Odyssey in junior high and high school and some years later purchased the highly acclaimed Fitzgerald translation. It is a masterpiece that brings out the strengths of this iconic story of the voyage of Ulysses from the fall of Troy back to his native Ithaca and his beloved and besieged Penelope. The story is highly readable and full of adventure and misadventure, monsters and heroes and ultimately a triumphant voyage home. Yes, it is very masculine in perspective so I first read extracts of the Odyssey in junior high and high school and some years later purchased the highly acclaimed Fitzgerald translation. It is a masterpiece that brings out the strengths of this iconic story of the voyage of Ulysses from the fall of Troy back to his native Ithaca and his beloved and besieged Penelope. The story is highly readable and full of adventure and misadventure, monsters and heroes and ultimately a triumphant voyage home. Yes, it is very masculine in perspective so I cannot excuse that except to say that if you read James Joyce's version and the final chapter of Penelope, you can see a far more feminine viewpoint. Regardless, I found this book more entertaining pound for pound than the Iliad or the Aeneid and I hope you will too.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    The salt-encrusted reader has completed his voyage. He has met many mythical men and gods, some women also. The scheming killer Aegisthus, divine Calypso, the Sun God, the savage Cyclops who filled his belly with human meat; the enchantress Circe with her braided hair; the prophet Tiresias; Scylla, barking and howling, and Charybdis, who sucks black water down; Owl-eyed Athena; silver-bowed Apollo; Artemis, Aphrodite, the Harpies. He has seen vernal dawn touch the sky with flowers; seen her fingers bloom; heard the The salt-encrusted reader has completed his voyage. He has met many mythical men and gods, some women also. The scheming killer Aegisthus, divine Calypso, the Sun God, the savage Cyclops who filled his belly with human meat; the enchantress Circe with her braided hair; the prophet Tiresias; Scylla, barking and howling, and Charybdis, who sucks black water down; Owl-eyed Athena; silver-bowed Apollo; Artemis, Aphrodite, the Harpies. He has seen vernal dawn touch the sky with flowers; seen her fingers bloom; heard the sounding purple sea rush round the stern and pure Zephyr whistling on wine-dark sea. He has sailed over the watery waves; he has seen darkness drench the eyes of a suitor in desperate pain, an arrow piercing his liver; he has beheld a sky of bronze. He has wondered at Odysseus, a complicated man – the man who can adapt to anything; the man who, alive, visited Hades; the master of plots and plans; lying Odysseus, the ruiner of his wife's suitors; the wanderer, come home after the War years and years later. Long-suffering Odysseus, crafty Odysseus; unflappable Odysseus; the strategist Odysseus, the master of deception, the trickster, the master liar, he who can smile in scornful rage. Lord Odysseus, weathered Odysseus. Warlike Odysseus. He has marveled at Penelope, who speaks shrewdly, who speaks to test her husband, who melts the reader's heart. He has read of much weeping. SO MUCH weeping. By MEN! Greece a land of weepers. He, like Odysseus, has come home. He wishes to thank Kris for the invitation to this perfectly paced group read; to thank the other readers who contributed such useful comments; and to thank especially Emily Wilson for her wonderful translation, her great summaries of the books, her informative notes, and her outstanding Introduction to The Odyssey. If I review "2018 on Goodreads", this will certainly be a highlight. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Previous review: The Waning of the Middle Ages Next review: JRZDVLS Older review: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Previous library review: The Suppliants Aeschylus Next library review: The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emer (A Little Haze)

    Last year I read Homer's The Iliad and loved the storyline but I was left with a sense that there was something missing from my reading experience. At times the Iliad bored me with its clunky writing style and, at the time, I concluded that this was down to the translation that read. So this year I decided to read two versions of Homer's classic epic poem The Odyssey simultaneously to decide if I would have a different reaction to the different translations of the same texts. And I 100% did! I chose t Last year I read Homer's The Iliad and loved the storyline but I was left with a sense that there was something missing from my reading experience. At times the Iliad bored me with its clunky writing style and, at the time, I concluded that this was down to the translation that read. So this year I decided to read two versions of Homer's classic epic poem The Odyssey simultaneously to decide if I would have a different reaction to the different translations of the same texts. And I 100% did! I chose to read Robert Fagles' translation that many have considered to be the definitive translation and a recently published translation by Emily Wilson. Why translations matter: Why reading new translations of old texts matters with regards to equality of the sexes and the depiction of women: The point I want to make here is that in Homer's The Odyssey it is not at all problematic that female characters were oppressed. But when a translation chooses to unnecessarily reinforce negative female stereotyping because of the choices the translator makes regarding the wording they use, then that's something that I have issue with. And what is utterly refreshing about Wilson's translation is that she's not making this a feminist modern Odyssey, she's just trying to make it more authentic to the original and attempting to not add any extra (misogynistic-tinged) layers to the text that Homer did not intend to be there. This article, written by Emily Wilson, that appeared in The New Yorker in December 2017 perfectly explores the role of the female, in particular Penelope, in the Odyssey. What is also wonderful about Wilson's translation is that it is eminently readable. She has maintained a natural flow and rhythm to the verse that really helped me as a reader to engage with the story. I never lost interest or had to track back and check if I understood what the text was saying because she kept the language contemporary to our times. I remember when I read The Iliad last year I found it difficult to always follow the text. At times it read in a very clunky fashion and I found myself frequently getting distracted. And I think this is due to the use of faux olde-style English. As if because this is a *classic* text then it should be translated in a word-heavy style to give it some sort of extra gravitas. Wilson dismisses this notion and instead delivers a text that is accessible to all readers and doesn't make you want to fall asleep from boredom. Fagles' translation, while also quite readable, I did find suffered at times from that same *classic heaviness* and I much preferred the Wilson version. Wilson also kept her translation to exactly the same length as the source text whereas Fagles' was longer and more drawn out. As for the story itself. It really is wonderful. It is epic in its scope, wonderfully exciting and was everything I could have hoped and expected from a classic Greek text. I would award four stars to the Odyssey story with an additional star added to the rating of Emily Wilson's translation because of how much more I enjoyed it. So if you are looking to read the odyssey then I highly recommend you seek out her translation even though it is more expensive than Fagles' Penguin edition. Otherwise Fagles' version is perfectly satisfactory.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Thrilled to have finally read this!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Second review introductory I think, oh muse, that Odysseus and me go back to the first year of Junior School, when I was, let me see, eleven minus four years old, anyway it was long ago and far away then, we still had the half penny a tiny coin of hardy bronze. We had a project at school about the Odyssey even though it didn't take ten years for any of us to get to school and at no point did we naked have to cling to branches of wood to make sure landfall, in the way of school projects at the age of eleven minu/>

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    After having read and enjoyed Fagles' translation not too long ago, I decided to join with a group reading a new translation by Emily Wilson, the first woman to take on this task in English. This has proved to be an excellent decision. While I have always had respect for those who translate literature, I now realize even more fully how seemingly small, insignificant details can radically alter one’s perception of a classic or at least cause you to reconsider long-held beliefs about characters or After having read and enjoyed Fagles' translation not too long ago, I decided to join with a group reading a new translation by Emily Wilson, the first woman to take on this task in English. This has proved to be an excellent decision. While I have always had respect for those who translate literature, I now realize even more fully how seemingly small, insignificant details can radically alter one’s perception of a classic or at least cause you to reconsider long-held beliefs about characters or events (be they historic or mythical). Wilson’s translation has done that for me by its lean style which, for me, serves to emphasize more of the humanity of the humans and the human-like behavior of the gods who influence the action. There is so much here but I believe my response largely stems from Wilson’s chosen style and word choice. While I love Fagles’ translation for its poetry and imagery, I love Wilson’s for where it has led me and my thoughts. For that credit must also go to our wonderful group. ...to be continued

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ashleigh (a frolic through fiction)

    *Originally rated 4.5 stars, but after rereading it multiple times and also having the chance to study it at university and still being endlessly fascinated by the story rather than growing bored by it, I'm bumping it up to the full 5 stars!

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