Marcus's Reviews > The Odyssey

The Odyssey by Homer
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's review
Jan 09, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: canon, classics
Read in July, 2009

After reading The Iliad a couple years back, my hopes for enjoying Homer were not high. The battles and genealogies of The Iliad were interesting, but it felt more like reading history than fiction. It turned out my fears that The Odyssey would be the same were unfounded. The Odyssey, and its hero Odysseus, quickly slashed their way through the fray and became one of my all-time favorite books.

The Odyssey is, in part, the story of the hero Odysseus, a man so driven by love for his wife, his son and his homeland that he is willing to face his fears and brave any danger to be reunited with them.

The Greek's idea of a hero was a little strange. Odysseus is, like many modern heroes, brave, passionate and adventurous. He is not, however, the type of guy you want your kids to emulate. In war, he breaks every rule of the Geneva Convention and a few that aren't included just for fun. He is merciless to his enemies. He is a practiced liar. Any time he deems it convenient, he weaves tales that even the wisest find credulous. He the reason for the axiom "keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Despite this, he a tremendously real character, one you can love and empathize with and one to learn from.

I found the Greek's relationship to the gods to be fascinating and, in a strange way, appealing. From a Christian perspective I've always thought of God as completely rational, loving, all-knowing and inerrant. Christians aspire to be like God, but because He is perfect, we don't expect to fully comprehend his nature. The gods of the Greeks were incomprehensible as well, but in the way that any one human is not completely comprehensible to another. The Greeks revered their gods out of an overt fear of their power rather than the unquestioning worship of Christians for an omnipotent, perfect being. For the Greeks, fraternizing with, negotiating with or even defying a god was acceptable if you knew how to do it and understood the risks. It was a more familiar way of confronting the inexplicable.

The language of The Odyssey is just beautiful. The repetition and cadence are mesmerizing. The metaphors are powerful and memorable, and for a book written so long ago it is amazingly accessible. After enjoying it so much I'm looking forward to going back and giving The Iliad another read. I think I'll be able to appreciate it a lot more now.
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Comments (showing 1-1)

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Seth enjoyed your review. the god comparison is fantastic! also, your insight into wiliness as a virtue and vice are very thought provoking. great review.

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