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The Odyssey Paperback – Deckle Edge, November 29, 1999
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"[Fitzgerald's" Odyssey" and "Iliad"] open up once more the unique greatness of Homer's art at the level above the formula; yet at the same time they do not neglect the brilliant texture of Homeric verse at the level of the line and the phrase." -"The Yale Review "
"[In] Robert Fitzgerald's translation . . . 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, and this line-by-line vigilance builds up into a completely credible imagined world."
-from the Introduction by Seamus Heaney
About the Author
In the Iliad Homer sang of death and glory, of a few days in the struggle between the Greeks and the Trojans. Mortal men played out their fate under the gaze of the gods. The Odyssey is the original collection of tall traveller’s tales. Odysseus, on his way home from the Trojan War, encounters all kinds of marvels from one-eyed giants to witches and beautiful temptresses. His adventures are many and memorable before he gets back to Ithaca and his faithful wife Penelope. We can never be certain that both these stories belonged to Homer. In fact ‘Homer’ may not be a real name but a kind of nickname meaning perhaps ‘the hostage’ or ‘the blind one’. Whatever the truth of their origin, the two stories, developed around three thousand years ago, may well still be read in three thousand years’ time.Robert Fagles (1933-2008) was Arthur W. Marks ’19 Professor of Comparative Literature, Emeritus, at Princeton University. He was the recipient of the 1997 PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and a 1996 Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His translations include Sophocles’s Three Theban Plays, Aeschylus’s Oresteia (nominated for a National Book Award), Homer’s Iliad (winner of the 1991 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award by The Academy of American Poets), Homer’s Odyssey, and Virgil's Aeneid.
Bernard Knox (1914-2010) was Director Emeritus of Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. He taught at Yale University for many years. Among his numerous honors are awards from the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His works include The Heroic Temper: Studies in Sophoclean Tragedy, Oedipus at Thebes: Sophocles’ Tragic Hero and His Time and Essays Ancient and Modern (awarded the 1989 PEN/Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award).
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Otherwise lost in this age I decided to go back to the beginning, and like our hero depart this never never land the nymph Calypso tells me I am in where all is beautiful and there is no mortality. Ulysses knows who he is and leaves, preferring humanity.
In contrast we are unmoored from all we have been before. We have no epic mythology that tells us who we are. Instead we are informed by the cyclops television, desktop computer or smart phone. How reliable are the stories these things tell live by?
What I learned from Ulysses was I had the power to sharpen a stick and poke these monsters in the eye. Then set sail for Ithaca.
An example of this takes place in the Odyssey where the local royalty have gathered amid what was then considered finery. After dining at a banquet they first hear a bard and then Odysseus recite a lay. The reader is supposed to be almost vicariously present—in a corner of the royal hall enraptured by the telling of the myths and legends of Ancient Greece.
As much as any translation can bring about such an effect, Robert Fagles does successfully teleport the reader back to Ithaca and its surrounds. We get to listen to the bard recounting the oft-told stories of the wanderings of Odysseus. The particular stylistic techniques which make this such a successful translation can be found in Fagles’s postscript but, even without a sophisticated appreciation, it is hard to think of an edition that captures the attention of readers more than this one.
With the classics under increasing assault in modern day curricula due to lack of interest, having a translation that avoids archaism without sacrificing narrative power is almost a must. I am by no means the first to realize Fagles’s ingenuity. But hopefully enough people with similar opinions will prevail and young readers can be introduced to this classic of Western civilization in an edition that doesn’t bore them.
Given the many entertainment options proliferating in the twenty-first century this is by no means an easy task. But I think Fagles has met it. Strong recommendation for those seeking a popular but still intelligent edition.
I deducted one star mainly because the physical layout of the book makes it a bit of a chore to consume. The font is too small, there are no line breaks between paragraphs, e.g.no white space, and the page headers do not include the Book numbers.
The style of writing lends to the length of the story for every cloak, manner of weapon, goblet,cup and even a door key is described in meticulous detail while numerous recounting of tales,already told are retold in their entirety making the book much longer than was necessary. Neptune,Saturn,Mercury,all make cameo appearances as themselves with minor godly roles of Minerva and friends show up at just the right moment-not necessarily to save the day but just keep things interesting. In short---tis a silly thing.
Top international reviews
E V Rieu's translation https://www.amazon.co.uk/Odyssey-Penguin-Classics-Homer-ebook/dp/B003P9XDA2 Written in prose form with line numbers, not as many extras as the other translation but I story easy to follow and an enjoyable read.
Walter Shewring's translation https://www.amazon.co.uk/Odyssey-Oxford-Worlds-Classics-ebook/dp/B005OQGCF Written in Prose form, like Rieu's translation not packed with too many extras, I liked the lengthy essay of the historical journey of translating Homer
Robert Fagles translation https://www.amazon.co.uk/Odyssey-Penguin-Classics-Deluxe-ebook/dp/B000OCXGRS Written in poetry form, a wonderful read and packed with loads of extras.
Emily Wilson's translation https://www.amazon.co.uk/Odyssey-Homer-ebook/dp/B06XKNHGN1 to read soon
1. Telemachus crying about his missing father; Penelope crying about her missing husband
2. Odysseus telling stories, some of which are his famous adventures only very briefly told, others are simply long fibs to hide his identity
3. Telemachus crying about his missing father; Penelope crying about her missing husband - who is then revealed to have returned!
There are various references to characters and events from The Iliad, as well as a growing tension as Odysseus hides from - then plots - the killing of the suitors who are ruining his home. However, the most famous stories of Odysseus's travels are surprisingly brief.
I choose the translation by Fagles because it appeared the most effective use of English while keeping faithful to the presentation of the original. It's made very clear from reading how this is a story performed as much as sung, with sections possibly performed as standalones - hence a lot of repetition of what has gone on before.
As with The Iliad there are some nice insights into European Iron Age culture, but as a story it's difficult to enjoy as a reading experience because it was never written for that purpose.
"Stranger, you must be a fool, or must have come from very far afield, to preach to me of fear or reverence for the gods. We Cyclops care not a jot for Zeus with his aegis, nor for the rest of the blessed gods, since we are much stronger than they." E.V.Rieu
"Fools that ye are (the savage thus replies,
His inward fury blazing at his eyes),
Or strangers, distant far from our abodes,
To bid me reverence or regard the gods.
Know then we Cyclops are a race above
These air-bred people and their goat-nursed Jove,
And learn, our power proceeds with thee and thine,
Not as he wills, but as ourselves incline." Pope
The Impala edition is a handsome volume, in large, clear type with generous margins.
Read the story and then the DCHR Preface followed by the PVJ Introduction with His analysis of the construction of the 'plot' and why it is arranged in the way that it is.
Finally, I learned that the EVR translation gave us the very first book in the Penguin Classics series. A Really Fine package; you will be glad to own and treasure it. Just do not mislay it, you never know ...!
It is written with a clear english without colloquialisms creeping in that distract from it. Epic in nature it really does seem to bring it all to life - and yes I would say its a page turner! it is one of my favourites. Since it was first published, research has advanced a pace and there are some mis-translations. Few but not in any way detracts are alters the major thrust of the storyline.
Buy it with Peter Jones' commentary and it will set you up with many hours of interesting and involved study. Thoroughly reccommended.
There are lots of name's to remember but once you get over that its incredible to read. Although Odysseus himself is actually a bit of a moaner, he does reflect the whole image of a Greek Hero. Homer is obviously very talented and the stories involved like that of the Cyclops are very clever. Sometimes he does go back on himself though- Homer will say something and suddenly contradict it, which is as confusing as it sounds.
Anyway, I would read this if i were you, it is a classic :)