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Odysseus: A Life

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  72 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
Now in paperback, an informative and entertaining "biography" of Odysseus by an acclaimed classicist. Odysseus, the fictional Bronze Age hero, is an extraordinary figure who has captured our imagination over the millennia from culture to culture. But until now, he has never been the subject of a "biography," in which his life is set out from beginning to end. In this remar ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 16th 2005 by Hachette Books (first published January 1st 2004)
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anthony e.
In what is basically a faux-biography of the Homeric hero Odysseus, this book is a fun, clever little exercise, but severely lacking in multiple ways. For starters, Beye does a really shabby job of integrating The Iliad and The Odyssey, choosing to portray the latter as essentially the figment of fevered minds or some such. In fact, all of Beye's "explanations" for the fantastic events of these stories are really flimsy, and miss the most credible means of explanation. Also, when faced with act ...more
James (JD) Dittes
How do you write a biography of a hero like Odysseus (or Beowulf or Abraham, for that matter)? Beye uses the few ancient sources we have, and intermingles some of his own cultural and psychological insights to fill in some of the gaps of the Odysseus saga.

Having taught The Odyssey dozens of times to my 9th-grade students, I felt that a lot of the ground wasn't new. I wish there had been more of a focus--connecting saga to archaeology, psychological insights, religion, etc.

Beye was also hamstrung
clever book. written in style that mixes scholarly speech with apt and prosy storytelling, Beye revives Odysseus's tale in unexpected and interesting ways.

his insights are interesting and funny and sometimes even lewd. he pulls no punches: Odysseus is portrayed as an egotistical, womanizing, unhandsome, wanderer and man of his age who succeeds because he is Heroic not because he is heroic in our modern sense but because he has the favor of Athena and the wits to know it and use it.
Aug 19, 2008 Stewart rated it really liked it
Written as a biography, this 2004 book looks at the fictional character Odysseus, using a variety of sources such as "The Iliad," "The Odyssey," several plays of Sophocles, other ancient Greek epic tales, and background on Bronze Age Greece. Charles Rowan Beye is a professor of Classics at City University of New York. He also taught at Stanford and Yale. Giving the cultural context to "the man of many turns" is what makes this book so valuable and enjoyable.
Adam Geisler
Aug 12, 2013 Adam Geisler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a creative attempt at a biography of this heroic, and likely fictional, character. There were some indulgences that Beye took in his narrative descriptions of Odysseus' adventures. However, the author used actual Greek history to inform the locations and events of the Homeric epics. It has served as a valuable reference to my ancient Greece unit.
What do you call a biography of a (possibly) fictional character? Fiction? Non-fiction. I've gone with non-fiction, because this isn't a novel or a story. This book covers Odysseus' entire life, from birth right through the Trojan War and his wanderings in the Mediterranean. It's very well-written, although it does have a tendency to be a bit simplistic.
Sep 20, 2007 pianogal rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having read "The Odyssey" so young (4th or 5th grade), I thought maybe I should give it a try again to see what I missed. I just read this book instead, but have to say that I didn't miss anything. I get that Odysseus went on an epic voyage, but it just doesn't interest me. Sorry.
Feb 06, 2008 Childrens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ok so maybe it was because I was sailing in the greek isles at the time, but I thought this book was really entertaining and droll. I almost had to re-read the odyssey-but I resisted.
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