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The Odyssey of Homer (The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written)

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The Odyssey (Greek: Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia) is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work traditionally ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon. Indeed it is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature. It was probably composed near the end of the The Odyssey (Greek: Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia) is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work traditionally ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon. Indeed it is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature. It was probably composed near the end of the eighth century BC, somewhere in Ionia, the then Greek-controlled coastal region of what is now Turkey. The poem mainly centers on the Greek hero Odysseus (or Ulysses, as he was known in Roman myths) and his long journey home following the fall of Troy. It takes Odysseus ten years to reach Ithaca after the ten-year Trojan War. In his absence, it is assumed he has died, and his wife Penelope and son Telemachus must deal with a group of unruly suitors, the Mnesteres (Greek: Μνηστῆρες) or Proci, competing for Penelope's hand in marriage. It continues to be read in Homeric Greek and translated into modern languages around the world. The original poem was composed in an oral tradition by an aoidos, perhaps a rhapsode, and was intended more to be sung than read. The details of the ancient oral performance, and the story's conversion to a written work inspire continual debate among scholars. The Odyssey was written in a regionless poetic dialect of Greek and comprises 12,110 lines of dactylic hexameter. Among the most impressive elements of the text are its strikingly modern non-linear plot, and the fact that events are shown to depend as much on the choices made by women and serfs as on the actions of fighting men. In the English language as well as many others, the word odyssey has come to refer to an epic voyage.


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The Odyssey (Greek: Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia) is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work traditionally ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon. Indeed it is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature. It was probably composed near the end of the The Odyssey (Greek: Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia) is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work traditionally ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon. Indeed it is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature. It was probably composed near the end of the eighth century BC, somewhere in Ionia, the then Greek-controlled coastal region of what is now Turkey. The poem mainly centers on the Greek hero Odysseus (or Ulysses, as he was known in Roman myths) and his long journey home following the fall of Troy. It takes Odysseus ten years to reach Ithaca after the ten-year Trojan War. In his absence, it is assumed he has died, and his wife Penelope and son Telemachus must deal with a group of unruly suitors, the Mnesteres (Greek: Μνηστῆρες) or Proci, competing for Penelope's hand in marriage. It continues to be read in Homeric Greek and translated into modern languages around the world. The original poem was composed in an oral tradition by an aoidos, perhaps a rhapsode, and was intended more to be sung than read. The details of the ancient oral performance, and the story's conversion to a written work inspire continual debate among scholars. The Odyssey was written in a regionless poetic dialect of Greek and comprises 12,110 lines of dactylic hexameter. Among the most impressive elements of the text are its strikingly modern non-linear plot, and the fact that events are shown to depend as much on the choices made by women and serfs as on the actions of fighting men. In the English language as well as many others, the word odyssey has come to refer to an epic voyage.

30 review for The Odyssey of Homer (The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written)

  1. 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 ody 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. their work was done here now. "Their work was done here now." What a great line. Want more violence you say? How about slaughtering over 100 house guests for over-indulging in your hospitality? Can you say overkill!! And for the true splatter junkies out there, you can add in some casual rapes, widespread maiming, a score of people-squishing, crew members being chewed and swallowed, healthy doses of mutilation and torture, and one cyclops blinding. That should make even the most discriminating gore hound leg-humping happy. Yes...that's me...guilty. However, beyond the cockle-warming violence and mayhem, this is a rocking good story that I enjoyed (as in "smile on my face thinking this is genuinely cool”) much more than I expected to going into it. There is nothing dry or plodding about the story. Beautifully written, and encompassing themes of love, loyalty and heroism while commenting on many facets of the human condition. As important as this story is to literature, it is above all else...ENTERTAINING. In fact, without its massive entertainment factor, I'm pretty sure it's overall importance among the classics would be significantly reduced. Thankfully, there is no risk of that. A NOTE ON THE TEXT Before I continue, I want to comment on the version I read/listened to because I think can be critical to people’s reaction to the story. There are a TRUCKLOAD of Odyssey translations out there and, from what I’ve seen, they range wider in quality and faithfulness to the original text than those of almost any other work of Western Literature. These versions can differ so much that I believe two people with identical reading tastes could each read a different translation and walk away with vastly different opinions on the work. The version I am reviewing (and from which the above quote is derived) is the Robert Fagles translation which uses contemporary prose and structure while remaining faithful to the content of the original. I found it a terrific place for a “first experience” with this work because of how easy to follow it was. Plus, I listened to the audio version read by Sir Ian McKellen which was an amazing experience and one I HIGHLY RECOMMEND. In addition to the Fagles version, I also own the Alexander Pope translation as part of my Easton Press collection of The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written. While listening to the Fagles version, I would often follow along with the Pope translation and let me tell you....they are vastly different. While the overall story is the same, the presentation, prose and the structure are nothing alike. As an example, here is the same passage I quoted earlier from the Pope translation. Then forth they led [______], and began Their bloody work; they lopp’d away the man, Morsel for dogs! then trimm’d with brazen shears The wretch, and shorten’d of his nose and ears; His hands and feet last felt the cruel steel; He roar’d, and torments gave his soul to hell. They wash, and to Ulysses take their way: So ends the bloody business of the day. Very different treatments of the same scene. In my opinion, the Pope language is more beautiful and far more poetic and lyrical than the Fagles translation. However, I am glad I started with the Fagles version because it provided me with a much better comprehension of the story itself. No head-scratching moments. Now that I have a firm grounding in the story, I plan to go back at some point and read the Pope version so that I can absorb the greater beauty of that translation. In a nutshell, I'm saying that you should make sure you find a translation that works for you. That’s my two or three cents. THE STORY So Odysseus, master strategist and tactician (not to mention schemer, manipulator and liar extraordinaire), travels home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. Delays and detours ensue which take up the first half of the story. Most of these travel snags are caused by Poseidon, who is grudging on Odysseus for stick-poking Poseidon’s son (i.e. the Cyclops) in the peeper. Not to fear, Athena (goddess of guile and craftiness) is a proud sponsor of Odysseus and, along with some help for big daddy god Zeus, throws Odysseus some Olympian help. Odysseus’ travels are full of great summer blockbuster-like entertainment and at the same time explore all manner of Greek daily life as well as touching on many of their beliefs and traditions. It really is a perfect blend of fun and brain food. From his time on the island homes of the goddesses Calypso and Circe (who he gets busy with despite his “undying” love for his wife, Penelope...men huh?), to his run ins with the giant Laestrygonians and the Lotus-eaters (i.e., thugs and drugs) and his fateful encounter with the Cyclops, Polyphemus. Odysseus even takes a jaunt to the underworld where he speaks to Achilles and gets to listen to dead king Agamemnon go on an anti-marriage rant because his conniving wife poisoned him to death. Homer does a superb job of keeping the story epic while providing the reader with wonderful details about the life of the greek people during this period. The man had story-telling chops.. Meanwhile, while Odysseus is engaged in the ancient greek version of the Amazing Race, back on Ithaca we’ve got a full-fledged version of the Bachelorette going on as over a hundred suitors are camped out at Odysseus pad trying to get Penelope to give them a rose. This has Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, on the rage because the suitors are eating, drinking and servant-boinking him out of his entire inheritance while they wait on Penelope. You might think that Telemachus could just kick the freeloaders out, but the law of “hospitality” was huge for the Greeks and the suitor-douches use it to full advantage. Well Odysseus eventually makes it back to Ithaca, alone and in disguise, after all of this crew have been eaten, squashed, drowned or otherwise rendered life-impaired. Not an easy place to live is ancient Greece. Odysseus proceeds to work a web of deceit and revenge against the suitors that is a wonder to behold. I’ll leave the final climax to you, but I will say that there was no free lunch in Homer’s time and the checks that people wrote with their bad behavior are paid in full. MY THOUGHTS This was a fun, fun, fun read. I want to start with that because this is not one of those classics that I think is worth while only to get it under your belt or checked off a list. This was a great story with great characters and in a style that was both “off the usual path” but still easy to follow. Going back to my comments on the various versions of the story, I think this may end up being a five star read in one of the more flowery, densely poetic translations where the emotion and passion is just a bit more in your face. I am still thrilled to have listened to the version I did (especially as read by Gandalf) because I now have a firm foundation in the story and can afford to be a bit more adventurous with my next version. The tone of the story is heroic and yet very dark. The gods are capricious and temperamental and cause a whole lot of death and devastation for nothing more than a bruised ego or even a whim. The pace of the story is fast and moves quickly with hardly a chance to even catch your breath. It is a big epic story...it is THE BIG EPIC STORY...and its reputation is well deserved. A terrific read as well as one of the most important works in the Western canon. Definitely worth your time. 4.5 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!

  2. 3 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.

  3. 5 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 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.

  4. 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 d 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    Oh Odysseus, how I love thee.. But, bro, you need to get a grip.

  6. 3 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 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.

  7. 3 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 as the gods "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 author, 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.

  8. 3 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 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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Το Άσχημο Ρύζι Καρολίνα

    Κι αν πτωχική την βρεις, η Ιθάκη δεν σε γέλασε. Έτσι σοφός που έγινες, με τόση πείρα, ήδη θα το κατάλαβες η Ιθάκες τι σημαίνουν. Η ψυχή μου το ξέρει, πόσο μεγάλη ανάγκη το είχα να το κάνω ξανά αυτό το μεγάλο ταξίδι μαζί με τον πολύπαθο Οδυσσέα. Και διάλεξα τη μετάφραση εκείνη, την πρώτη, απο τα σχολικά μου χρόνια, του Ζήσιμου Σίδερη, αλλά είχα από δίπλα και το αρχαίο κείμενο για να παίρνω διπλή χαρά, από τη γλώσσα μου αυτήν την πανάρχαια, τις λέξεις που ακόμα μιλούμε και που με αυτές ακόμα και σή Κι αν πτωχική την βρεις, η Ιθάκη δεν σε γέλασε. Έτσι σοφός που έγινες, με τόση πείρα, ήδη θα το κατάλαβες η Ιθάκες τι σημαίνουν. Η ψυχή μου το ξέρει, πόσο μεγάλη ανάγκη το είχα να το κάνω ξανά αυτό το μεγάλο ταξίδι μαζί με τον πολύπαθο Οδυσσέα. Και διάλεξα τη μετάφραση εκείνη, την πρώτη, απο τα σχολικά μου χρόνια, του Ζήσιμου Σίδερη, αλλά είχα από δίπλα και το αρχαίο κείμενο για να παίρνω διπλή χαρά, από τη γλώσσα μου αυτήν την πανάρχαια, τις λέξεις που ακόμα μιλούμε και που με αυτές ακόμα και σήμερα, εκφράζουμε τις χαρές, τους πόνους, τις αγωνίες και τις ελπίδες μας. Και η αγαπημένη μου η Αθηνά... Κάθε μέρα, καθώς το λεωφορείο παίρνει τη στροφή στη διασταύρωση της Βασιλίσσης Σοφίας, στην Πλατεία Συντάγματος, στρέφω το βλέμμα για μια στιγμή, να δω μέσα από τα τσιμέντα και το καυσαέριο, πάνω απ' τους βιαστικούς διαβάτες, τον Ιερό της Βράχο, κάτω από τον ίδιο ουρανό, που είτε γκρίζος είτε καταγάλανος και ηλιόλουστος, είναι ο ίδιος ουρανός κάτω από τον οποίο αιώνες τώρα στέκει ο τόπος μου και μιλιέται η γλώσσα μου. Κι όταν μου σώνεται καμιά φορά ο αέρας, από τις δυσκολίες της ζωής, έχω ανάγκη σε αυτόν το βράχο να καταφεύγω, ικέτιδα, για να ανασάνω. Και παίρνω δύναμη από τις παλιές πανανθρώπινες ιστορίες κι έτσι κατηφορίζω πάλι ξανά μέσα στην γκρίζα πόλη, γιατρεμένη. Η Αθηνά με την μορφή του Μέντη του αρχηγού των Ταφιωτών πάει στην Ιθάκη στο παλάτι του Οδυσσέα, βρίσκει τον νεαρό του γιο, τον Τηλέμαχο και τον συμβουλεύει να μην κάθεται άλλο ανάμεσα στους μνηστήρες, αλλά να πάρει ένα καράβι και να επισκεφτεί το Νέστορα στην Πύλο και τον Μενέλαο στην Σπάρτη, για να μάθει νέα για τον χαμένο του πατέρα, που είκοσι χρόνια τώρα λείπει από την Ιθάκη, και δεν ξέρει κανένας αν ζει ή αν πέθανε. Ο νέος φεύγει κρυφά, κι όταν το πληροφορούνται οι μνηστήρες σχεδιάζουν στην επιστροφή να τον σκοτώσουν, αλλά το θράσος τους δεν θα τους βγει σε καλό καθώς άλλες είναι οι βουλές των θεών. Ξανά με παρακίνηση της Αθηνάς, φτάνει ο Ερμής στη νησί της Ωγυγίας, εκεί που η Καλυψώ κρατάει, από έρωτα, αιχμάλωτο τον Οδυσσέα και της δίνει εντολή να τον αφήσει να φύγει, για το νησί των Φαιάκων. Εκεί παρουσιάζεται μια από τις ωραίες περιγραφές που δεν χόρταινα να διαβάζω παλιά, όταν ήμουν ακόμη μαθήτρια στο Γυμνάσιο: "όσο που βρήκε μια σπηλιά μεγάλη, όπου η νεράιδα καθόντανε η λαμπρόμαλλη και μέσα εκεί την ήβρε. Φωτιά μεγάλη είχε στη στια και μια ευωδιά απ' αλάργα μοσκοβολούσε στο νησί, κέδρου κι αφράτης θούγιας που καίγουνταν. Κι η Καλυψώ, μ' ολόχρυση σαΐτα στον αργαλειό της ύφαινε και γλυκοτραγουδούσε. Φούντωνε γύρω στη σπηλιά δροσολουσμένο δάσος με κυπαρίσσια ευωδιαστά, με πεύκες και με σκλήθρα, όπου πλατύφτερα πουλιά φωλιάζανε εκεί πάντα, γεράκια κι ανοιχτόφωνες κουρούνες, βαρδολούπες θαλασσοπούλια που αγαπούν τα πέλαγα να σκίζουν. Κι ολόγυρα στην κουφωτή σπηλιά ήταν απλωμένη, κληματαριά πολύβλαστη σταφύλια φορτωμένη. Τέσσερεις βρύσες στη στεριά γλυκό νερό αναβρύζαν, κοντά-κοντά, κι άλλη απ' αλλού κυλούσε τα νερά της. Κι ανθούσαν γύρω στη σειρά λιβάδια με γιοφύλια και σέλινα, που αν τα 'βλεπε κι αθάνατος ακόμα, θα σάστιζε και μέσα του θα ξάνοιγε η καρδιά του". Έτσι φεύγει, γεμάτος χαρά ο Οδυσσέας, μέσα σε μια σχεδία, αλλά έμελλε να φτάσει στο νησί των Φαιάκων ναυαγός, καθώς ο Ποσειδώνας σήκωσε θαλασσοταραχή για να τον πνίξει, αλλά η Ινώ του έδωσε το αθάνατο μαντήλι της και τον έσωσε. Κι όταν η κόρη του βασιλιά Αλκίνοου και της σεβάσμια Αρήτης, η Ναυσικά, τον βρίσκει ναυαγό, δεν αργεί ο ήρωας να φτάσει στο παλάτι και να βρει βοήθεια. Εκεί διηγείται όλες τις περασμένες του περιπέτειες (η αφηγηματική τεχνική του in medias res). Και αν πέρασε περιπέτειες ο θαλασσοδαρμένος ήρωας... Από τους Κίκονες και τους Λωτοφάγους, στη χώρα των Κυκλώπων όπου με τέχνασμα (Ούτις εμοί γ' όνομα) ο ήρωας και οι σύντροφοί του σώζονται από τον ανθρωποφάγο γίγαντα, αφού πρώτα τον μεθύσουν και τον τυφλώσουν: «Τι σου 'τυχε, Πολύφημε, και μεγαλοφωνάζεις μες στην αθάνατη νυχτιά και μας χαλάς τον ύπνο; Μην άθελά σου σ' άρπαξε κανένας το κοπάδι; Μήνα σου παίρνει τη ζωή μ' απάτη και μ' αντρεία;». Κι ο φοβερός Πολύφημος απ' τη σπηλιά απαντούσε· «Αδέρφια, μ' έφαγε ο Κανείς μ' απάτη, όχι μ' αντρεία». Κι εκείνοι τ' απαντούσανε με πεταχτά τους λόγια «Αφού κανείς δε σ' έβλαψε και μέσα είσαι μονάχος, απ' την αρρώστια ποιος μπορεί του Δία να σε σώσει; Δεήσου στον πατέρα σου το σείστη Ποσειδώνα». Κι από εκεί στην Αιολία, όπου ο Αίολος έκλεισε σε έναν ασκό όλους τους ανέμους κι άφησε μόνο την πνοή του Ζέφυρου να τους γυρίσει στην πατρίδα, και πράγματι μετά από δέκα μέρες θαλασσινής πορείας έφτασαν τα καράβια να βλέπουν από μακριά τη στεριά της Ιθάκης. Αλλά οι ανόητοι σύντροφοι του Οδυσσέα άνοιξαν τον ασκό και επέστρεψαν στο νησί του Αιόλου. Κι από εκεί αποδιωγμένοι έφτασαν στην Τηλέπυλο, τη γη των Λαιστρυγόνων, από όπου μόνο το καράβι του Οδυσσέα γλίτωσε. Κι από εκεί στο νησί της Αίας όπου η Κίρκη μεταμόρφωσε τους συντρόφους του σε γουρούνια. Κι από εκεί διασχίζοντας τον Ωκεανό, φτάνει ο ήρωας να κάνει ζωντανός (δίταφος - δισθανής) ο ίδιος, κατάβαση στους νεκρούς του Άδη, για να πάρει χρησμό από τον Τειρεσία για το πώς θα επιστρέψει στην πατρίδα. Και τον συμβούλεψε ο σοφός μαντης να μη φάνε τα βόδια του Ήλιου σαν βρεθούν στο νησί της Θρινακίας. Κι έπειτα πέρασε από τις Σειρήνες, τη Σκύλλα και τη Χάρυβδη κι έφτασε στο νησί του Ήλιου, όπου οι σύντροφοί του σπρωγμένοι από την πείνα παραβίασαν τον χρησμό και έτσι όλοι χάθηκαν εκτός από τον ίδιο τον Οδυσσέα που κατέληξε ναυαγός και αιχμάλωτος, εραστής της Καλυψώς που ήθελε να τον κάνει αθάνατο. Κι από εκεί στο νησί των Φαιάκων επιστρέφει ο ήρωας στην Ιθάκη γεμάτος δώρα, αλλά οι περιπέτειές του δεν τελειώνουν εδώ. Αρχικά δεν αναγνωρίζει τον ίδιο του τον τόπο καθώς έχουν περάσει τόσα χρόνια. Με την παρέμβαση της Αθηνάς που τον μεταμορφώνει σε γέρος επαίτη, φτάνει, αγνώριστος στην καλύβα του Εύμαιου του χοιροβοσκού. Ο Εύμαιος, ο πιστός, ο αφοσιωμένος, ο σοφός και φιλόξενος, δεν είναι ένας απλός δούλος του Οδυσσέα. Σαν ήταν μικρό παιδάκι, γιος βασιλιά, τον απήγαγαν κι έτσι βρέθηκε να υπηρετεί την οικογένεια του Λαέρτη στην Ιθάκη. Γι' αυτόν ο Όμηρος επιφυλάσσει μια ιδιαίτερη τιμή, κάθε φορά που μιλάει στο έργο, ο ποιητής απευθύνεται σε αυτόν στο β ενικό (τον δ’ απαμειβόμενος προσέφης, Εύμαιε συβώτα): Τότε, Εύμαιε χοιροβοσκέ, τ' απάντησες κι έτσι είπες· Δεν το 'χω, γέρο, σε καλό τον ξένο ν' αψηφήσω, χειρότερός σου κι αν ερθεί. Γιατί σταλτοί απ' το Δία είναι όλοι οι ξένοι και οι φτωχοί. Το δόσιμό μας λίγο μα πρόσχαρο. Έτσι μεταμορφωμένος, καθώς επιστρέφει και ο Τηλέμαχος από το ταξίδι του, φτάνει στο παλάτι του, ζητιάνος, υπόκειται σε ταπεινώσεις και εξευτελισμούς από τους μνηστήρες, ώσπου, ξανά με την ενθάρρυνση της Αθηνάς, πετάει τα κουρέλια του και αρχίζει μια μάχη που θα ήταν άνιση χωρίς την παρέμβαση της θεάς, καθώς πολεμάνε τέσσερις από τη μια (Οδυσσέας, Τηλέμαχος, Εύμαιος και ο βοσκός Φιλοίτιος) και πάνω από εκατό από την άλλη πλευρά: Δεν είναι μια, δεν είναι δυο δεκάδες οι Μνηστήρες μόν' είναι ακόμα πιο πολλοί, κι άκου να τους μετρήσω. Απ' το Δουλίχι διαλεχτοί πενήντα δυο λεβέντες, μ' έξι μαζί τους παραγιούς. Κι όσοι ήρθαν απ' τη Σάμη, είναι όλοι είκοσι τέσσερεις. Κι είκοσι βάλε ακόμα, όσοι ήρθαν απ' τη Ζάκυνθο, και δώδεκα απ' το Θιάκι, ατρόμητοι όλοι στην καρδιά. Κι ο Μέδοντας ο κράχτης, κι ο θεϊκός τραγουδιστής, πόχουν κι αυτοί μαζί τους, δυο παραγιούς, στο μοίρασμα των φαγητών τεχνίτες. Μετά τη δολοφονία των μνηστήρων, κι αφού τακτοποιήσει τα του οίκου του ο Οδυσσέας ξανασμίγει με την Πηνελόπη (το θηλυκό πολυμήχανο έτερον ήμισυ του ήρωα, μια γενναία, πανέξυπνη, ευγενική και πιστή σύζυγος και μητέρα) και την επομένη πηγαίνει να συναντήσει τον γέρο πατέρα του, τον Λαέρτη. Και αφού, ξανά με την παρέμβαση της Αθηνάς, αποτρέπεται, την τελευταία στιγμή, η εμφύλια σύγκρουση ανάμεσα στους συγγενείς των μνηστήρων με τον οίκο του Οδυσσέα, η ιστορία τελειώνει, όχι όμως το ταξίδι. Και η ζωή συνεχίζεται... Τα ηρωικά τραγούδια της μυκηναϊκής εποχής, που διηγούνταν τις περιπέτειες των Αχαιών, ανάμεσα σε αυτά κι η διήγηση της πολιορκίας της Τροίας, και η περιπλάνηση του Οδυσσέα, διαμορφώθηκαν μέσα από επαγγελματίες τραγουδιστές με τη συνοδεία ενός έγχορδου οργάνου (αοιδοί) και τους κατοπινότερους ραψωδούς (που έκαναν απαγγελία των ποιημάτων κρατώντας στο δεξί τους χέρι ένα ραβδί) και κάπως έτσι γίνεται το πέρασμα από την αρχαιότερη προφορική παράδοση στα καταγεγραμμένα έπη (ακολουθώντας τον ρυθμό του δακτυλικού εξαμέτρου), όπως αυτά σώζονται ως σήμερα. Στην Οδύσσεια παρουσιάζονται δύο αοιδοί ο Δημόδοκος στους Φαίακες και ο Φήμιος στους Ίθακες. Από εδώ κατέβασα την μετάφραση του Σίδερη, από το σχολικό βιβλίο όπως την διδάχτηκα για πρώτη φορά, στο σχολείο ολάκερη: http://e-library.iep.edu.gr/iep/colle... Από εδώ διάβασα διάφορες σχετικές με τα έπη μελέτες τις οποίες βρήκα ιδιαίτερα χρήσιμες: http://www.greek-language.gr/digitalR...

  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 Murray, just to m 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. 3 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-volum 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.

  12. 3 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    I mean, it's no Ulysses.

  13. 3 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 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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Οδύσσεια = The Odyssey, Homer The Odyssey Characters: Odysseus, Penelope, Helen of Troy, Achilles, Agamemnon, Telemachus, Minerva, Polyphemus عنوانها: ادیسه؛ اودیسه؛ اثر: هومر؛ عنوان: ادیسه؛ اثر: هومر؛ مترجم: سعید نفیسی؛ تهران، بنگاه ترجمه و نشر، 1337؛ چاپ دوم 1344؛ چاپ سوم 1349؛ در 576 ص؛ چاپ چهارم 1359؛ موضوع: اساطیر یونانی - قرن هشتم پیش از میلاد ترجمه سعید نفیسی با عنوان اودیسه نیز چاپ شده است کی از دو کتاب کهن اشعار حماسی یونان اثر هومر در قرن هشتم پیش از میلاد است. این کتاب همچون ایلیاد، به ص Οδύσσεια = The Odyssey, Homer The Odyssey Characters: Odysseus, Penelope, Helen of Troy, Achilles, Agamemnon, Telemachus, Minerva, Polyphemus عنوانها: ادیسه؛ اودیسه؛ اثر: هومر؛ عنوان: ادیسه؛ اثر: هومر؛ مترجم: سعید نفیسی؛ تهران، بنگاه ترجمه و نشر، 1337؛ چاپ دوم 1344؛ چاپ سوم 1349؛ در 576 ص؛ چاپ چهارم 1359؛ موضوع: اساطیر یونانی - قرن هشتم پیش از میلاد ترجمه سعید نفیسی با عنوان اودیسه نیز چاپ شده است کی از دو کتاب کهن اشعار حماسی یونان اثر هومر در قرن هشتم پیش از میلاد است. این کتاب همچون ایلیاد، به صورت مجموعه‌ ای از سرودها گردآوری شده اما شیوه ی روایت آن با ایلیاد تفاوت دارد. ادیسه سرگذشت بازگشت یکی از سران جنگ تروآ (ادیسیوس یا الیس) فرمانروای ایساکا است. در این سفر که بیش از بیست سال به درازا می‌انجامد ماجراهای بسیاری برای وی و همراهانش پیش میآید. در نهایت ادیسیوس که همگان گمان می‌کردند کشته شده، به وطن خود باز گشته و دست متجاوزان را از سرزمین و زن و فرزند خود کوتاه می‌کند. ادیسه در این داستان ماجراهای بسیاری ئترد. او در جنگ با تروآ تصمیم می‌گیرد اسبی از جنس چوب و بسیار بزرگ بسازد و با حیله اسب را به عنوان هدیه ی صلح و آشتی وارد قلعه تروآ بکند. او خود و افرادش در داخل اسب مخفی میشوند تا بتوانند قلعه را تصرف کند؛ اما یک پیشگو، پادشاه تروآ را از بردن اسب به داخل قلعه منع می‌کند و پوسایدون فرمانروای قدرتمند دریا حیوان دست آموزش را می‌فرستد تا پیشگو را هلاک کند. پادشاه تروآ سرانجام اسب را داخل قلعه می‌آورد و شب هنگام ادیسه شبیخون زده؛ و قلعه را تصرف می‌کند. او در حالی که با غرور می‌اندیشد که به تنهایی قلعه را تصرف کرده؛ پوسایدون عصبانی شده، ادیسه را محکوم می‌کند تا ابد در دریا سرگردان بماند. ادیسه در کشتی خود در دریای بی‌انتها به نفرین پوسایدون دچار می‌شود. دیری نمی‌گذرد که به جزیره‌ ای می‌رسد. در آن جزیره، غاری پیدا می‌کند که در آن غار غذای فراوانی وجود دارد. در غار با افرادش به عیش و نوش مشغول می‌شود؛ غافل از آنکه صاحب غار غولی یک چشم؛ بنام پولیتیموس فرزند پوسایدون است. پولیتیموس یکی از افراد ادیسه را می‌خورد؛ و ادیسه با نیرنگ معجون خواب آوری به او می‌خوراند و سپس با چوبی که انتهای آن تیز است، در خواب غول را کور می‌کند. غول در حالی که از درد فریاد می‌زند سنگ عظیمی که غار را پوشانده کنار می‌زند؛ و ادیسه و همراهانش فرار می‌کنند. ادیسه دوباره راهی دریا می‌شود و برای برداشتن آب به جزیره‌ ای پا می‌گذارد، در آن جزیره با آنوس فرمانروای باد و طوفان، و پسرعموی پوسایدون برمی‌خورد؛ و آنوس به باد فرمان می‌دهد که ادیسه را ظرف نه روز به ایساکا زادگاهش برساند؛ و باد را داخل کیسه کرده و به ادیسه می‌دهد. در راه در حالی که به ایساکا رسیده بودند، و ادیسه در خواب بود؛ افرادش به او خیانت کرده و در کیسه را به امید یافتن طلا باز می‌کنند. اما طوفان حاصل از باد داخل کیسه، آنها را دوباره در جزیره‌ ای ناشناخته در دریا می‌برد. و ... داستان ده سال از مسافرت ادیسئوس در بازگشت از جنگ تروا ست. ا. شربیانی

  15. 4 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.

  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 up for a reading project 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

    Fernando

    "Volver, con la frente marchita, las nieves del tiempo platearon mi sien. Sentir, que es un soplo la vida, que veinte años no es nada, que febril la mirada, errante en las sombras, te busca y te nombra. Vivir, con el alma aferrada, a un dulce recuerdo que lloro otra vez." Concuerdo totalmente con el periodista y traductor Joan Casas, cuando en el prólogo de esta edición nos dice que si se hubieran reunido temas y canciones para una banda de sonido de este libro, hubiera sido su tema principal "Vo "Volver, con la frente marchita, las nieves del tiempo platearon mi sien. Sentir, que es un soplo la vida, que veinte años no es nada, que febril la mirada, errante en las sombras, te busca y te nombra. Vivir, con el alma aferrada, a un dulce recuerdo que lloro otra vez." Concuerdo totalmente con el periodista y traductor Joan Casas, cuando en el prólogo de esta edición nos dice que si se hubieran reunido temas y canciones para una banda de sonido de este libro, hubiera sido su tema principal "Volver", ese inmortal tango de Gardel y Le Pera, que es el más odiseico de todos los tiempos, puesto que esas sentidas estrofas concuerdan con la historia de este héroe, Laertíada, raza de Zeus, agudisimo Ulises, aunque para mí con una salvedad: jamás Ulises vuelve con la frente marchita sino con ésta bien alta, más allá de los padeceres, deshonras y pérdidas que sufre en su periplo de retorno durante diez años, luego de otros diez luchando en Troya cuando finalmente pisa su amadísima Ítaca. Siempre consideré que para leer la Odisea me era indispensable primero terminar la Ilíada aunque en realidad lo correcto sería primero leer la Teogonía de Hesíodo, en donde el aedo cuenta el origen del mundo hasta la aparición de todos los dioses del Olimpo que luego Homero y el resto de los poetas griegos más importantes tomarán como parte de sus relatos épicos y tragedias. Luego viene la batalla de Troya tal como nos lo es contada en la Ilíada, y posteriormente, los libros que narran los retornos por un lado, de Ulises en la Odisea, el de Eneas en la Eneída luego de la destrucción de Troya (esto narrado por el poeta latino Virgilio pero que tiene directa conexión con los otros poemas épicos), junto con el regreso de Agamenón a su casa, narrado por Esquilo, con un resultado completamente opuesto al de Ulises, puesto que a diferencia de Penélope, es asesinado por su esposa Clitmnenestra y Egisto, su amante y posteriormente la Orestíada, también de Esquilo, que cuenta la venganza de Orestes, hijo de Agamenón, matando al asesino de su padre. Lamentablemente yo no mantuve ese orden de lectura. Leí primero la Eneida, luego la Ilíada y Odisea y ahora comencé con la Teogonía. Pero volvamos a esta maravilla de libro. Realmente he disfrutado de la misma manera que en la Ilíada lo que Homero nos cuenta en la Odisea con la diferencia que en este libro me ha sido aún más placentera su lectura, dado que noto una prosa más clara y más amena que en la Ilíada, más allá de estar escrita en hexámetros. Tal vez sea cierto lo que dicen los historiadores acerca de Homero y es que puede que separen a la Ilíada de la Odisea muchísimos años. Es como que la primera fue relatada por un jovencísimo Homero, tal vez de 25 años, digamos, mientras que la segunda tienen otro tenor en sus hexámetros, como si las hubiera relatado un Homero de sesenta años. Yendo a la historia propiamente, en la Odisea nos encontramos nuevamente con la intervención divina, con la diferencia de que en este libro no son tantos los dioses que aparecen. Díria que son cuatro: Poseidón, Zeus, Palas Atenea y Hermes. La historia comienza cuando Homero narra la desgracia de Ulises mientras es retenido en una cueva por la ninfa Calipso quien a cambio le ofrece la inmortalidad. Palas Atenea oye los ruegos que le hace Ulises y lo libera, más le advierte que sufrirá muchos males y la muerte merodeará siempre a su alrededor. Por el otro lado se viven las angustiosas horas de su esposa, la discreta Penélope y su único hijo Telémaco con el agravante de que creyendo la supuesta muerte del héroe es, su palacio visitado por muchos pretendientes, quienes comienzan a devastar todos las riquezas que Ulises dejó asi como cortejar también a Penélope para desposarla. Esto lleva a Telémaco a emprender un viaje en busca de su padre primero a Pilos y luego a Esparta en donde se encuentra con viejos héroes de guerra como el anciano Néstor y el átrida Menelao, hermano de Agamenón. Ulises, en su travesía llega a Feacia en donde es recibido con amabilidad y honores. Allí encontrará a Demódoco, un aedo ciego, lo que nos hace pensar que Homero se homenajea a sí mismo para formar parte de las leyendas que este libro narra. Pronto se tornará tortuosa su travesía y comienzan sus males cuando desata la furia del dios Poseidón por asesinar a su hijo (son tres los dioses más importantes en la mitología griega: Zeus, rey del Olimpo, portador de la égida y dueño del rayo y el trueno, Poseídon, quien sacude la tierra y controla los mares y Hades quien gobierna el Tártaro y el mundo de los muertos), el cíclope Polifemo que mantiene cautivo a Ulises y sus hombres en una caverna. También tiene especial climax su encuentro con Circe, la perversa diosa que convierte a los dioses en animales que pone a Ulises y todos hombres a prueba y más tarde las cosas se ponen realmente negras durante su llegada a la isla donde pastan las Vacas del Sol, ya que serán castigados duramente y funesto será el desenlace que vivencien. Más allá de tantas desgracias, siempre, en toda la historia, es Palas Atenea la diosa de proteger tanto a Ulises como a Penélope y Telémaco durante sus reiterados infortunios y cuenta además con la ayuda fundamental de otro dios: Hermes (o Mercurio en la mitología romana) cuando con "palabras aladas" deben hecerse llegar a uno u otros los mensajes más importantes. Pero durará poco la paz para Ulises cuando ya lejos de Feacia tendrá que afrontar lo que Poseidón le tiene conjurado en su destino: sortear el acecho de las Sirenas que para muchos es la forma más fácil de identificar al libro, aunque a este encuentro Homero le dedica sólo una pequeña porción de hexámetros. Para mí, el escollo más difícil, y mortal que debe sortear Ulises es en el estrecho entre dos los peñascos en los que se encuentran las infernales criaturas marinas que son Escila y Caribdes y es creo el peor momento que vive en toda su travesía. La muerte hace estragos en este pasaje. Otro capitulo que me apasionó es su viaje hasta el Hades porque me hizo recordar al inovidable Canto VI de la Eneida cuando Eneas desciende a los infiernos para rescatar a su padre Anquises y por supuesto, al Infierno de Dante junto a Virgilio, quien casualmente creador de la Eneida. Todo esto forma parte de la "Hilación universal", como dice un querido amigo mío. En el Hades, pasados los campos de Asfódelo, Ulises se reencontrará con las sombras de sus amigos muertos en la batallas en Troya. Desfilarán ante él Agamenón, asi también como la sombra su amada madre, muerta de pena, a Tiresias, el adivino ciego tebano (sí, el mismo que aparece en la tragedia Edipo Rey de Sófocles), a su admiradísimo e ilustre Pélida, Aquiles, a la sombra del bravo Ayax Telamonio ofendido y también un desfile innumerable de seres mitológicos como los titanes Tántalo, Sísifo y Hércules, hijo de Zeus. Le es encomendado enfrentarse con la gorgona Perséfone, pero no se arriesga y sigue su camino. Y así, un día llega finalmente a su amada Ítaca, pero no será fácil tener a su esposa e hijos en sus brazos. Disfrazado por Palas Atenea como un mendigo deberá vivir un sinfín de deshonras y desgracias más aún ante una caterva de desagradables pretendientes que esquilman y saquean los bienes de su morada. Tanta insolencia los hará pagar caro, puesto que Ulises divino junto con su hijo telémaco, Eumeo y Filetio convertirá los pisos del palacio en un auténtico río de sangre, necesario para finalmente abrazar a su amada esposa y a su anciano padre Laertes. Finalmente reinará la paz porque Zeus, ante los ruegos de Palas Atenea así lo dispuso. Veinte años no es nada, agudísimo Ulises. Puedes descansar tranquilo, ya que el fin justificó los medios.

  18. 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...

  19. 5 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?

  20. 4 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 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.

  21. 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, o 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).

  22. 4 out of 5

    Magrat Ajostiernos

    Podríamos darlo por leído. Quizás. Hay que admitir que la última parte la leí en diagonal porque estaba agotada. No era el momento para ponerme con ella, he pasado un mes difícil y lo menos que me apetecía era ponerme con una lectura de este talante. En ningún momento me enganchó aunque tiene algo especial, las historias en sí me parecieron fascinantes pero no logré conectar en ningún momento por como estaban escritas. Se me hizo largo, monótono y repetitivo. Eso sí, me he quedado con unas ganas e Podríamos darlo por leído. Quizás. Hay que admitir que la última parte la leí en diagonal porque estaba agotada. No era el momento para ponerme con ella, he pasado un mes difícil y lo menos que me apetecía era ponerme con una lectura de este talante. En ningún momento me enganchó aunque tiene algo especial, las historias en sí me parecieron fascinantes pero no logré conectar en ningún momento por como estaban escritas. Se me hizo largo, monótono y repetitivo. Eso sí, me he quedado con unas ganas enormes de leer 'Circe' y 'The Penelopiad' así que no ha caído todo en saco roto :)

  23. 5 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.

  24. 3 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 threw me was how fast t 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.

  25. 5 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 is focused o 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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elena

    3-3.5* El primer texto clásico que leo y muy a mi pesar reconozco que me ha costado un poco. Tenía dos ediciones diferentes: una en prosa y otra en verso, y por cabezonería lo leí en verso cuando yo misma veía que en prosa lo entendía y podía seguir la historia mucho mejor, además de que la traducción me gustaba más. Por un lado muy contenta de haberlo leído y recordando momentazos épicos de la trama pero por otro un poco apenada porque no ha tenido el impacto que esperaba. ¿Recomendaciones para se 3-3.5* El primer texto clásico que leo y muy a mi pesar reconozco que me ha costado un poco. Tenía dos ediciones diferentes: una en prosa y otra en verso, y por cabezonería lo leí en verso cuando yo misma veía que en prosa lo entendía y podía seguir la historia mucho mejor, además de que la traducción me gustaba más. Por un lado muy contenta de haberlo leído y recordando momentazos épicos de la trama pero por otro un poco apenada porque no ha tenido el impacto que esperaba. ¿Recomendaciones para seguir leyendo literatura clásica? Porque creo que dejaré la Ilíada para dentro de un buen tiempo...xD

  27. 3 out of 5

    Emer

    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 ch 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.

  28. 3 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 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 minus four years it seemed to mostly involve drawing and my vision of the story required me to shade most of my pictures black with a fat pencil, this you will understand not because the story was dour, but because of all the fine detailing required with a fat, blunt pencil. At the end of the project all our drawings and accompanying text (no oral project this) were bound together, mine in a fine red comb - not from the hair of some snorting eager horse but from plastic once free flowing, now still. All of which stands by way of introduction to say, we go back some way together, but still rereading thanks to a wily invitation to a cunning group in honour of a new translation, some things caught my wandering, roving eye, maybe for the first time or in a new way: unity of thought and deed Once upon a time I believed that with the Homeric heroes there was a unity between thought or word and action, everything pure and direct. This however proves to be nonsense in the Odyssey, the necessary course of events is that there is thought which needs to be expressed in conversation maybe three times before somebody commits the action and then not very efficiently necessary, perhaps monotheism has spoiled us. When God speaks unto us we are it seems more apt to leap to action, back then when their were so many gods, and demi- gods, semi-gods and quasi-gods, I suppose people were that much more casual about the divine. violation of order I remember badly from Aeschylus that the downfall of his house was due to his own hands pollution, or something like that, of course he was speaking about Agamemnon, but the same principle applies. Paris steals Helen in violation of how a guest ought to behave, causing the Trojan war of glorious memory. Odysseus omits the proper ceremonies and so is punished by Poseidon. In a sense, the ending of the Odyssey is curious, from the beginning we are reminded of the story of Orestes and Agamemnon's return violation of the moral universe requires counter violation and so until the moral order of the universe itself is changed - Eumenides. However Odysseus can slaughter sixty odd suitors apparently without starting another cycle of vengeance (view spoiler)[ or in modern parlance - sequels (hide spoiler)] Guests proper and improper In the Odyssey we see two modes of guest behaviour contrasted proper and improper, Telemachus demonstrates proper: you visit, introduce yourself, have a manly cry with your host, receive rich presents, then go (repeat elsewhere) The suitors for the hand of Penelope violate this, they come and stay everyday, they eat and eat (view spoiler)[ I didn't set up a spreadsheet to check, but Odysseus's herds and flocks seem to be doing surprising well considering (hide spoiler)] this has it's parallel in the divine realm Odysseus' men eat the Sun God's cattle - result death, the suitors eat Odysseus' pigs - result death. The moral arc of this universe bends inevitably towards death. This all reminds me of the Bible specifically Genesis 19. There is a proper way to treat strangers. Violation of this duty means death from above. However duty is mutual and if the host happens, in a moment of hunger, to eat your companions, you are within your rights to punish him, though if he happens to be the son of a God, you might be best advised not to. However there is also piracy, but piracy is within the bounds of acceptable heroic behaviour, it violates no moral order. Early on a travelling Telmachus is asked if he is a pirate, as if the expected answer could have been ' why yes, old man, and I intend to drive off your flocks and sell your women folk into slavery'. Indeed raiding the Cicones apparently doesn't violate the moral boundaries of accepted behaviour, indeed one notes when Odysseus has to throw himself at the mercy of the Phaeacians Athena does hide his approach to the royal personage - perhaps fearing a certain degree of hostility towards announced strangers? Manly emotion The Odyssey I once thought is a story of adventure - wrong, it is mostly the story of men sitting together and crying. The story can find no better way to show the depth and strengths of relationships between men than the tears shed over death and injury. There's a lot of crying and weeping, but not so much as a single handkerchief mentioned. authority and power The world of men mirrors the divine realm (view spoiler)[ or the other way round depending on your theology (hide spoiler)] as such we see that power and authority are not absolute, they are negotiable, nobody commands, persuasion is everything. as an epic in the context of epics The comparison is made from early on with the story of Orestes. This isn't a free standing story, we are meant to be experiencing it with other stories i n mind. In the realm of the Dead Odysseus meets Agamemnon (among others) in case we had forgotten that Telemachus has been reminded of Orestes - this is the model established for us: man returns, his wife betrays him, the son must avenge the father. The Odyssey subverts the expectations that it sets up - the wife's loyalty will be absolute, the son obedient, the traditional patriarchal order will be restored, everyone will live happily ever after apart from the suitors, and their families. Also thee are parallels with the voyage of the Argo and the Labours of Hercules, Odysseus we are shown must be a great hero, not because he is especially heroic - most of the story in terms of time he spends weeping on the beach near to the Nymph Calypso - but because he goes to the same places as other heroes have and he would rub shoulders with them as an equal but for the fact that they happen to be dead already. repetition and redundancy The basic structural element is repetition, a character human or divine is never more than a sum of its epithets, is Odysseus really so very cunning? Just how clever would he be without Athena? Without divine assistance our heroes would be pretty lost, Telemachus sulking among the suitors, Odysseus weeping on the beach, though of course without those pesky Gods there would have been no judgement of Paris, no Trojan war and Odysseus could have stayed home with his herds and flocks. It's a curious thing about the most ancient literature - the Hebrew Bible, Gilgamesh, Homer, it is all so thoroughly steeped in a Divine realm intersecting with the human that it encourages not atheism but anti-theism, all those gods just cause trouble for themselves and for long suffering mortals, in life, and then in death too. Then again, these days when things go wrong we are encouraged to blame immigrants, back then everybody when it was some God who stole your exam grades, fixed the elections, or caused your ship to be turned to stone. And the structure of the Odyssey reinforces this sense of the Divine realm as something ever present and ever in need of placating. The Homeric universe is an angry one, man (and woman) can accomplish nothing without supernatural help. first review The translation is important, but don't forget that translation is the art of failure. Much that arises out of the Greek imagination is hostile: the Cyclops, Circe and her ability to reveal your inner pig, the Sirens. Even the gods can't be relied upon, but play favourites, your own gods are dangerous and worse - fickle (view spoiler)[ save for Athene of course (hide spoiler)] . By contrast the real life Phoenicians are friendly and inhabit a similar cultural universe to the Greeks - they play the same sports, they honour guests, they give gifts, they speak a common language, they are helpful, they inquire politely if one is a pirate before arranging for you to have a bath. The wide world is both hostile and welcoming, but the worst things come of out the mind of the traveller. I wonder why (how!) Samuel Butler decided that it was written or better said maybe composed by a Sicilian woman (not that I wish to imply that Sicilian women can't compose epic poetry it just seems a wayward guess to place his Lady Homer in Scilly), in translation there is a blankness there seems to be little to suggest that it was dreamt up in any particular place let alone first sung by man, woman, or Tiresias. The story of its composition is itself an epic and helps ensure that we approach the story as a pilgrim treading carefully towards the holy sanctuary of the mythic past. I read this in a prose translation on account of being a prosaic person, my inclination is to imagine that a verse translation is more an exercise of ego than of sense, but that probably only means I haven't been confronted with one that blows away critical thought like a sack full of all the winds.

  29. 4 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

    Jennifer

    Thrilled to have finally read this!

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