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The Odyssey Paperback – November 5, 1998

160 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A masterpiece . . . An Odyssey worthy of the original. (William Arrowsmith, The Nation)

Here there is no anxious straining after mighty effects, but rather a constant readiness for what the occasion demands, a kind of Odyssean adequacy to the task in hand. (Seamus Heaney)

About the Author

Robert Fitzgerald's versions of the Iliad, the Aeneid, and the Oedipus cycle of Sophocles (with Dudley Fitts) are also classics. At his death, in 1988, he was Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 515 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (November 5, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374525749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374525743
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

112 of 115 people found the following review helpful By D. Roberts VINE VOICE on February 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Robert Fitzgerald's translations are among my favorites. While it is virtually impossible to translate Dactylic Hexameter into English, Fitzgerald still captures much of the power and majesty of Homer in his translation. Now, it is conceded that the Odyssey is technically inferior to the Iliad. It is for this reason that the majority of Homeric scholars believe he wrote the Odyssey first, THEN the Iliad. In any case, the Odyssey is still an awesome piece of literature and has enjoyed an enormous influence over all of western thought for close to 3,000 years. It is dubious to believe too many of today's poets / authors will still be remembered 2,500+ years from now. As always with classic literature, I would admonish anyone interested in reading the Odyssey to first consult everything that has gone before, such as the Judgment of paris & the Iliad, etc. The tale will make SO MUCH more sense that way. As one can see by the negative reviews to this work, Homer is not for those who are only interested in instant gratification. If you cannot get interested in a book which may take you a month to read & a lifetime to truly understand, Homer is not for you. On the other hand, if you're really intrigued by Greek mythology, history or literature, this book is an ABSOLUTE must. It is one of the great cornerstones of all western literature. I am quite certain that people will still be reading Homer 3,000 years from now.
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93 of 101 people found the following review helpful By M. H. Bayliss on May 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
Just because it's by some guy named Homer and it's "classic" doesn't mean it's unreadable. Quite to the contrary, the Odyssey is one of the most readable ancient works around because so many of the stories (the Cyclops, Scylla and Charbydis, Circe, Penelope) have become part of the very fabric of our Western culture. Even Eric Clapton sings of Homer in "Tales of Brave Ulysses" in the old song by Cream! There's an allusion for you. Surprisingly, most of my honors 9th grade students adored the Odyssey and found it easy going. The Iliad is harder because it's more of a war book, while the Odyssey is much more of an adventure poem. You won't find the same technical level of poetry in the Odyssey (few of the those great epic similies) as you do in the Iliad, but it is the much more accessible work of the two. Great background reading for both kids and adults is the D'Aulair's Greek Mythology which is written for kids, but helpful for adults as well. I do like Fitzgerald's translation, but I"m still partial to the Lattimore for its proximity to the Greek. Most readers will find Fitzgerald easier, but once you've enjoyed it, give the Lattimore a try -- it's the closest you can come to hearing the poem in Greek.
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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful By oh_pete on October 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Robert Fitzgerald's poetic translation of Homer's ODYSSEY simply picked me up and carried me away when I first read it in the tenth grade. I did not expect something written thousands of years ago to have such colorful language and vivid images. Nor did I expect it to surpass anything I had read before as the greatest story ever told. Very few works have even matched it in my last 15 years of reading.
THE ODYSSEY is the prototypical journey tale of world literature. After ten years fighting and helping the Greeks win the Trojan War, Odysseus, King of Ithaka, offends the sea god Poseidon and is doomed to another ten years of wandering before being able to return to his wife, son, and homeland. He meets all manner of deadly obstacles and pleasant diversions along the way, but always in his mind is the desire for home. Virtually everything is in THE ODYSSEY: a son's coming-of-age without his father, a hero's escape from giant whirlpools, sexy sorceresses and the angry wine-dark sea, the most faithful wife in the history of literature, and that's just for starters.
Fitzgerald imposes no stylistic or rhythmic roadblocks, on the contrary, his poetry is smooth and his gift for bring us all the color and music of Homer is rich and deft. In my book, only Shakespeare and Tolstoy are in the same class as Homer, but the ancient one should be experienced first. Read THE ODYSSEY before or after THE ILIAD, but read it and enjoy.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Strauss on June 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
I here consider not the story of the Odyssey itself, accounts of which abound, but rather Robert Fitzgerald's 1961 translation. Unlike recent more literal translations of the Odyssey such as Richmond Lattimore's (1962) and Albert Cook's (1967), which seek to reflect the original Greek with strict fidelity, Fitzgerald's does not confine itself to mirroring the Homeric line in syntax or parts of speech. Instead, he renders the verse of the Odyssey--which in the Greek averages roughly sixteen syllables per line--into English lines of ten or eleven syllables. His shorter line of course results in lengthening each of the original's twenty-four books. In the Greek, Book I, for example, consists of 444 lines; in Fitzgerald's version, 500 lines. He translates the first two lines of Greek into five lines of English; here the single Greek word polytropon, "much-turned" or "of many ways," becomes the rather full phrase "skilled in all ways of contending." This syntactically loose approach, while inconveniencing those readers curious enough to compare his version against a Greek text, allows Fitzgerald to amplify the original where he sees fit (though by no means to the extent of early translators like George Chapman and Alexander Pope) and to display here and there a poetical flourish not contained in the original.

Fitzgerald's liberality with the line extends to his choices with character epithets. At times they drop out of his version altogether - and these omissions occasionally conceal the subtlety of the original poem's design - but more often than not he deals with a commonly repeated epithet by varying his phrases, which helps to show the manifold nature of the Greek adjectives but may also lead Greek-less readers to think the original more manifold than is actually the case.
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