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Odysseus: A Life Paperback – February 16, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; Reprint edition (February 16, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786888369
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786888368
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #773,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Homer's Odyssey provides little in the way of a psychological portrait of its hero. Beye, a professor emeritus of classics at CUNY, takes up where Homer left off in this sometimes compelling, sometimes pedantic psychobiography of the earliest Greek hero. Following the outline of The Odyssey, Beye chronicles Odysseus' life from his princely youth in Ithaca and his military exploits and leadership in Troy to his wanderings through the Mediterranean and his final homecoming to resume his place as king in Ithaca. In Beye's account, when Odysseus sets off for home after the Trojan War and 10 years of absence, he has difficulty recalling his wife Penelope's voice and face. Melancholy, he wonders also what kind of person his son, Telemachus, has grown up to be. Beye portrays Odysseus as humble yet "arrogant in his assumption of his own worth," cunning, wise, athletic and courageous, gregarious and sensual, concluding that Odysseus provided an exceptional role model to males in the ancient world. While Beye offers insights into the cultural context in which Odysseus might have grown up, his fictional biography cannot compare to Homer's suspenseful and engrossing tale of a hero's quest for self-discovery. Still, readers taken with Tom Cahill's discussion of Odysseus in Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea might find this a useful follow-up.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Historians of fantastic literature claim the Odyssey, with its indomitable hero, quest plot, gods, and monsters, as one of the genre's wellsprings. Many other stories have been spun off from it, but Beye, whose The Iliad, the Odyssey and the Epic Tradition (1966) is an undergraduate staple, offers something different: a modern biography of Odysseus, a recapitulation of his life based upon documents and physical evidence and informed by psychology, archeology, anthropology, and other modern disciplines. The aim is to understand why Odysseus did what he did and said what he said about what he did. To avoid thrusting contemporary conceptions on his second-millennium-B.C.E. subject, Beye carefully constructs Odysseus as a Bronze Age fellow whose literal belief in gods obliges us to accept them as he did (the monsters are more problematic). The resulting portrait is far less a display of cleverness than, for Odyssey readers, a deeper understanding of an old acquaintance and, for those who fear reading a long poem, a dazzling introduction to one grandfather of us all. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ashton Caulkins on April 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As someone who knows the ODYSSEY as well as a non-classicist can, before I bought this book, I asked myself: what is there to say, to add to what we have learned over the centuries about this great hero, and who would dare to try? Knowing other books by Beye, and having had the pleasure of hearing him talk in public forums, I should have known better than to ask. But why a new "life" of the great hero? Simply because there is plenty to more to say about him than we know. The basic unanswered questions--who, what, where, when, and why--abound in any thoughtful reader's mind. He gives us his take on Odysseus' life from birth right up to the time that he leaves for his battles and wanderingss. Of course, much of this is speculation, but it's inspired and fascinating speculation, founded on Beye's vast knowledge of Homer and his times. Beye not only tackles these issues with thoroughness, and dazzling wit, but also contributes substantial psychological insights, some based solidly on how the ancients thought about their heroes, and others based on our modern notions. Women, who play such a major role in Odysseus's exploits, are also given new meaning in this book. Beyond psychology, we learn a variety of things about ancient Greece, things Homer does not give us: its look, smell, ways of building its structures and boats, eating habits, sexual customs, and more. Beye manages a very difficult balancing act: preserving the role of the distinguished scholar that he his with making Odysseus seem not only heroic, but human. He does that both with integrity and humor, reasons enough for anyone interested in the subject to read this book. And for those who haven't read the ODYSSEY, this perfect introduction will surely encourage them to turn to the classic once they've finished Beye's book. In my view, this is an thoroughly delightful, informative, and captivating book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nick Dubrule on May 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
What I loved about Odysseus: A Life is that it indulges a desire to identify with this mythological character as if he were a person while simultaneously reminding one of the fundamentally Modern limits of this kind of identification. Along the way, Beye elaborates a breathtaking overview of Classical culture, vividly informed by his passionate knowledge of the literature. It is a highly enjoyable read, told with great irony and wit.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Casey Cameron on April 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I knew when I read "Odysseus: A Life" that Charles Beye is no ordinary or academic academic. Once voted "Red Hot Prof" by the students at Stanford University, Beye is wonderfully skilled at blending his vivid imagination and his mastery of ancient Homeric poem, myth, and history. He re-creates the epic hero as a man you can't help but find fascinating and irresistibly appealing. This book is utterly satisfying!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 11, 2004
Format: Audio Cassette
The great thing about this book is that everyone can learn from it. Whether you are a junior high school student just embarking upon your own odyssey in the world of the classics, or a retired person trying to get back into the world of literature, or even a scholar with a good knowledge of Homer and his poems, Beye's book serves the useful function of creating a multi-dimensional character out of all of the available souces, not just a single one. In other words, Beye brings to life someone who is a mythic figure and endows him with a full set of human characteristics that allows us to recognize him as both an ancient hero and a contemporary. This is an enjoyable but also provocative and worthwhile reading and educational experience.
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