- Hardcover: 592 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (November 7, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393089053
- ISBN-13: 978-0393089059
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 80 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Odyssey 1st Edition
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“A masterpiece of translation―fluent, elegant, vigorous.”
- Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, University of Cambridge
“Irresistibly readable…turns Homeric epic into a poetic feast.”
- Froma Zeitlin, Princeton University
“A staggeringly superior translation―true, poetic, lively and readable, and always closely engaged with the original Greek―that brings to life the fascinating variety of voices in Homer’s great epic.”
- Richard F. Thomas, Harvard University
“This will surely be the Odyssey of choice for a generation.”
- Lorna Hardwick, The Open University, London
“Emily Wilson has produced a clear, vigorous, sensitive Odyssey that conveys both the grand scale and the individual pathos of this foundational story. This is the most accessible, and yet accurate, translation of Homer’s masterwork that I have ever read.”
- Susan Wise Bauer, author of The History of the Ancient World
“'Each generation must translate for itself,' T. S. Eliot declared. Emily Wilson has convincingly answered this call: hers is a vital Odyssey for the twenty-first century that brings into rhythmic English the power, dignity, variety, and immediacy of this great poem.”
- Laura Slatkin, New York University
“Having a female scholar and translator look with fresh eyes upon one of the foundational myths of Western civilization is nothing short of revolutionary. Emily Wilson’s riveting translation of The Odyssey ripples with excitement and new meaning. This important and timely addition to our understanding of Homer will be enjoyed for generations to come.”
- Aline Ohanesian, author of Orhan’s Inheritance
“Emily Wilson's Odyssey sings with the spare, enchanted lucidity of a minstrel fallen through time. Ever readable but endlessly surprising, this translation redefines the terms of modern engagement with Homer’s poetry.”
- Tim Whitmarsh, author of Battling the Gods
“A remarkable new translation. Poised and unadulterated―a feast for the senses.”
- Daisy Dunn, author of Catullus’ Bedspread
“This is it―a translation of The Odyssey that is 'eminently rapid…plain and direct,' as Matthew Arnold famously described Homer himself. It is also contemporary and exciting. A gift.”
- Barbara Graziosi, author of The Gods of Olympus
About the Author
Emily Wilson is a professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Philadelphia.
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A good intro if you haven't read the Odyssey before. It's clear and direct, more so than other translations. Reading it, you get a sense of pounding, unapologetic simplicity, like that of Greek architecture and sculpture. More than in other translations, the Odyssey comes across here strongly as a historical document, the product of a culture from a particular time and place. For a document written 3,000 years ago, this clarity is no easy task.
But the Odyssey is also a work of poetry; and as a work of art, this is weaker than other translations. It has some of the muscularity of ancient Greece, with a solid rhythm and a steady flow of English monosyllables. Although many lines roll off the tongue, they feel pedestrian. Its opening lines:
"Tell me about a complicated man.
Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost
when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy,
and where he went, and who he met, the pain
he suffered in the storms at sea, and how
he worked to save his life and bring his men
back home. He failed to keep them safe; poor fools,"
The first line may be a great translation, but it's not great English poetry. (And almost interchangeable with "He's a complicated man, but no one understands him but his woman.")
Should a translation of an ancient Greek poem be a great modern English poem in itself? Maybe not, and maybe trying too hard will take us too far from the original. Homer has been translated by major English poets back to Alexander Pope, whose version was called a major English poems by itself. If that's what you're expecting, you may feel let down by many of the word choices here. Compare Wilson's language with that of the opening of Robert Fitzgerald's translation:
"Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy. He saw the townlands
and learned the minds of many distant men,
and weathered many bitter nights and days
in his deep heart at sea, while he fought only
to save his life, to bring his shipmates home.
But not by will nor valor could he save them,"
Wilson's translation is clear and economical. She renders Homer's "polytropos" (in the first line) as "complicated." Fitzgerald translates it as "skilled in all ways of contending," and Fagles as "the man of twists and turns." Both are less clear, but strike me as a more interesting grouping of words and syllables.
Some other nice things about this version: it comes with a long, thoughtful introduction. At 100 pages in the hardback version, it's almost a book by itself. The typesetting is new and beautiful, and a pleasure to read.
I liked the Wilson version and find many aspects of it the best version. But overall I still find the Fitzgerald version the most satisfying. The main reason is that, in comparison to the others, it is best at creating the mood of an ancient, epic, poem. In contrast, Washington Post reviewer Madeline Miller praised Wilson for her "fresh, unpretentious, and lean" language -- exactly why I prefer Fitzgerald who is a bit more gaudy, flowery, and, yes, far from lean. I love it when he repeats, for the nth time, "Son of Laertes and the Gods of old, Odysseus, master of land ways and sea ways..." and other such formulaic hints that we are not reading a James Bond or even a Scott Fitzgerald, nor Salinger, nor McEwan, nor certainly a Hemingway novel -- the content should perhaps be enough to distinguish Odyssey as the great epic it is, but I like the complementing embellishments of Fitzgerald's version.
For a more important difference, compare the climax, as Odysseus is about to slaughter the suitors: Fitzgerald has him say:
"You yellow dogs, you thought I'd never make it
home from the land of Troy. You took my house to plunder,
twisted my maids to serve your beds. You dared
bid for my wife while I was still alive.
Contempt was all you had for the gods who rule wide heaven,
contempt for what men say of you hereafter.
Your last hour has come. You die in blood."
while Wilson's has it:
"Dogs! So you thought I would not come back home
from Troy? And so you fleeced my house, and raped
my slave girls, and you flirted with my wife
while I am still alive! You did not fear
the gods who live in heaven, and you thought
no man would ever come to take revenge.
Now you are trapped inside the snares of death."
Aside from Fitzgerald’s far more poetic language, there is a substantive difference. Wilson focuses on fear: the suitors didn’t fear either the gods, or the vengeance of men. But Fitzgerald focuses on breaking the rules, on disrespecting the mores of their time: the suitors were contemptuous of both the gods, and the opinions of their fellow men. The Odyssey is about many things, including of course homecoming; for me it’s mostly about doing the right thing.
Anyhow, all this is nothing more than IMHO. Read either version, or that of Fagles, you won’t go wrong. It's an all-time great read.
A very controversial word in Greek in the first stanza is rendered as a description of Odysseus as "a complicated man" -- not just shrewd, wily, erratic, often turning -- as others have translated. Bravo Ms. Wilson!
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