Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog)'s Reviews > The Odyssey

The Odyssey by Homer
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's review
Jul 01, 2013

it was amazing
Read from March 12 to July 01, 2013

Here we are again! Having read Chapman's Odyssey, it was soon clear that Richmond Lattimore's more clear, muscular-seeming but sometimes surprisingly understated verse would not be aiming for the elegant rhyming form I had become familiar with (if with difficulty, and I suspect, because I read rather quickly, not always digesting all that was said). But I don't think this is at all laziness on Lattimore's part (part of the praise for his translation is for fidelity), because the almost prose-like directness in setting the scenes effortlessly gives way to strong, dramatic speech (somewhat reminiscent of the tragedies of Aeschylus which were to come later, and which I believe Lattimore has also translated) that is able to convey the diverse but consistent personalities of those speaking (I especially like how Athena comes across, and the subtle way the suitors' boorish bravado, threats and coercions are put at odds with their public appeals to tradition) while maintaining a calm authority over the ebb and flow both within the gatherings and interactions depicted, and vicariously the poem at large.

So far, all this looks like it should make Matthew Arnold with his lecture On Translating Homer very happy. I've yet to reach much action here however, and from what I gather (not having read the Iliad), Arnold's analysis shouldn't be too readily or wholly extended to the Odyssey, because it is fundamentally a journey rather than a war (as the name retroactively suggests), and what it asks from a translator differs somewhat accordingly.

The ease with which I've come a sixth of the way is certainly encouraging, and the odd sentence breaks are easy enough to get used to. I'll expand this review once I've finished and address Homer's narrative then.

This Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition on paperback cost me a mere $5, for which the paper quality and print lettering are satisfactory, and the cover design attractive. Unfortunately, I found after some searching that Lattimore's translation of the Iliad is not available at similar expense through the imprint.

Maybe next year, if I can get my hands on them, I'll have a chance to sample the offerings from Pope, Fitzgerald and Shewring and offer further comparison.

-Await review-
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Reading Progress

03/16/2013 "At least in part, it must be his integrity as an epic poet which has caused Homer's name and work to endure. There's neither a condoning slant nor a condemning one when it comes to his examinations of social order, and though personal virtues are praised, there is seldom an easing of the odds thanks to them." 1 comment
03/22/2013 "As readers we've become in general too used to the consolations of the novel." 2 comments
03/25/2013 "The Odyssey is pretty funny in context. Helen basically pleads temporary insanity in the most ingratiating but nonchalant way possible when Telemachos and Nestor's son (whose name I keep messing up trying to spell- Peisistratos?) attend audience with her and Menelaus."
03/25/2013 "Similarly, in the broad view of Homer's epics and the attitudes there contained as reflections of what was well regarded in classical civilisation, you can note a shift in balance after Socrates (and to a lesser extent Plato; all of it mirrored in post-Pythagorean effects). How much control do we have? Homer makes the dilemma between the intrinsic and chance; Socrates questions; Aristotle cautiously reasserts."
03/26/2013 "From Tennyson's Ulysses and Pound's first Canto, Homer's human themes here keep reappearing..." 6 comments
03/26/2013 "Surprisingly, in the Penelope parts Lattimore makes her just as pitiable as Chapman did. I expected these to be... colder somehow, in this translation."
03/27/2013 "Sometimes I like the flourishes Chapman adds, though in less stately descriptions these can feel slightly forced.


'Aurora rose from high-born Tithon's bed,
That men and Gods might be illustrated,
And then the Deities sat. Imperial Jove,
That makes the horrid murmur beat above,
Took place past all, whose height for ever springs,
And from whom flows th' eternal power of things.'

- Book V, Chapman"
03/27/2013 "...


'Now Dawn rose from her bed, where she lay by haughty Tithonos,
Carrying light to the immortal gods and to mortals,
and the gods came in and took their places in session, and among them
Zeus who thunders on high, and it is his power that is greatest,'

- Book V, Lattimore
(same part at the beginning excerpted)"
04/16/2013 "For whatever reason, I have this image of Athena as Nagato Yuki from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Again, they need to seriously consider an anime adaptation for this."
05/24/2013 "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDA708..."
07/01/2013 marked as: read

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midnightfaerie Finished the Iliad last year. Have yet to get to the Odyssey.

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