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by Robert Fagles,Bernard Knox,Homer

The great epic of Western literature, translated by the acclaimed classicist Robert Fagles   Robert Fagles, winner of the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and a 1996 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, presents us with Homer's best-loved and most accessible poem in a stunning modern-verse translation. "Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy." So begins Robert Fagles' magnificent translation of the Odyssey, which Jasper Griffin in the New York Times Book Review hails as "a distinguished achievement." If the Iliad is the world's greatest war epic, the Odyssey is literature's grandest evocation of an everyman's journey through life. Odysseus' reliance on his wit and wiliness for survival in his encounters with divine and natural forces during his ten-year voyage home to Ithaca after the Trojan War is at once a timeless human story and an individual test of moral endurance. In the myths and legends  retold here, Fagles has captured the energy and poetry of Homer's original in a bold, contemporary idiom, and given us an Odyssey to read aloud, to savor, and to treasure for its sheer lyrical mastery. Renowned classicist Bernard Knox's superb introduction and textual commentary provide insightful background information for the general reader and scholar alike, intensifying the strength of Fagles's translation. This is an Odyssey to delight both the classicist and the general reader, to captivate a new generation of Homer's students. This Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition features French flaps and deckle-edged paper.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Download The Odyssey epub
ISBN: 0140268863
ISBN13: 978-0140268867
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Poetry
Author: Robert Fagles,Bernard Knox,Homer
Language: English
Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (November 29, 1999)
Pages: 560 pages
ePUB size: 1722 kb
FB2 size: 1952 kb
Rating: 4.8
Votes: 716
Other Formats: mbr lrf txt rtf

I have read and taught the Odyssey at least five times over the past twenty years. And Emily Wilson's version is a godsend. It is, by far, the most readable version out there. It never strains to be "epic" the way so many translations do. Instead, she uses today's English while also hewing faithfully to the unrhymed iambic pentameter that Shakespeare, Milton, and Wordsworth established as the epic form in English poetry. The result is a perfect blend between an Odyssey for today's reader and a "poetic" narrative. I read it all in three sittings because I couldn't put it down. Who would have thought someone could turn the Odyssey into a page turner? I can't wait to try out this new translation on my students. Hats off to Emily Wilson!
NOTE: This review is for Emily Wilson's translation of the Odyssey. A computer glitch seems to be including reviews for other translations and the Iliad on this page.

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.
REVISED 11/07/16: Homer's ILIAD should be read by every literate person who strives to be well-educated, and Caroline Alexander's 2015, modern translation is an excellent way to read it. It is sound, solid, clear and direct, and respectful of Homer's original. Her English syntax is natural and flowing, understandable but not (as in some other recent, modern versions) flippant or too colloquial. I rate the translation 5-stars, though I was initially tempted to rate this ebook edition of it at least one star lower because of its formatting.

As very good as Alexander's translation is, this ebook edition doesn't do it justice with regard to its textual formatting. Between indents and long-line carry-overs, the left margin unevenly zig-zags in-and-out on a Kindle screen. Just when I thought I had it figured out some double-indents appeared to add to the confusion. Sadly, downloading a sample won't reveal this; the sample will only provide pages from the Introduction, whose modern prose is quite properly and comfortably presented. It is the poetry of the ILIAD itself whose indented lines are so annoyingly erratic, and this will only be evident to those who actually purchase it and read beyond the sample. Interestingly, in the very first few screens of this ebook (which do appear in the sample), a note from the publisher appears concerning this matter, apparently recognizing it as a possible source of confusion but essentially saying (in effect) that's how it is on a small-screen device, it's the nature of the beast, and readers must try to get used to it. And so I am trying, mollified somewhat by the fact that I paid only $.99 for it -- rather than $14.99 (its original price) -- during a special sales-promotion period. But more importantly, I have since discovered the formatting is IDEAL if the text is viewed in wider-screen, landscape mode on one's Kindle device. If you are able to make that adjustment (something my Kindle Paperwhite could not do until the last upgrade), the formatting problem is virtually solved and the long lines appear comfortably normal.

I have read dozens of different translations of the ILIAD, and though I find Alexander's translation to be highly commendable, there ARE other great ones available (even one or two good FREE ones), many of them identified under FYI at the end of this review. Nevertheless, because this one is particularly well-done and desirable, you may even wish to obtain a hardcovered ($39.99) or paperback ($19.99) edition of it as a "keeper copy." (I intend to seek a less expensive used copy.)

There have been numerous translations of the ILIAD in recent years, but while I suspect in time many of them will fall by the wayside, this one may not. Caroline Alexander's stands a good chance to remain, not only because it is THE best among most recent ones, but because it is ONE of the best among ALL translations of the ILIAD. But great though it is, it will survive in the economic marketplace only if it is competitively priced with those others. Happily, its ebook price has come down from $14.99 to $12.99 and more recently to $8.99 (making it a strong contender).

Caroline Alexander is also the author of THE WAR THAT KILLED ACHILLES: THE TRUE STORY OF HOMER'S "ILIAD" AND THE TROJAN WAR (Viking Penguin, 2009). Those who enjoy her ILIAD may wish to read it.

FYI: The first translation of the ILIAD was by George Chapman (1611), a formal and majestic Elizabethan English version in verse that is of interest today mainly in connection to its role in literary history. Two, free, public domain versions by Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley Derby (1862) and by Theodore Alois Buckley (1873) are pretty unpleasant to read; skip them. It's probably best to also steer clear of one by William Cowper (1791). Two old translations that remain popular, are easy to obtain in public domain editions, and ARE worth reading are by Alexander Pope (1715-20, in verse) and Samuel Butler (1898, in very readable prose). A once highly regarded one by Andrew Lang, Walter Leaf, and Ernest Myers (1883) was used by the Modern Library until replaced by Ennis Rees' wonderful translation (1963), my favorite. The best ILIAD translation is arguably by Richmond Lattimore (1951) with Robert Fitzgerald's (1974) being a strong contender for second-best. A 1938 one by W.H.D. Rouse is serviceable and generally okay. Likewise, Robert Graves offers a novelized version (1959) that is very readable but not a strict translation. Three excellent newer ones are by Robert Fagles (1990), Peter Jones (a superb 2003 revision of E.V. Rieu's popular 1950 version), and this one by Caroline Alexander (2015). Peter Green's highly literate translation (2015) is technically excellent but not as readable as the three just mentioned. Several other good, recent ones are by Michael Reck (1994, but now hard-to-find), Ian Johnston (2006), and A.S. Kline (2009). Three recent ones that I don't particularly care for are by Stephen Mitchell (2011, who omits too much textual content), Stanley Lombardo (1997), and Barry B. Powell (2013). These are just SOME of the other translations available.