254 of 266 people found the following review helpful
A nearly perfect conjunction of elements
, September 8, 2001
This review is from: The Odyssey (Paperback)
Fagle's translation of THE ODYSSEY in the Penguin edition is an almost perfect act of publishing. The translation itself manages to be enormously readable, highly poetic, and extremely accurate, all at the same time. The Introduction by Bernard Knox should serve as a model for all scholars who are called upon to write critical introductions for classic works of literature. And the book design is is extraordinary; this edition of Homer's classic is easily one of the most attractive paperback books in my library. I had read this once before in translation (in the old Rieu version), and then later translated much of it in a second year Greek class. But in neither instance did I enjoy it as much as reading the Fagles's translation.
Aristotle did not think that people should study philosophy too early in life, and perhaps that is also true of reading Homer. Part of me feels that we make a mistake in our education systems by making students read THE ODYSSEY before they are in a position to appreciate it. If one looks through the reviews here, a very large number of very negative reviews by a lot of high school students can be found. I find this unfortunate. In part I regret that we are forcing younger readers to read this book before they have fully matured as readers. Perhaps the book and the students themselves would be better served if we allowed them time to grow a bit more as readers before asking them to tackle Homer.
THE ODYSSEY is so enormously enjoyable (at least for this adult reader) that it is easy to forget just how very old it is. What impresses me is how readable it is, despite its age. There are very, very few widely read works older than THE ILIAD and THE ODYSSEY. And the gap between how entertaining these works are and those that come before them is gigantic. Try reading THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH or even THE HESIOD and then turning to THE ODYSSEY, and one can grasp my point. This is a very, very old work of literature, but it wears its age lightly. In the end, the greatest praise one can pay THE ODYSSEY is the fact that it can be read for fun, and not just because it is a classic.
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