The Odyssey by Homer


The Odyssey by Homer (translated by Robert Fagles)

Genre: Classics
Page #: 541
Published in: 1997
Publisher: Penguin Classics

Rating: [4/5]

Official Synopsis:

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 Review of Books hails as “a distinguished achievement.”

If the Iliad is the world’s greatest war epic, then the Odyssey is literature’s grandest evocation of everyman’s journey though 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 that are 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 new insights and background information for the general reader and scholar alike, intensifying the strength of Fagles’ translation.

This is an Odyssey to delight both the classicist and the public at large, and to captivate a new generation of Homer’s students.

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 new modern-verse translation.

My Review:

The first time I read The Odyssey, I was in high school. And I hated it. So when I found out I had to read it again for my World Literature class, I was less than excited. However, I found that I enjoyed it much better the second time because I was reading a different translation.

Let me tell you that the translation makes all the difference. I won’t get in to translation theory in my review because that’s a whole other can of worms, but please trust that the Fagles translation is better than the Fitzgerald edition.

I really enjoy the characters in this book. Odysseus is smart, cunning, and so obtusely prideful sometimes. It’s kind of hilarious how many problems he causes for himself. Penelope is my favorite, though. She is simply wonderful, and she has to put up with so much nonsense from everyone.

It can be a little difficult to read from a modern perspective, though. Especially when it comes to the double standards between Odysseus and Penelope. I literally wrote about what a dog Odysseus is in the margins of my book. But because it’s such a culturally significant work of literature, I would recommend reading The Odyssey for a better understanding of culture in general.