165 of 172 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2002
This review will focus upon the translation of "The Odyssey" more than the work itself. Having withstood the test of time and considered the first great work of the Western tradition, "The Odyssey" can do well enough without my two cents.
This translation is among the most accurate on the market. Though I speak no Greek myself, classics professors have urged me to read this translation, the best English source available. Despite the usual popularity of the Fitzgerald translation, the Lattimore version provides a more literal translation with consistent themes of word choice running throughout. "They put their hands to the good things that lay ready before them," for example, will come up over and over again because, quite simply, the phrase comes up over and over again. And we have the same adjectives consistently before each of the major players: resourceful Odysseus, thoughtful Telemachos, and circumspect Penelope, along with the gray-eyed Athene. Lattimore explains how he chooses to translate the work, and his translation is a literal work of a genius. He retains the lyric style in form throughout the work, aligning this translation even more closely with the original text.
For those who desire the most accurate translation of this great work, I would highly recommend the Lattimore translation of "The Odyssey of Homer."
56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2007
I own and have read translations of The Iliad & The Odyssey by Fagles, Fitzgerald, and Lattimore. I rate them as follows:
Fitzgerald's translations are often the most enjoyable. However, I feel that Lattimore's clarity facilitates greater understanding of the story by the reader.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2011
I teach both the Iliad and the Odyssey at the high-school level, and I use the Lattimore translations for both. No one preserves the stately dactylic hexameter verse as he does. Lattimore also preserves the (yes, formulaic) xenia scenes and epithets.
Now let me say why I prefer this translation to all others. It's just mind-bendingly beautiful. Homer should NOT be trivialized or "vernacularized" - the reader should be able to immerse himself in the culture, to hear the voice of the singer, and to know the workings of the mind of "the man of many ways." This translation allows that.
I read another review concerning the reader's discovery that Odysseus was a horrible rapist and war-monger. Well, such were the times - he was a soldier returning from 10 years of rape, pillage, and plunder of the Trojans and their allies. Hence, the seemingly-random attack on the Kikonians. But it wasn't random - they were Trojan allies and fair game. Odysseus doesn't always behave well, according to our standards, but he is the perfect product of a superlative storyteller.
86 of 99 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2001
This Lattimore translation of "The Odyssey" was the first book I read last quarter for my Comparative Literature class, and it became a preview of coming wonders. I had neglected the old classics out of ignorance and prejudice (these two tend to go together) and "The Odyssey" was one of those books that forced me to look at an entire collection of genres and literary epochs in a different, far more positive way. I do not know Greek, therefore I cannot say whether the translation is absolutely faithful to the original, but it flows well when read silently and it sounds even better when I read it aloud, alone at night. This is the story of Odysseus, King of Ithaka, Captain of the Greeks, who must return to his homeland and his family after helping defeat the Trojans. Amazingly enough, many people seem to have bought entirely into the idea of Odysseus as a noble, courageous, and honorable leader of men who gets sidetracked solely because of the wrath of Poseidon. I finished this poem with an entirely different view of its protagonist. To me, Odysseus was an arrogant liar, a murderer and a rapist who did not hesitate to attack people who were not his enemies (the Kikonians on his way back after sacking Troy and killing and/or enslaving most of its people, as reads in Book IX, page 138), and who did not hesitate to endanger the lives of his men just to boast of his deeds (same Book, page 150). This "hero" eventually makes it to Ithaka and ends up drenched in the blood of the suitors of his wife, ordering the torture and death of the serving women who had become lovers of the suitors. His son Telemachos becomes a murderer as well: he kills a man by stabbing him on the back with a javelin. Since the suitors represented the youth of Ithaka's noble families, Odysseus has arranged to create a blood feud with everyone on the island. Only the intervention of Athena will save the day, and after all the bloodshed, all the lies, the pillaging, and the murders, he leaves Ithaka and Penelope once more to wander in other lands and thus follow a prophecy regarding his own death.
"The Odyssey" is a great poem. It is never boring and only after reading it complete one understands how little the film and TV productions kept of the original work, and how poorly we have been served with such adaptations. My reading of this timeless classic is rather different to that of other people who may have much better qualifications in this area. What I got out of it was the impression that Homer, whomever he was, used irony to drive home a message regarding his "hero," and this irony, together with the folklore that surrounded the Trojan War and its participants, helped Euripides, by the Fifth century BC, paint a far more direct and damaging picture of the Greek victors in his "Trojan Women."
I now consider "The Odyssey" necessary reading. Even if you read it and arrive to a different understanding of the poem, I think it will be an extremely valuable experience.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2009
Overall, the best translation available -- here presented in a new approach with Reading Group questions at the end. I am not sure how many reading groups are going to read The Odyssey, and most of those reading, either for solitary pleasure or in a classroom setting where better questions are going to be discussed make the past few pages really somewhat worthless -- but overall, this is the finest translation you can get. If you read this in High School and haven't picked it up in 20 years, take the leap -- and enjoy reading it in a way you never recalled while in HS....complement this with the authors translation of The Illiad and you have a summer of reading ahead of you.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2007
Since reading Lattimore's translation of the Odyssey this past summer, I haven't been able to read ANYTHING ELSE with the same interest and enthusiasm. Homer's Odyssey needs no endorsement from me. It sits at the very heart and genesis of the Western literary tradition and will forever continue to do so. If you haven't read the Odyssey, you should: it's an important part of our human heritage. It's also incredibly fascinating for its age. Almost three thousand years old now, the Odyssey transports you into another strangely foreign time, imagination, and culture.
The Odyssey is also a compelling narrative in its own right. It's simply an amazing and beautiful story, and this is certainly what accounts for its continued influence throughout history. The prose, beautifully and faithfully rendered in this edition by Lattimore, are captivating and rythmically satisfying. The world is rich, awe-inspiring, but not over-indulgently described. Odysseus is a hero in the truest sense of the word. Everything you want is there but not in over-abundance. The Odyssey is just sparse enough to leave you yearning for more, which is why I haven't been able to read much else lately. I figure Lattimore's translation of the Illiad is my next stop. I'll let you know how that goes.
44 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2003
When I was a younger lad, I bought Richard Lattimore's translation, which is a grandiose bore. Then I had the good fortune to read Mandelbaum's Aeneid, which shines. This brought me to Mandelbaum's Odyssey. And it is the ideal Odyssey for scholarship and pleasure:
-The language is simple and strong. Mandelbaum knows his job--he tells the story simply and brings the ancient genius of Homer through with vigor and clarity. Occasionally Mandelbaum goes on a stint of rhyme and that's distracting, but overall the translation is beautiful.
-There's a well-drawn map of Ancient Greece in the beginning that really sets the scene for the wild sea adventures.
-One of the complaints I often hear about epics is that the many characters are difficult to keep straight. Mandelbaum solves this by giving us a comprehensive glossary in the back of the book that explains who everyone is and lists the page numbers of where they occur in the book.
-Another thing makes this a swift read is that, at the beginning of each book, Mandelbaum gives a quick summary of what's about to happen (a fantastic feature for reference and review).
Thus, with the book summaries, the glossary, and the map, you always know where you are in the epic--so while Odysseus wanders, you are never lost.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2005
That is the question which most non-specialists will be asking themselves as they go through these reviews. After reading Lattimore's translation, I would have to say they could do worse than choosing this one.
This version of Homer's Odyssey tries to stay true to the original, allowing those of us that do not speak Homeric greek to catch a glimpse of the true structure of the poem.
Some will say that Lattimore's literalness makes for dull reading. Not so. I feel it preserves the raw beauty of a three thousand year old poem, in which base, fundamentally human, emotional states are explored.
Modern moral standards should in no way be used to mask, by means of saccharine lyricism, the power, indeed brutality, of many of the scenes described by Homer.
Overall, a great book.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The Trojan War is over and one of our hero kings is lost. His son (Telemachus) travels to find any information about his father's fait. His wife (Penelope) must cunningly hold off suitors that are eating them out of house and home.
If he ever makes it home, Odysseus will have to detect those servants loyal from those who are not. One absent king against rows of suitors; how will he give them their just deserts? We look to Bright Eyed Pallas Athena to help prophecy come true.
Interestingly all the tales of monsters and gods on the sea voyage was told by Odysseus. Notice that no one else survives to tell the tale. Therefore, we have to rely on Odysseus' word.
Many movies took sections of The Odyssey, and expanded them to make interesting stories those selves.
Not just the story but also the way in which it is told will keep you up late at night reading.
Troy (Two-Disc Widescreen Edition)
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2005
It's been three thousand years since the time of Homer, but we still read his works for two reasons: incredible storytelling and human nature. I've read a lot in my time, but to me The Illiad and The Odyssey are the best our civilization has to offer, surpassing Dante, surpassing Shakespeare. And similar to these two, Homer still teaches us about life even today.
I think we've all been Telemachus at one point or another: awkward, self-conscious and feeling slightly adrift in the face of life. Likewise, I believe Odysseus represents many ideals even for today's world. Through the Odyssey he displays a somewhat paradoxical nature, at one time a reckless braggart, then again a calculating trickster. But in the end he exhibits faith, loyalty, honor and a sense of family which trumps all else. He relied on his brains as much as his strength, when without either he would have died several times over. The Odyssey can be pretty funny at times as well. I get the sense I'm reading a sitcom whenever a suitor throws a stool across the room or a drunk falls off Circe's roof. Bizarre! Those types of actions are a little part of what makes this book so human.
Lattimore won me over with this translation; it is a credit to his career. Read this book young, but not too young. It will help you along. The internal growth Achilles experienced in Book 9 of the Iliad wasn't on display fully then, but those inward qualities do take the fore for Odysseus. One last thing I've noticed about Homer is that paralells occur often, and some events seem cyclical or complimentry. Without getting too specific and ruining it for you, I would say that the ending the Epic cycle (the story of the Trojan war) matches up appropiately with its beginning. I like to pretend the Odyssey's follow-up - Eugamon's 'Telegony' - never happened.