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The Odyssey

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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.

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.

541 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 701

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In the Western classical tradition, Homer (Greek: Ὅμηρος) is considered the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest of ancient Greek epic poets. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.

When he lived is unknown. Herodotus estimates that Homer lived 400 years before his own time, which would place him at around 850 BCE, while other ancient sources claim that he lived much nearer to the supposed time of the Trojan War, in the early 12th century BCE. Most modern researchers place Homer in the 7th or 8th centuries BCE.

The formative influence of the Homeric epics in shaping Greek culture was widely recognized, and Homer was described as the teacher of Greece. Homer's works, which are about fifty percent speeches, provided models in persuasive speaking and writing that were emulated throughout the ancient and medieval Greek worlds. Fragments of Homer account for nearly half of all identifiable Greek literary papyrus finds.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 17,783 reviews
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,486 followers
February 27, 2015
"Okay, so here's what happened. I went out after work with the guys, we went to a perfectly nice bar, this chick was hitting on me but I totally brushed her off. Anyway we ended up getting pretty wrecked, and we might have smoked something in the bathroom, I'm not totally clear on that part, and then this gigantic one-eyed bouncer kicked us out so we somehow ended up at a strip club. The guys were total pigs but not me, seriously, that's not glitter on my neck. And then we totally drove right by these hookers without even stopping and here I am! Only a little bit late! By the way, I crashed the car and six of the guys are in jail. Ask for Officer Scylla."

Eh...Homer's right. Odysseus' version is better.

P.S. Do not try this story at home unless, when you get there, you're still capable of shooting your arrow into a narrow aperture.

Fagles' translation is excellent - the new standard - and Bernard Knox's enormous introduction is the best Homeric essay I've ever read.

A good companion read is Hal Roth's We Followed Odysseus - maybe not the most eloquent of books, but he retraces Odysseus's voyage (as best he can) in his sailboat, which is a pretty rad idea. I recreated his route as a Google map here, with notes on each of the stops. I also wrote summaries of each book of the Odyssey for a book club discussion; I've pasted them in the comments thread below, if you're interested.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
720 reviews1,113 followers
January 13, 2019
Quite possibly one of my favourite books!
It was this novel that ignited my love for Greek and Roman mythology and antiquity - leading me to choose a degree in Classical Civilisations.
I always look back on The Odyssey with fondness - I love all the monsters he faces and the gods who involve themselves with Odysseus' trials as he makes his way home after the Trojan War.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
September 6, 2011
So my first “non-school related" experience with Homer’s classic tale, and my most powerful impression, beyond the overall splendor of the story, was...HOLY SHIT SNACKS these Greeks were a violent bunch. Case in point:
...they hauled him out through the doorway into the court,
lopped his nose and ears with a ruthless knife,
tore his genitals out for the dogs to eat raw
and in manic fury hacked off hands and feet.
then once they’d washed their own hands and feet
they went inside again to join odysseus.
their work was done here now.
"Their work was done here now." What a great line.

Want more violence you say? How about slaughtering over 100 house guests for over-indulging in your hospitality? Can you say overkill!! And for the true splatter junkies out there, you can add in some casual rapes, widespread maiming, a score of people-squishing, crew members being chewed and swallowed, healthy doses of mutilation and torture, and one cyclops blinding. That should make even the most discriminating gore hound leg-humping happy. Yes...that's me...guilty.

However, beyond the cockle-warming violence and mayhem, this is a rocking good story that I enjoyed (as in "smile on my face thinking this is genuinely cool”) much more than I expected to going into it. There is nothing dry or plodding about the story. Beautifully written, and encompassing themes of love, loyalty and heroism while commenting on many facets of the human condition. As important as this story is to literature, it is above all else...ENTERTAINING. In fact, without its massive entertainment factor, I'm pretty sure it's overall importance among the classics would be significantly reduced. Thankfully, there is no risk of that.


Before I continue, I want to comment on the version I read/listened to because I think can be critical to people’s reaction to the story. There are a TRUCKLOAD of Odyssey translations out there and, from what I’ve seen, they range wider in quality and faithfulness to the original text than those of almost any other work of Western Literature. These versions can differ so much that I believe two people with identical reading tastes could each read a different translation and walk away with vastly different opinions on the work.

The version I am reviewing (and from which the above quote is derived) is the Robert Fagles translation which uses contemporary prose and structure while remaining faithful to the content of the original. I found it a terrific place for a “first experience” with this work because of how easy to follow it was. Plus, I listened to the audio version read by Sir Ian McKellen which was an amazing experience and one I HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

In addition to the Fagles version, I also own the Alexander Pope translation as part of my Easton Press collection of The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written. While listening to the Fagles version, I would often follow along with the Pope translation and let me tell you....they are vastly different. While the overall story is the same, the presentation, prose and the structure are nothing alike. As an example, here is the same passage I quoted earlier from the Pope translation.
Then forth they led [______], and began
Their bloody work; they lopp’d away the man,
Morsel for dogs! then trimm’d with brazen shears
The wretch, and shorten’d of his nose and ears;
His hands and feet last felt the cruel steel;
He roar’d, and torments gave his soul to hell.
They wash, and to Ulysses take their way:
So ends the bloody business of the day.
Very different treatments of the same scene. In my opinion, the Pope language is more beautiful and far more poetic and lyrical than the Fagles translation. However, I am glad I started with the Fagles version because it provided me with a much better comprehension of the story itself. No head-scratching moments. Now that I have a firm grounding in the story, I plan to go back at some point and read the Pope version so that I can absorb the greater beauty of that translation.

In a nutshell, I'm saying that you should make sure you find a translation that works for you. That’s my two or three cents.


So Odysseus, master strategist and tactician (not to mention schemer, manipulator and liar extraordinaire), travels home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. Delays and detours ensue which take up the first half of the story. Most of these travel snags are caused by Poseidon, who is grudging on Odysseus for stick-poking Poseidon’s son (i.e. the Cyclops) in the peeper. Not to fear, Athena (goddess of guile and craftiness) is a proud sponsor of Odysseus and, along with some help for big daddy god Zeus, throws Odysseus some Olympian help.

Odysseus’ travels are full of great summer blockbuster-like entertainment and at the same time explore all manner of Greek daily life as well as touching on many of their beliefs and traditions. It really is a perfect blend of fun and brain food. From his time on the island homes of the goddesses Calypso and Circe (who he gets busy with despite his “undying” love for his wife, Penelope...men huh?), to his run ins with the giant Laestrygonians and the Lotus-eaters (i.e., thugs and drugs) and his fateful encounter with the Cyclops, Polyphemus. Odysseus even takes a jaunt to the underworld where he speaks to Achilles and gets to listen to dead king Agamemnon go on an anti-marriage rant because his conniving wife poisoned him to death. Homer does a superb job of keeping the story epic while providing the reader with wonderful details about the life of the greek people during this period.

The man had story-telling chops..

Meanwhile, while Odysseus is engaged in the ancient greek version of the Amazing Race, back on Ithaca we’ve got a full-fledged version of the Bachelorette going on as over a hundred suitors are camped out at Odysseus pad trying to get Penelope to give them a rose. This has Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, on the rage because the suitors are eating, drinking and servant-boinking him out of his entire inheritance while they wait on Penelope. You might think that Telemachus could just kick the freeloaders out, but the law of “hospitality” was huge for the Greeks and the suitor-douches use it to full advantage.

Well Odysseus eventually makes it back to Ithaca, alone and in disguise, after all of this crew have been eaten, squashed, drowned or otherwise rendered life-impaired. Not an easy place to live is ancient Greece. Odysseus proceeds to work a web of deceit and revenge against the suitors that is a wonder to behold. I’ll leave the final climax to you, but I will say that there was no free lunch in Homer’s time and the checks that people wrote with their bad behavior are paid in full.


This was a fun, fun, fun read. I want to start with that because this is not one of those classics that I think is worth while only to get it under your belt or checked off a list. This was a great story with great characters and in a style that was both “off the usual path” but still easy to follow.

Going back to my comments on the various versions of the story, I think this may end up being a five star read in one of the more flowery, densely poetic translations where the emotion and passion is just a bit more in your face. I am still thrilled to have listened to the version I did (especially as read by Gandalf) because I now have a firm foundation in the story and can afford to be a bit more adventurous with my next version.

The tone of the story is heroic and yet very dark. The gods are capricious and temperamental and cause a whole lot of death and devastation for nothing more than a bruised ego or even a whim. The pace of the story is fast and moves quickly with hardly a chance to even catch your breath.

It is a big epic story...it is THE BIG EPIC STORY...and its reputation is well deserved. A terrific read as well as one of the most important works in the Western canon. Definitely worth your time.

Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book935 followers
January 30, 2023
I first read Homer in the 19th-century French translation by Leconte de Lisle — the equivalent, say, of the 18th-century translation into English by Alexander Pope: a pompous, archaic and exhausting bore of a book. I kept my chin up and, after a while, tried another inflated Frenchman: the 1955 translation by the curly-moustached Victor Bérard (in the prestigious Pléiade edition, with an odd arrangement of chapters). A bit less depraved than the Parnassian poet, but all in all (alack!) not much better. Only last year came this new English translation by Emily Wilson, an American academic and allegedly the first woman to translate Homer into English. And it is a damned refreshing take on Homer! Basically, it’s the first time I’m reading The Odyssey without dozing off on every other page.

Yet, Wilson laid down a daunting challenge to herself: to keep the same number of verses as in Homer’s epic and transpose the Greek’s dactylic hexameters into the traditional (Shakespearian) iambic pentameter. An amazing feat indeed, and she pulled it off with ease, concealing, like an expert weaver, the technicalities of her achievement and dodging some of the ponderousness of the Homeric text (not least of which: the grinding epithets attached to each character or some awkward similes that pop up from time to time): the result is an unaffected, luminous poem, sometimes energetic, sometimes delicate, that flows effortlessly, focusing our attention not on some turgid, embalming, purple prose, but on what is actually at stake in the story, and on the beat of the tale.

A few things become glaringly apparent thanks to this new translation: Odysseus is not quite the wise and glorious war hero that we might think. As Wilson states in her opening verse, he is “a complicated man” (πολuτροπον), who messes around with everyone he encounters and talks rubbish on every occasion; in short: he is an inveterate liar. So much so that, in the end, he could easily qualify as the first case of “unreliable narrator”. Most notably, when he is invited to the court of Alcinous and tells the story of his misadventures after the Trojan War — the famous embedded and somewhat fantastical tale (books 9-12) of the Cicones, Lotus-Eaters, Cyclopes, Aeolus, Laestrygonians, Circe, Helios, the dead, the Sirens, Charybdis and Scylla and Calypso —, we cannot help but wonder to what extent Odysseus is making up all this, to entertain his generous hosts. Later on, Odysseus will tell a completely different account of his adventures to other people, or a strongly expurgated version of the first tale to his own wife, misrepresenting himself to her. In short, he is indeed a consummated storyteller — a shining mask for the rhapsodist himself?

If The Iliad is the grandfather of pretty much all literature, then The Odyssey is the grandmother: Aeneas, Sindbad, Gulliver, Robinson, Pym, Ahab, Nemo, Marlow are all descendants of Odysseus; Hamlet is a sort of echo of Telemachus; Excalibur is an ersatz of Odysseus’ mighty bow; James Joyce’s Dublin is a Homeric town. We might wonder, however, why Odysseus’ adventures have become such a significant source of inspiration for writers and scholars who claim to be feminists, like Emily Wilson, of course, but also recently Madeline Miller, with her best-seller Circe, and a few years ago, Margaret Atwood and her Penelopiad.

Clearly, most characters in The Odyssey express a form of mistrust towards the opposite sex: men believe women to be either nosy sluts or demi-hags; women would rather turn men into pigs or captives than actually deal with them. Even the fair queen Penelope — the only character on the level and the antithesis of the treacherous and fiendish Clytemnestra — is actually just as deceptive, weaving and unweaving her crewelwork to avoid standing up to the wolfish suitors. That being said, let’s save the old nanny Eurycleia, if you insist... But, after all, isn’t this gender suspiciousness at the heart of feminism? It is notable, by the way, that although Odysseus looks like the paragon of manliness and a confirmed skirt-chaser (Penelope, Circe, Calypso, Nausicaa), the fact of the matter is that he is either the punchbag of Poseidon (a male god) or a puppet in the hands of the goddess Athena (a female), who transforms him at will, stultifies his enemies and makes him the pin-up of every girl he encounters. I will confess: in this old tale, men are, at best, a bit ridiculous and irritating — if not “complicated”.

To top it all off, the Odyssey is, at its heart, a tale of extreme violence. I’m not just thinking of the savagery of Polyphemus, the Laestrygonians or Scylla, all blood-thirsty monsters who decimate Odysseus’ crewmen. I’m thinking of Odysseus himself, probably the most blood-thirsty character in the whole poem. In fact, instead of coming back home as the one true king of Ithaca and properly claim back his throne and wife in a straightforward manner, he chooses (or instead follows Athena’s plan) to approach the suitors under the guise of a despicable old beggar, puts the devil in them — curses, insults and stools fly back and forth across the saloon on every page — and, when the time is ripe, gets into a shooting spree, slaughters the suitors pitilessly one by one (they are a bunch of more than a hundred dudes!), and tortures atrociously whoever, herdsmen or slave girls alike, got mixed up with them. The Odyssey ends with a big spring cleaning in a merry bath of haemoglobin... Which begs a nagging question: seeing how he behaves, might Odysseus himself not have killed his crew at sea (perhaps to gobble them up, since he is such a gourmand of meatballs and shish kebabs?), and later on told all sorts of baloney about cyclops and shipwrecks to justify his situation?... Anyway, had Homer been working in Hollywood instead of Ancient Greece, he would indeed be on the same side as Peckinpah, Coppola, Scorsese and Tarantino!

And now, let’s wait for Emily Wilson to work her magic on The Iliad
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
964 reviews6,820 followers
June 1, 2023
When you stop and think about it, much of classic literature is about how getting on a boat is a bad idea. This book is a litany on why boating is a bad idea. You can say it at least worked out for Odysseus but did it? Did it really? If that dude isn’t haunted by the screams of his crew forever it’s just because the horrors of having been on a boat are overriding it. The whole war could have been avoided if Helen had just stayed off one boat. So if you ever find yourself as a character in a novel (you’ll know by the sweet smell of freshly printed pages on the breeze) I beg you DO NOT GET ON A BOAT. You won’t get that ‘one fine day…’ on a boat Gatsby is hoping for in the famous line about the futility of boats (among other things). Look at Moby Dick—bet the crew of the Pequad were all wishing they stayed on land right before the whale drowned all their asses. You know what isn’t trying to drown you? Land. Ahab might have been a cool baker or candlestick maker but boats led him astray.

The danger of literary boats is real, my friends, Poe’s only novel was about just that. Heart of Darkness? More like Boats are the Heart of the Problem. Look what happened to that old man in the sea, almost starved! 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was like but what if we go UNDER the water surely that’ll work out great? Wrong. Jim Hawkins and Robinson Curuso could have avoided all sorts of trouble if they stayed off boats. And watch out for Theseus’ ship, we don’t know if it even counts as the same ship! Boats are tricky like that. Ask the orcas, they know what’s up.

Now in sci fi, spaceships are basically just space boats. And look what happened to Paul Atreides when he took that space boat to Arrakis: literally fucking space genocide. Nobody wants that. Hell, the Death Star is just a really really big genocide boat and that ended poorly for everyone. 2001 A Space Odyssey has a space boat out for murder and blaming the crew.

So watch out for boats, ye land lubbers. Leave the pirating to me.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews47 followers
September 3, 2021
Οδύσσεια = The Odyssey, Homer

The Odyssey begins after the end of the ten-year Trojan War (the subject of the Iliad), and Odysseus has still not returned home from the war because he angered the god Poseidon.

Odysseus' son Telemachus is about 20 years old and is sharing his absent father's house on the island of Ithaca with his mother Penelope and a crowd of 108 boisterous young men, "the Suitors", whose aim is to persuade Penelope to marry one of them, all the while reveling in Odysseus' palace and eating up his wealth. ...

The Odyssey Characters: Odysseus, Penelope, Helen of Troy, Achilles, Agamemnon, Telemachus, Minerva, Polyphemus

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «ادیسه»؛ «اودیسه»؛ اثر: هومر؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش سال 1973میلادی

عنوان: ادیسه؛ اثر: هومر؛ مترجم: سعید نفیسی؛ تهران، بنگاه ترجمه و نشر، 1337؛ چاپ دوم 1344؛ چاپ سوم 1349؛ در 576ص؛ چاپ چهارم سال 1359؛ موضوع: اساطیر یونانی از نویسندگان یونان - سده هشتم پیش از میلاد

ترجمه روانشاد «سعید نفیسی» با عنوان «اودیسه» نیز چاپ شده است

یکی از دو کتاب کهنسال و اشعار حماسی «یونان»، اثر «هومر» در سده ی هشتم پیش از میلاد است؛ این کتاب همچون «ایلیاد»، به صورت مجموعه‌ ای از سرودها گردآوری شده، اما شیوه ی روایت آن با «ایلیاد» تفاوت دارد؛ «ادیسه»، سرگذشت بازگشت یکی از سران جنگ «تروآ»، «ادیسیوس» یا «الیس» فرمانروای «ایساکا» است؛ در آن سفر، که بیش از بیست سال، به درازا می‌انجامد، ماجراهای بسیاری، برای وی و همراهانش پیش میآید؛ در نهایت «ادیسیوس»، که همگان گمان می‌کردند کشته شده، به وطن خود باز گشته، و دست متجاوزان را از سرزمین، و زن و فرزند خود کوتاه می‌کند، «ادیسه» در این داستان ماجراهای بسیاری دارد؛ او در جنگ با «تروآ» تصمیم می‌گیرد، اسبی از جنس چوب، و بسیار بزرگ بسازد، و با حیله اسب را به عنوان هدیه ی صلح و آشتی، وارد قلعه «تروآ» بکند؛ او خود و افرادش، در داخل اسب پنهان میشوند، تا بتوانند قلعه را تصرف کند؛ اما یک پیشگو، پادشاه «تروآ» را، از بردن اسب به داخل قلعه منع می‌کند، و «پوسایدون» فرمانروای قدرتمند دریا، حیوان دست آموزش را می‌فرستد، تا پیشگو را هلاک کند؛ پادشاه «تروآ»، سرانجام اسب را داخل قلعه می‌آورد، و شب هنگام «ادیسه» شبیخون زده؛ و قلعه را تصرف می‌کند؛ او با غرور می‌اندیشد که به تنهایی قلعه را تصرف کرده؛ «پوسایدون» خشمگین میشود، و «ادیسه» را محکوم می‌کند، تا ابد در دریا سرگردان بماند؛ «ادیسه» در کشتی خود در دریای بی‌انتها، به نفرین «پوسایدون» دچار می‌شود؛ دیری نمی‌گذرد، که به جزیره‌ ای می‌رسد؛ در آن جزیره، غاری پیدا می‌کند، که در آن غار غذای فراوانی وجود دارد؛ در غار با افرادش به عیش و نوش دلمشغول می‌شود؛ غافل از آنکه، صاحب غار، غولی یک چشم؛ بنام «پولیتیموس»، فرزند «پوسایدون» است؛ «پولیتیموس» یکی از افراد «ادیسه» را می‌خورد؛ و «ادیسه» با نیرنگ، معجون خواب آوری به او می‌خوراند، و سپس با چوبی که انتهای آن تیز است، در خواب غول را کور می‌کند؛ غول در حالیکه از درد فریاد می‌زند، سنگ عظیمی که غار را پوشانده، کنار می‌زند؛ و «ادیسه» و همراهانش فرار می‌کنند؛ «ادیسه» دوباره راهی دریا می‌شود، و برای برداشتن آب، به جزیره‌ ای پا می‌گذارد، در آن جزیره، با «آنوس» فرمانروای باد و طوفان، و پسرعموی «پوسایدون» برمی‌خورد؛ و «آنوس» به باد فرمان می‌دهد، که «ادیسه» را ظرف نه روز، به «ایساکا» زادگاهش برساند؛ و باد را داخل کیسه کرده، و به «ادیسه» می‌دهد؛ در راه، در حالیکه به «ایساکا» رسیده بودند، و «ادیسه» در خواب بود؛ افرادش به او خیانت کرده، و در کیسه را به امید یافتن طلا باز می‌کنند؛ اما طوفان حاصل از باد داخل کیسه، آنها را دوباره در جزیره‌ ای ناشناخته در دریا می‌برد؛ داستان ده سال از مسافرت «ادیسئوس» در بازگشت از جنگ «تروا» است؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 14/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 11/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,465 reviews3,618 followers
May 17, 2021
“It is generally understood that a modern-day book may honorably be based upon an older one, especially since, as Dr. Johnson observed, no man likes owing anything to his contemporaries. The repeated but irrelevant points of congruence between Joyce's Ulysses and Homer's Odyssey continue to attract (though I shall never understand why) the dazzled admiration of critics.” The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim by Jorge Luis Borges.
“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9.
Is The Odyssey where it all had begun? Or was it already based on the literary tradition? Whatever the answer is the number of allusions to The Odyssey in the world literature is impossible to count.
All starts here.
In this almost lifelong homecoming across seas, islands, dreams, visions and even the land of the dead there are no stops.
You will want no guide, raise your mast, set your white sails, sit quite still, and the North Wind will blow you there of itself. When your ship has traversed the waters of Oceanus, you will reach the fertile shore of Proserpine's country with its groves of tall poplars and willows that shed their fruit untimely; here beach your ship upon the shore of Oceanus, and go straight on to the dark abode of Hades. You will find it near the place where the rivers Pyriphlegethon and Cocytus (which is a branch of the river Styx) flow into Acheron, and you will see a rock near it, just where the two roaring rivers run into one another.
“When you have reached this spot, as I now tell you, dig a trench a cubit or so in length, breadth, and depth, and pour into it as a drink-offering to all the dead, first, honey mixed with milk, then wine, and in the third place water – sprinkling white barley meal over the whole. Moreover you must offer many prayers to the poor feeble ghosts, and promise them that when you get back to Ithaca you will sacrifice a barren heifer to them, the best you have, and will load the pyre with good things. More particularly you must promise that Teiresias shall have a black sheep all to himself, the finest in all your flocks.”

And all ends here.
It’s a circle…
“As the end approaches, there are no longer any images from memory – there are only words. It is not strange that time may have confused those that once portrayed me with those that were symbols of the fate of the person that accompanied me for so many centuries. I have been Homer; soon, like Ulysses, I shall be Nobody; soon, I shall be all men – I shall be dead.” The Immortal by Jorge Luis Borges.
Profile Image for Kalliope.
691 reviews22 followers
February 16, 2016

I have read The Odyssey three times. The first was not really a read but more of a listen in the true oral tradition. During embroidery class one of us, young girls on the verge of entering the teens, would read a passage while the rest were all busy with our eyes and fingers, our needles and threads. All learning to be future Penelopes: crafty with their crafts, cultivated, patient and loyal. And all wives.

The second read was already as an adult. That time I let myself be led by the adventures and imagination of the ‘resourceful’ one. Relishing on the literary rhythm of the hexameters I particularly enjoyed the epithets used by the bards to keep the attention of the listeners... Dawn of the rosy fingers was my favourite. By then my embroideries were far away from my mind.

This third time I read it in preparation for tackling Joyce’s take on Homer. And this time, with a more detached stance, I have been surprised by the structure of the work, the handling of time, and the role of narration. And those aspects I take with me in this third reading.

Of the twenty-four books, the first four or Telemachiad, are preliminary. Acting as an overture they take place not too long before the main action. The following four are another preamble, which take place roughly at the same time as the previous four. The son and the father are getting ready to meet almost at the end of twenty years of their separation with ten at the war and ten coming back.

Then, and this was my surprise, what I always thought of as the core of the Odyssey: the magical adventures with the Cyclops and Polyphemus, the Lotus Eaters, the Sirens, Circe and the trip to the Underworld, the Laestrygonias, Scylla and Charybdis, the Sun God etc, forming what is called the Apologoi, are a very small part of the book. All of these eventful episodes take place along three years before the seven that Odysseus is amorously trapped by Kalypso. And these are narrated, after the fact, by Odysseus himself in just four more chapters (chapters nine to twelve). So, to what in my mind was the meat of the Odyssey is only 17% of the book. And if one recalls what a great deceiver Odysseus can be, one could always wonder at these fables.

The rest, the remaining twelve chapters, or half of the book, is the actual Homecoming.

What I have realized now is that The Odyssey is really about this Homecoming. And that is what we witness directly. All the enchanted adventures are told tales. Odysseus as the bard chanting his own stories in the court of the Phaeacians. A supreme teller since through his fables he has to build the image of the hero that his, possibly dangerous, audience see and do not see. Odysseus as myth and myth-maker. No wonder his epithet of ‘the resourceful one’.

If the Homecoming had previously stayed in my mind as just an expected end, in which all the invective and riveting elements are drearily put at an end, as if one could already close the door and leave, the one I have read now surprised me by its dramatization. A different craft is at stage.

The bard enacts the process of Justice performing through an act of Revenge. There is no layered telling of the tale. In the last half of the poem the pace and complexity of the various elements as they converge in the palace to play out divine retribution--in which success does not seem assured, not even to the great Odysseus who knows he has Athena’s support--, has seemed, this third time round, magisterial.

And it is Penelope the patient, the apprehensive, the one who for twenty years has protected her mistrust with her weaving, the one who, with her threads, offers the needed opportunity that the resourceful hero is at pains to find. When she announces that she is about to end to the tapestry that has become her life, the beggar can then put also an end to the agony.

Crafted Homecoming.

Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,377 reviews12k followers
September 3, 2017

Ever since I first read Homer’s epic describing the adventures of Odysseus back in my school days, three of those adventures fired my imagination: The Lotus Eaters, The Cyclops and the Sirens, most especially the Sirens. I just did revisit these sections of this Greek epic and my imagination was set aflame yet again. How much, you ask? Here is my microfiction as a tribute to the great poet:


This happened back in those days when I was a member of an experimental performing-arts troupe down in Greenwich Village. We would read poetry, dance and act out avant-garde plays in our dilapidated little theater. For a modest charge people could come in and watch for as long as they wanted.

Somehow, a business executive who worked downtown in the financial district heard of what we were doing and spoke with our director about an act he has all worked out but needed a supporting cast and that he would pay handsomely if we went along with him.

Well, experimental is experimental and if we were going to be well paid we had nothing to lose. The first thing he did was pass out our costumes. In addition to himself, he had parts for three men and three women. The play we were to perform was so simple we didn’t even need a written script. He was to be Odysseus from Homer’s epic and three men would be his sailors. As for the women, we would be the singing Sirens.

So, after he changed – quite a sight in a loincloth, being gray-haired, jowly, pasty-skinned and potbellied – we went on stage and he told the sailors how no man has ever heard the hypnotic songs of the Sirens and lived to tell the tale but he, mighty Odysseus, would be the first. He instructed the sailors to tie him to the ship’s mast. They used one of the building’s pillars and when he cried out as the Sirens sang their song the sailors, who had wax in their ears, were to bind him to the mast even tighter.

Meanwhile, three of us ladies were on stage as the Sirens, in costume, bare-breasted and outfitted with wings. We began singing a sweet, lilting melody. Mike – that was the businessman’s name – started screaming and the sailors tightened the ropes that bound him. The sailors were glad their ears were plugged as Mike screamed for nearly half an hour.

When the ship passed out of earshot of the Sirens, the sailors unbound mighty Odysseus and he collapsed on our makeshift stage, a mass of exhausted middle-aged flesh. The audience applauded, even cheered and we continued our performance of Odysseus and the Sirens every night for more than a week. Then one night Mike outdid himself. His blue eyes bulged, the veins in his neck popped and his face turned a deeper blood-scarlet than ever before. And what I feared might happen, did happen – Mike had a heart attack. We had to interrupt our performance and call an ambulance.

We all thought that was the end of our dealing with Mike aka Odysseus until our director received a call from the hospital. Mike told her he was going to be just fine and would be back on stage next week. We called a meeting and everyone agreed that we would suggest Mike seek psychiatric help but if he insists on playing Odysseus, he will have to take his act elsewhere.
Profile Image for Kevin Ansbro.
Author 5 books1,471 followers
October 15, 2020
"I'm not normally a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me, Superman!"

Following James Joyce's lead, I used Homer’s heroic story as inspiration for a novel-in-progress.
But how can I, a mere mortal, do justice to the most famous epic poem ever written? An encounter with a work of this magnitude should be shared, rather than reviewed.
Homer is the great, great, great (recurring) grand-daddy of modern literature and this colossus is as immortal as the gods within it.
And what a tale this must have been way back in the 8th century BC. Then, it was sung, rather than read, and I guess the first to bear witness must have been jigging about in their togas with unbridled excitement.

Alas, I didn't read it in ancient Greek, as Homer had intended. My copy was transcribed to a Kindle, rather than papyri, and translated by none other than the genius that was Alexander Pope (yep, I went old school on this).

Odysseus, he of the title, otherwise known in Latin as Ulysses, embarks on a perilous, stop/start, um, odyssey, attempting to get home to Ithaca after fighting in the Trojan War for a decade.
Such an amazing story, overflowing with an abundance of adventure. Poor Odysseus, having battled treacherous seas, wrathful gods, enchanting sirens and a Cyclops, then has to put up with big bad Poseidon weighing in with some nautical muscle and shipwrecking his boat!

Plagued by setback after setback, the journey home takes TEN gruelling years to complete! And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, wife Penelope has meanwhile given up hope of him returning home alive and is being courted by one hundred suitors, none of whom are fit to kiss our hero's sandals.

This is by no means a page-turner and some background knowledge is required to appreciate the finer points. Pope has done an amazing job to remain somewhat sympathetic to the timbre of Homer's lyrical story, and his rhyming couplets are a thing to behold:

"But when the star of eve with golden light
Adorn'd the matron brow of night."


Homer (the poet, not the cartoon character) has fuelled the imagination of countless authors throughout the centuries, and therefore it would be sacrilege for me to award anything less than five heroic stars.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,438 followers
May 9, 2018
The first line in Emily Wilson’s new translation of the Odyssey, the first by a woman scholar, is “Tell me about a complicated man.” In an article by Wyatt Mason in the NYT late last year, Wilson tells us
“I could’ve said, ‘Tell me about a straying husband.’ And that’s a viable translation. That’s one of the things [the original language] says…[But] I want to be super responsible about my relationship to the Greek text. I want to be saying, after multiple different revisions: This is the best I can get toward the truth.”
Oh, the mind reels. This new translation by Emily Wilson reads swiftly, smoothly, and feels contemporary. This exciting new translation will surprise you, and send you to compare certain passages with earlier translations. In her Introduction, Wilson raises that issue of translation herself: How is it possible to have so many different translations, all of which could be considered “correct”?

Wilson reminds us what a ripping good yarn this story is, and removes any barriers to understanding. We can come to it with our current sensibility and find in it all kinds of foretelling and parallels with life today, and perhaps we even see the genesis of our own core morality, a morality that feels inexplicably learned. Perhaps the passed-down sense of right and wrong, of fairness and justice we read of here was learned through these early stories and lessons from the gods. Or are we interpreting the story to fit our sensibility?

These delicious questions operate in deep consciousness while we pleasure in learning more about that liar Odysseus, described again and again as wily, scheming, cunning, “his lies were like truth.” He learned how to bend the truth at his grandfather’s knee, and the gods exploited that talent when they helped him out. The skill served him well, allowing him to confuse and evade captors throughout his ordeal, as well as keep his wife and father in the dark about his identity upon his return until he could reveal the truth at a time of maximum impact.

There does inevitably come a time when people react cautiously to what is told them, even to the evidence their own eyes. The gods can cloud one’s understanding, it is well known, and truth is suspected in every encounter. These words Penelope speaks:
"Please forgive me, do not keep
bearing a grudge because when I first saw you,
I would not welcome you immediately.
I felt a constant dread that some bad man
would fool me with his lies. There are so many
dishonest, clever men..."
Particularly easy to relate to today are descriptions of Penelope’s ungrateful suitors like Ctesippius, who "encouraged by extraordinary wealth, had come to court Odysseus’ wife." Also speaking insight for us today are the phrases "Weapons themselves can tempt a man to fight" and "Arms themselves can prompt a man to use them."

There is a conflicted view of women in this story: "Sex sways all women’s minds, even the best of them," though Penelope is a paragon of virtue, managing to avoid temptation through her own duplicitousness. She hardly seems a victim at all in this reading, merely an unwilling captor. She is strong, smart, loyal, generous, and brave, all the qualities any man would want for his wife.

We understand the slave girls that Odysseus felt he had to “test” for loyalty were at the disposal of the ungrateful suitors who, after they ate and drank at Penelope's expense, often met the house girls after hours. Some of the girls appeared to go willingly, laughing and teasing as they went, and were outspoken about their support of the men they’d taken up with. Others, we get the impression from the text, felt they had no choice.

Race is not mentioned but once in this book, very matter-of-factly, though the darker man is a servant to the lighter one:
"…[Odysseus] had a valet with him,
I do remember, named Eurybates,
a man a little older than himself,
who had black skin, round shoulders, woolly hair,
and was [Odysseus's] favorite our of all his crew
because his mind matched his."
Odysseus’s tribulations are terrible, but appear to be brought on by his own stubborn and petulant nature, like his taunting of the blinded Cyclops from his own escaping ship. Cyclops was Poseidon’s son so Odysseus's behavior was especially unwise, particularly since his own men were yelling at him to stop. Later, that betrayal of the men’s best interests for his own childish purpose will come back to haunt Odysseus when the men suspect him of thinking only of himself--greediness--and unleash terrible winds by accident, blowing them tragically off course in rugged seas.

We watch, fascinated, as the gods seriously mess Odysseus about, and then come to his aid. We really get the sense of the gods playing, as in Athena’s willingness to give Odysseus strength and arms when fighting the suitors in his house, but being unwilling to actually step in to help with the fighting. Instead, she watched from the rafters. It’s hard not to be just a little resentful.

Wilson’s translation reads very fast and very clearly. There always seemed to be some ramp-up time reading Greek myths in the past, but now the adventures appear perfectly accessible. Granted, there are some names you’ll have to figure out, but that’s part of being “constructively lost,” as Pynchon says.

A book-by-book reading of this new translation will begin March 1st on the Goodreads website, hosted by Kris Rabberman, Wilson’s colleague at the University of Pennsylvania. To prepare for the first online discussion later this week, Kris has suggested participants read the Introduction. If interested readers are still not entirely convinced they want this literary experience now, some excerpts have been reprinted in The Paris Review.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,943 reviews609 followers
July 14, 2023
The founding novel of literature is the one that will inspire all future narratives. We know the story of Ulysses; we have read a few episodes and seen a film but read the whole work, with these long chapters, the Homeric epithets, and the lengthy descriptions of the marine world with its monsters and demons. One has the impression of attending a closed session on the sea. Yet, Ulysses only berths to better take to the sea as if the mainland was forbidden to him and harmful, as if his condemnation to wandering on the sea was more beneficial on the water than on land. And then there are the episodes worthy of an adventure novel, the Sirens, symbols of literary song, the author's voice who takes us where we want and can destroy us (hey, Bovary), and monsters like Charybdis and Sylla.
Finally, this is surprising; we talk more about the others, Telemachus, her son looking for him, and Penelope waiting for her than about him, who wants to return. The novel has almost everything: the search for the other, the quest, the song of words, and the pleasure of returning home. It is as enjoyable to study and understand, so full of symbols, as reading.
Profile Image for Renato.
36 reviews142 followers
December 13, 2014
It's impossible not to smile when you start reading such a classic and, after only the first few pages, you realize and completely understand why it's regarded as one of the most important works in literature. I'm always a little anxious when I tackle such important and renowned books for being afraid of not comprehending or loving them - War and Peace and Don Quixote, for example - as they seem to deserve. Not that I'm obligated to like them, but I always feel such buzz comes for a reason and I try to at least find out why. With The Odyssey, once again, I find that the ones who have read it before me were right: it's amazing.

I didn't have plans to read The Odyssey any time soon - I've never devoted much time to epic poems and this one has more than 12,000 verses -, but because I've been eying Ulysses on my shelves for quite some time, I decided to prepare myself for it and read about Odysseus with a great group here on Goodreads. To call Homer's book simply "a preparation" for Joyce's work is now not only unfair, but also absurd to me. However, I'm glad that I finally read it, whatever the reason behind it was.

The Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus's (Ulysses) journey back to his home Ithaca to return to his wife Penelope and son Telemachus after twenty years of absence. Our hero left his home to fight in the Trojan War - that alone lasted ten years - and encountered too many obstacles that kept him away for another ten years. Back in Ithaca, people had already lost hope that he could still be alive and his wife was being courted by suitors who wanted to marry her.

Alongside the emotional and heartfelt story, what grabbed my attention here was the poem's style and structure. For a work that's believed to have been written in the 8th century BC, its quality and refinement certainly amazed me. Some of the story is told through flashbacks, some of it is told through different narrators and its narratives are non-linear, so I was positively surprised.

I could try to write an analysis about the recurring themes on the book - vengeance, spiritual growth, hospitality - or try to decipher its symbolism - much has been written about Odysseus's bow, Laertes's shroud, the sea -, but I feel I would fail and wouldn't be able to do it in a deep level, especially after having read the great introduction and notes written by Bernard Knox.

What kept me away from Homer's work was the fear that it would be too dense and heavy on mythology - it is mythological, of course -, making it hard for me to understand it. Although labored, the narrative is quite simple and easy to follow. Knox's notes were a great companion to fill in the details I needed to comprehend the book in a deeper level.

Rating: it's my belief that a great book not only satisfy your expectations, but also inspire you to delve further into its writer's other works, similar subjects or even other books from the same time period. The Odyssey raised my interest about Greek mythology and The Iliad, so I guess it served its purpose with high colors. Because of that, 5 glowing and beautiful stars.
Profile Image for leynes.
1,111 reviews3,027 followers
June 8, 2022
I don't think the world (or the Goodreads user base) will gain much by my "reviewing" The Odyssey. Everything that needs to be said about this wonderful epic has been said throughout the ages—and that again and again—by people who were and are much more capable than me.

All there's left for me to say is that I LOVED it, and I didn't expect to. The Odyssey was a much quicker, more thrilling and fun read than I could've ever imagined. With his translation, Fagles ignited my love for Ancient texts, and also removed all the fears I had surrounding these types of lectures. They aren't as scary or hard to understand as I thought. They're actually quite fun... and bloody, and prepostorous, and heart-warming, and and and ...

So instead of rambling about the love I have for Penelope, or my bewildered admiration for Helen, my love-hate relationship to Odysseus and his son Telemachus, and the wrath I feel for the Gods, I will share with you 10 tips on how to tackle this tome:

#1 Read the Verse version, not the Prose ones
The Odyssey has been written and conceived in verse. However, through the ages, and for better accessibility for a possible readership, some translator have translated this epic into prose. Personally, I haven't heard many great things about the Prose translation and since I read a Verse translation myself (and loved it), I would always advise to go with a Verse version of The Odyssey.

It flows much more nicely and makes more sense, as verse is more capable and fitting to convey how the characters speak and interact with each other. The importance of the orality of this text is also made apparent in various different moments in the text, it begins with the evocation of the Muse who is told to sing about the "Man of twists and turns", and ends with Odysseus telling his story to the Phaeacians, possibly becoming an unreliable narrator of his own adventures and achievements himself. This text is told within multiple layers, the person who speaks/narrates is essential to the message that is conveyed within the text, and the verse versions are able to capture these layers brilliantly.

#2 Find the right translator
The Odyssey is literally a tale as old as time (or as old as the Western canon goes back to) and so there are dozens of translations to choose from. Since I've only read the Fagles translation from the mid-90s, I can only judge that one, but Fagles is definitely a translation I'd recommend. It's straight to the point, quite modern in tone (and therefore easily to understand) and not at all flowery or "lyrical". Other renown translators are Lattimore, Pope (even though that's an OOOOLD one), Graves and Fitzgerald. Emily Wilson is the first woman to translate the epic into English and her new translation (it's from 2018, I think?) has a feminist twist, so that might be up your alley.

#3 Manage your expectations
I don't know about you but I had many misconceptions about this tale. I really thought Odysseus was at sea for 20 years, unable to find his way home. I thought The Odyssey would narrate all his adventures at sea, like battling the cyclops, stealing the cattle of the Sun or landing on Circe's island. I couldn't have been more wrong. What I just described are only four out of twenty-four books of this epic. Odysseus' adventures at sea only take up a sixth of the story. We only meet the man by Book 5, before the first four books (also known as the Telemachia) focus solely on his son and his trial of setting out to visit Nestor and Menelaus to get to know the whereabouts of his father. And then when we finally meet Odysseus, he is actually back in Ithaca by the halfway point of this book. So Book 13-24 are actually set in Ithaca, and it's not about sea adventures at all, it's about bloody revenge, my dudes.

Since Penelope (and Telemachus) have been harassed ever since Odysseus failed to return from the Trojan War, Odysseus now takes it upon himself, upon his return, to slaughter all the suitors (all 100+ of them) who harassed his wife, ate his food, slaughtered his animals and wracked havoc on his kingdom. And baby, that revenge is drawn out and sweet. Book 22 (the slaughter of the suitors) is as bloody as it is brilliant, definitely my favorite of the 24 books!

#4 Read it quickly
The Odyssey is a big book but I would recommend reading as much as you can, but a minimum of one book a day. The pacing of this epic is amazing and very intricate, and when reading The Odyssey continuously, it will hit you right in the feels. You will want Penelope and Odysseus to reunite ALREADY but Homer will keep you waiting book for book, and delay their reunion to no end until it ends in a big crescendo and huge offense, and you will be clutching your pearls.

#5 Do your research
The Odyssey is easy to understand (at least for how old and huge in scope it is), however, I'd still recommend doing secondary research. Either get a book with a good introduction, notes and chronology (like the Penguin Deluxe Classics version I own) or try to find other sources online.

#6 Listen to podcasts
What helped me the most was listening to the Close Reads podcast. They did many different episodes discussing 2-4 books per episode, diving deep into analysis and questions. Many other readers also enjoyed the Literature and History podcast. These are 3 episodes, each focusing on 8 books, which function more like a summary and overview of key events and questions.

#7 Watch YouTube videos
On YouTube, I'd recommend watching the Ted-Ed or CrashCourse videos for a nice appetizer, and then also Moan Inc.'s 24-video series, where she dives deep into this epic, summarizes and analyses! It's a fantastic resource!

#8 Focus on what's most interesting to you
On your first read, you won't be able to get it all. And that's okay. Try to find out what's most appealing and interesting to you. Is it how Homer developed his characters and how they interact with each other? Is it the Greek mythology? Or is it Homer himself? The man, the mystery? Was he one person, was he blind, was he actually able to write? There are many different questions surrounding this epic. Find and focus on what's most important to you.

#9 Find modern influences
The Odyssey has influenced many artists throughout the centuries. When reading pay attention to which associations you make, which references suddenly make sense, where have you seen a similar writing style, set-up etc. in modern texts? When I read The Odyssey I couldn't shake the feeling that Patrick Rothfuss was deeply influenced by Odysseus as a character and unreliable narrator in his development of Kvothe, the hero of Rothfuss' The Kingkiller Chronicles. Just like Odysseus, Kvothe tells his own story to people who are eagerly listening. What lies is he making up to make himself look better? How is he distorting reality?

The slaughter of the suitors in Book 22, reminded me of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus which is equally bloody and George R.R. Martin's Red Wedding... the list goes on and on.

#10 Don't let a modern judgment cloud your vision
There are many things in The Odyssey that happen which from a modern viewpoint are absolutely despicable. There's slavery, rape, murder etc. Women usually get the short end of the stick, and Odysseus is hailed for everything he does, even if it is ordering the hanging of the maids who were raped by the suitors because they are no longer "pure". As a modern reader, some of the prescribed events can be hard to stomach. However, I fared best with meeting the book where it's at – which means that I can still have my own reservations and judge some of the characters (especially Odysseus) rather harshly, but also keep Homer's values and the values of his time in mind. So therefore I don't have to see Odysseus as a "hero", but I will also not be pissed or confused why Homer portrayed it him as one. It makes perfect sense keeping the context in which the poem was written in in mind.
Profile Image for Fernando.
684 reviews1,128 followers
April 15, 2021
"Volver, con la frente marchita, las nieves del tiempo platearon mi sien. Sentir, que es un soplo la vida, que veinte años no es nada, que febril la mirada, errante en las sombras, te busca y te nombra. Vivir, con el alma aferrada, a un dulce recuerdo que lloro otra vez."

Concuerdo totalmente con el periodista y traductor Joan Casas, cuando en el prólogo de esta edición nos dice que si se hubieran reunido temas y canciones para una banda de sonido de este libro, hubiera sido su tema principal "Volver", ese inmortal tango de Gardel y Le Pera, que es el más odiseico de todos los tiempos, puesto que esas sentidas estrofas concuerdan con la historia de este héroe, Laertíada, raza de Zeus, agudisimo Ulises, aunque para mí con una salvedad: jamás Ulises vuelve con la frente marchita sino con ésta bien alta, más allá de los padeceres, deshonras y pérdidas que sufre en su periplo de retorno durante diez años, luego de otros diez luchando en Troya cuando finalmente pisa su amadísima Ítaca.
Siempre consideré que para leer la Odisea me era indispensable primero terminar la Ilíada aunque en realidad lo correcto sería primero leer la Teogonía de Hesíodo, en donde el aedo cuenta el origen del mundo hasta la aparición de todos los dioses del Olimpo que luego Homero y el resto de los poetas griegos más importantes tomarán como parte de sus relatos épicos y tragedias.
Luego viene la batalla de Troya tal como nos lo es contada en la Ilíada, y posteriormente, los libros que narran los retornos por un lado, de Ulises en la Odisea, el de Eneas en la Eneída luego de la destrucción de Troya (esto narrado por el poeta latino Virgilio pero que tiene directa conexión con los otros poemas épicos), junto con el regreso de Agamenón a su casa, narrado por Esquilo, con un resultado completamente opuesto al de Ulises, puesto que a diferencia de Penélope, es asesinado por su esposa Clitmnenestra y Egisto, su amante y posteriormente la Orestíada, también de Esquilo, que cuenta la venganza de Orestes, hijo de Agamenón, matando al asesino de su padre.
Lamentablemente yo no mantuve ese orden de lectura. Leí primero la Eneida, luego la Ilíada y Odisea y ahora comencé con la Teogonía.
Pero volvamos a esta maravilla de libro. Realmente he disfrutado de la misma manera que en la Ilíada lo que Homero nos cuenta en la Odisea con la diferencia que en este libro me ha sido aún más placentera su lectura, dado que noto una prosa más clara y más amena que en la Ilíada, más allá de estar escrita en hexámetros. Tal vez sea cierto lo que dicen los historiadores acerca de Homero y es que puede que separen a la Ilíada de la Odisea muchísimos años.
Es como que la primera fue relatada por un jovencísimo Homero, tal vez de 25 años, digamos, mientras que la segunda tienen otro tenor en sus hexámetros, como si las hubiera relatado un Homero de sesenta años.
Yendo a la historia propiamente, en la Odisea nos encontramos nuevamente con la intervención divina, con la diferencia de que en este libro no son tantos los dioses que aparecen. Díria que son cuatro: Poseidón, Zeus, Palas Atenea y Hermes.

Veinte años no es nada, agudísimo Ulises.
Puedes descansar tranquilo, ya que el fin justificó los medios.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
530 reviews489 followers
September 19, 2023
Trojan War is ended and the Greeks are returning home with victory and their loot. But the homecoming is not so easy, for they have to struggle with their fate and the wrath of the Olympian gods they incurred. This is greater so for Odysseus, the greek warrior from Ithaca who played a key role in the Trojan War. His fate assures his return but his sudden incurring the wrath of Poseidon (the sea god) makes that returning almost perilous. Odysseus faces many adventures on his journey home which tests his strength and courage, and on his return, finds his household in greater calamity. It is this tale of Odysseus that Homer recounts in The Odyssey.

The many adventures Odysseus faces on his return journey were quite daunting and perilous. They try his strength of mind. But Odysseus is resourceful and cunning, and although he despairs at times, his steadfast courage sees him through the journey back home and restores his position as the king of Ithaca. Odysseus is a story of faith, courage, endurance, and strength of mind to fight all obstacles and attain your desired end. One can say to that extent, Homer's story is quite inspirational.

But the beauty of this epic poem is its quality as a work of art. It is both picturesque and dramatic with a touch of fantasy. Homer takes us to a fantastic world through Odysseus's voyage home, and we meet so many mythological characters - gods, men, and other creatures included. Odysseus's adventures are interesting to read. I enjoyed the journey Homer took me through this tale very much.

The prosaic translation I read contributed much to my enjoyment of this epic poem. It was an easy read and not too modern in the language which suited the antiquity of this Homeric tale. This reading taught me the importance of using the correct translation to match one's temperament. I enjoyed this work of Homer very much, something I couldn't say of The Iliad. And now I know where to lay the blame. :)
Profile Image for Annemarie.
250 reviews697 followers
March 11, 2019
What can I say about this book that hasn't been said already? I'm sure that the influence and importance of it has been discussed to death already, so I won't even get started on that.
My reading experience was surprisingly pleasant: I didn't expect to get so invested! I found the language a bit hard at first, but once I got used to it (which didn't take all too long), I was able to fully enjoy the story. I'm glad that I finally read this classic piece of work, and it's definitely understandable that it's as famous as it is.
November 3, 2019
As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.

Ithaka By C. P. Cavafy Translated by Edmund Keeley

Κι αν πτωχική την βρεις, η Ιθάκη δεν σε γέλασε. Έτσι σοφός που έγινες, με τόση πείρα, ήδη θα το κατάλαβες η Ιθάκες τι σημαίνουν.

Η ψυχή μου το ξέρει, πόσο μεγάλη ανάγκη το είχα να το κάνω ξανά αυτό το μεγάλο ταξίδι μαζί με τον πολύπαθο Οδυσσέα. Και διάλεξα τη μετάφραση εκείνη, την πρώτη, απο τα σχολικά μου χρόνια, του Ζήσιμου Σίδερη, αλλά είχα από δίπλα και το αρχαίο κείμενο για να παίρνω διπλή χαρά, από τη γλώσσα μου αυτήν την πανάρχαια, τις λέξεις που ακόμα μιλούμε και που με αυτές ακόμα και σήμερα, εκφράζουμε τις χαρές, τους πόνους, τις αγωνίες και τις ελπίδες μας.

Και η αγαπημένη μου η Αθηνά... Κάθε μέρα, καθώς το λεωφορείο παίρνει τη στροφή στη διασταύρωση της Βασιλίσσης Σοφίας, στην Πλατεία Συντάγματος, στρέφω το βλέμμα για μια στιγμή, να δω μέσα από τα τσιμέντα και το καυσαέριο, πάνω απ' τους βιαστικούς διαβάτες, τον Ιερό της Βράχο, κάτω από τον ίδιο ουρανό, που είτε γκρίζος είτε καταγάλανος και ηλιόλουστος, είναι ο ίδιος ουρανός κάτω από τον οποίο αιώνες τώρα στέκει ο τόπος μου και μιλιέται η γλώσσα μου. Κι όταν μου σώνεται καμιά φορά ο αέρας, από τις δυσκολίες της ζωής, έχω ανάγκη σε αυτόν το βράχο να καταφεύγω, ικέτιδα, για να ανασάνω. Και παίρνω δύναμη από τις παλιές πανανθρώπινες ιστορίες κι έτσι κατηφορίζω πάλι ξανά μέσα στην γκρίζα πόλη, γιατρεμένη.

Η Αθηνά με την μορφή του Μέντη του αρχηγού των Ταφιωτών πάει στην Ιθάκη στο παλάτι του Οδυσσέα, βρίσκει τον νεαρό του γιο, τον Τηλέμαχο και τον συμβουλεύει να μην κάθεται άλλο ανάμεσα στους μνηστήρες, αλλά να πάρει ένα καράβι και να επισκεφτεί το Νέστορα στην Πύλο και τον Μενέλαο στην Σπάρτη, για να μάθει νέα για τον χαμένο του πατέρα, που είκοσι χρόνια τώρα λείπει από την Ιθάκη, και δεν ξέρει κανένας αν ζει ή αν πέθανε. Ο νέος φεύγει κρυφά, κι όταν το πληροφορούνται οι μνηστήρες σχεδιάζουν στην επιστροφή να τον σκοτώσουν, αλλά το θράσος τους δεν θα τους βγει σε καλό καθώς άλλες είναι οι βουλές των θεών.

Ξανά με παρακίνηση της Αθηνάς, φτάνει ο Ερμής στη νησί της Ωγυγίας, εκεί που η Καλυψώ κρατάει, από έρωτα, αιχμάλωτο τον Οδυσσέα και της δίνει εντολή να τον αφήσει να φύγει, για το νησί των Φαιάκων. Εκεί παρουσιάζεται μια από τις ωραίες περιγραφές που δεν χόρταινα να διαβάζω παλιά, όταν ήμουν ακόμη μαθήτρια στο Γυμνάσιο:

"όσο που βρήκε μια σπηλιά μεγάλη, όπου η νεράιδα
καθόντανε η λαμπρόμαλλη και μέσα εκεί την ήβρε.
Φωτιά μεγάλη είχε στη στια και μια ευωδιά απ' αλάργα
μοσκοβολούσε στο νησί, κέδρου κι αφράτης θούγιας
που καίγουνταν. Κι η Καλυψώ, μ' ολόχρυση σαΐτα
στον αργαλειό της ύφαινε και γλυκοτραγουδούσε.
Φούντωνε γύρω στη σπηλιά δροσολουσμένο δάσος
με κυπαρίσσια ευωδιαστά, με πεύκες και με σκλήθρα,
όπου πλατύφτερα πουλιά φωλιάζανε εκεί πάντα,
γεράκια κι ανοιχτόφωνες κουρούνες, βαρδολούπες
θαλασσοπούλια που αγαπούν τα πέλαγα να σκίζουν.
Κι ολόγυρα στην κουφωτή σπηλιά ήταν απλωμένη,
κληματαριά πολύβλαστη σταφύλια φορτωμένη.
Τέσσερεις βρύσες στη στεριά γλυκό νερό αναβρύζαν,
κοντά-κοντά, κι άλλη απ' αλλού κυλούσε τα νερά της.
Κι ανθούσαν γύρω στη σειρά λιβάδια με γιοφύλια
και σέλινα, που αν τα 'βλεπε κι αθάνατος ακόμα,
θα σάστιζε και μέσα του θα ξάνοιγε η καρδιά του

Έτσι φεύγει, γεμάτος χαρά ο Οδυσσέας, μέσα σε μια σχεδία, αλλά έμελλε να φτάσει στο νησί των Φαιάκων ναυαγός, καθώς ο Ποσει��ώνας σήκωσε θαλασσοταραχή για να τον πνίξει, αλλά η Ινώ του έδωσε το αθάνατο μαντήλι της και τον έσωσε. Κι όταν η κόρη του βασιλιά Αλκίνοου και της σεβάσμια Αρήτης, η Ναυσικά, τον βρίσκει ναυαγό, δεν αργεί ο ήρωας να φτάσει στο παλάτι και να βρει βοήθεια. Εκεί διηγείται όλες τις περασμένες του περιπέτειες (η αφηγηματική τεχνική του in medias res).

Και αν πέρασε περιπέτειες ο θαλασσοδαρμένος ήρωας... Από τους Κίκονες και τους Λωτοφάγους, στη χώρα των Κυκλώπων όπου με τέχνασμα (Ούτις εμοί γ' όνομα) ο ήρωας και οι σύντροφοί του σώζονται από τον ανθρωποφάγο γίγαντα, αφού πρώτα τον μεθύσουν και τον τυφλώσουν:

«Τι σου 'τυχε, Πολύφημε, και μεγαλοφωνάζεις
μες στην αθάνατη νυχτιά και μας χαλάς τον ύπνο;
Μην άθελά σου σ' άρπαξε κανένας το κοπάδι;
Μήνα σου παίρνει τη ζωή μ' απάτη και μ' αντρεία;».
Κι ο φοβερός Πολύφημος απ' τη σπηλιά απαντούσε·
«Αδέρφια, μ' έφαγε ο Κανείς μ' απάτη, όχι μ' αντρεία».
Κι εκείνοι τ' απαντούσανε με πεταχτά ��ους λόγια
«Αφού κανείς δε σ' έβλαψε και μέσα είσαι μονάχος,
απ' την αρρώστια ποιος μπορεί του Δία να σε σώσει;
Δεήσου στον πατέρα σου το σείστη Ποσειδώνα

Κι από εκεί στην Αιολία, όπου ο Αίολος έκλεισε σε έναν ασκό όλους τους ανέμους κι άφησε μόνο την πνοή του Ζέφυρου να τους γυρίσει στην πατρίδα, και πράγματι μετά από δέκα μέρες θαλασσινής πορείας έφτασαν τα καράβια να βλέπουν από μακριά τη στεριά της Ιθάκης. Αλλά οι ανόητοι σύντροφοι του Οδυσσέα άνοιξαν τον ασκό και επέστρεψαν στο νησί του Αιόλου. Κι από εκεί αποδιωγμένοι έφτασαν στην Τηλέπυλο, τη γη των Λαιστρυγόνων, από όπου μόνο το καράβι του Οδυσσέα γλίτωσε. Κι από εκεί στο νησί της Αίας όπου η Κίρκη μεταμόρφωσε τους συντρόφους του σε γουρούνια.

Κι από εκεί διασχίζοντας τον Ωκεανό, φτάνει ο ήρωας να κάνει ζωντανός (δίταφος - δισθανής) ο ίδιος, κατάβαση στους νεκρούς του Άδη, για να πάρει χρησμό από τον Τειρεσία για το πώς θα επιστρέψει στην πατρίδα. Και τον συμβούλεψε ο σοφός μαντης να μη φάνε τα βόδια του Ήλιου σαν βρεθούν στο νησί της Θρινακίας. Κι έπειτα πέρασε από τις Σειρήνες, τη Σκύλλα και τη Χάρυβδη κι έφτασε στο νησί του Ήλιου, όπου οι σύντροφοί του σπρωγμένοι από την πείνα παραβίασαν τον χρησμό και έτσι όλοι χάθηκαν εκτός από τον ίδιο τον Οδυσσέα που κατέληξε ναυαγός και αιχμάλωτος, εραστής της Καλυψώς που ήθελε να τον κάνει αθάνατο.

Κι από εκεί στο νησί των Φαιάκων επιστρέφει ο ήρωας στην Ιθάκη γεμάτος δώρα, αλλά οι περιπέτειές του δεν τελειώνουν εδώ. Αρχικά δεν αναγνωρίζει τον ίδιο του τον τόπο καθώς έχουν περάσει τόσα χρόνια. Με την παρέμβαση της Αθηνάς που τον μεταμορφώνει σε γέρος επαίτη, φτάνει, αγνώριστος στην καλύβα του Εύμαιου του χοιροβοσκού.

Ο Εύμαιος, ο πιστός, ο αφοσιωμένος, ο σοφός και φιλόξενος, δεν είναι ένας απλός δούλος του Οδυσσέα. Σαν ήταν μικρό παιδάκι, γιος βασιλιά, τον απήγαγαν κι έτσι βρέθηκε να υπηρετεί την οικογένεια του Λαέρτη στην Ιθάκη. Γι' αυτόν ο Όμηρος επιφυλάσσει μια ιδιαίτερη τιμή, κάθε φορά που μιλάει στο έργο, ο ποιητής απευθύνεται σε αυτόν στο β ενικό (τον δ’ απαμειβόμενος προσέφης, Εύμαιε συβώτα):

Τότε, Εύμαιε χοιροβοσκέ, τ' απάντησες κι έτσι είπες·
Δεν το 'χω, γέρο, σε καλό τον ξένο ν' αψηφήσω,
χειρότερός σου κι αν ερθεί. Γιατί σταλτοί απ' το Δία
είναι όλοι οι ξένοι και οι φτωχοί. Το δόσιμό μας λίγο
μα πρόσχαρο

Έτσι μεταμορφωμένος, καθώς επιστρέφει και ο Τηλέμαχος από το ταξίδι του, φτάνει στο παλάτι του, ζητιάνος, υπόκειται σε ταπεινώσεις και εξευτελισμούς από τους μνηστήρες, ώσπου, ξανά με την ενθάρρυνση της Αθηνάς, πετάει τα κουρέλια του και αρχίζει μια μάχη που θα ήταν άνιση χωρίς την παρέμβαση της θεάς, καθώς πολεμάνε τέσσερις από τη μια (Οδυσσέας, Τηλέμαχος, Εύμαιος και ο βοσκός Φιλοίτιος) και πάνω από εκατό από την άλλη πλευρά:

Δεν είναι μια, δεν είναι δυο δεκάδες οι Μνηστήρες
μόν' είναι ακόμα πιο πολλοί, κι άκου να τους μετρήσω.
Απ' το Δουλίχι διαλεχτοί πενήντα δυο λεβέντες,
μ' έξι μαζί τους παραγιούς. Κι όσοι ήρθαν απ' τη Σάμη,
είναι όλοι είκοσι τέσσερεις. Κι είκοσι βάλε ακόμα,
όσοι ήρθαν απ' τη Ζάκυνθο, και δώδεκα απ' το Θιάκι,
ατρόμητοι όλοι στην καρδιά. Κι ο Μέδοντας ο κράχτης,
κι ο θεϊκός τραγουδιστής, πόχουν κι αυτοί μαζί τους,
δυο παραγιούς, στο μοίρασμα των φαγητών τεχνίτες

Μετά τη δολοφονία των μνηστήρων, κι αφού τακτοποιήσει τα του οίκου του ο Οδυσσέας ξανασμίγει με την Πηνελόπη (το θηλυκό πολυμήχανο έτερον ήμισυ ��ου ήρωα, μια γενναία, πανέξυπνη, ευγενική και πιστή σύζυγος και μητέρα) και την επομένη πηγαίνει να συναντήσει τον γέρο πατέρα του, τον Λαέρτη. Και αφού, ξανά με την παρέμβαση της Αθηνάς, αποτρέπεται, την τελευταία στιγμή, η εμφύλια σύγκρουση ανάμεσα στους συγγενείς των μνηστήρων με τον οίκο του Οδυσσέα, η ιστορία τελειώνει, όχι όμως το ταξίδι. Και η ζωή συνεχίζεται...

Τα ηρωικά τραγούδια της μυκηναϊκής εποχής, που διηγούνταν τις περιπέτειες των Αχαιών, ανάμεσα σε αυτά κι η διήγηση της πολιορκίας της Τροίας, και η περιπλάνηση του Οδυσσέα, διαμορφώθηκαν μέσα από επαγγελματίες τραγουδιστές με τη συνοδεία ενός έγχορδου οργάνου (αοιδοί) και τους κατοπινότερους ραψωδούς (που έκαναν απαγγελία των ποιημάτων κρατώντας στο δεξί τους χέρι ένα ραβδί) και κάπως έτσι γίνεται το πέρασμα από την αρχαιότερη προφορική παράδοση στα καταγεγραμμένα έπη (ακολουθώντας τον ρυθμό του δακτυλικού εξαμέτρου), όπως αυτά σώζονται ως σήμερα. Στην Οδύσσεια παρουσιάζονται δύο αοιδοί ο Δημόδοκος στους Φαίακες και ο Φήμιος στους Ίθακες.

Από εδώ κατέβασα την μετάφραση του Σίδερη, από το σχολικό βιβλίο όπως την διδάχτηκα για πρώτη φορά, στο σχολείο ολάκερη:


Από εδώ διάβασα διάφορες σχετικές με τα έπη μελέτες τις οποίες βρήκα ιδιαίτερα χρήσιμες:

Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,277 followers
June 2, 2016
To this day, the most interesting research project that I’ve ever done was the very first. It was on the Homeric Question.

I was a sophomore in college—a student with (unfortunate) literary ambitions who had just decided to major in anthropology. By this point, I had at least tacitly decided that I wanted to be a professor. In my future lay the vast and unexplored ocean of academia. What was the safest vessel to travel into that forbidden wine-dark sea? Research.

I signed up for a reading project with an anthropology professor. Although I was too naïve to sense it at the time, he was a man thoroughly sick of his job. Lucky for him, he was on the cusp of retirement. So his world-weariness manifested itself as a total, guilt-free indifference to his teaching duties. Maybe that’s why I liked him so much. I envied a man that could apparently care so little about professional advancement. That’s what I wanted.

In any case, now I had to come up with a research topic. I had just switched into the major, and so had little idea what typical anthropology research projects were like. And because my advisor was so indifferent, I received no guidance from him. The onus lay entirely on me. One night, as I groped half-heartedly through Wikipedia pages, I stumbled on something fascinating, something that I hadn’t even considered before.

Who is Homer? Nobody knew. Nobody could know. The man—if man he was—was lost to the abyss of time. No trace of him existed. We can’t even pin down what century he lived. And yet, we have these glorious poems—poems at the center of our history, the roots of the Western literary canon. Stories of the Greek Gods had fascinated me since my childhood; Zues and Athena were as familiar as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. That the person (or persons) responsible could be so totally lost to history baffled me—intrigued me.

But I was not majoring in literature or the humanities. I was in anthropology, and so had to do a proper anthropological project. At the very least, I needed an angle.

Milman Parry and Albert Lord duly provided this angle. The two men were classicists—scholars of ancient Greece. But instead of staying in their musty offices reading dusty manuscripts, they did something no classicist had done before: they attempted to answer the Homeric question with field work.

At the time (and perhaps now?) a vibrant oral tradition existed in Serbo-Croatia. Oral poets (guslars, they’re called there) would tell massive stories at public gatherings, some stories even approaching the length of the Homeric poems. But what was most fascinating was that these stories were apparently improvised.

In our decadent culture, we have a warped idea of improvisation. Many of us believe improvisation to be the spontaneous outflowing of creative energies, manifesting themselves in something totally new. Like God shaping the Earth out of the infinite void, these imaginary improvisers shape their art from nothing whatsoever. Unfortunately, this never happens.

Whether you’re a jazz saxophonist playing on a Coltrane tune, a salesperson dealing with a new client, or an oral bard telling a tale, improvisation is done via a playful recombining of preexisting, formulaic elements. This was Milman and Parry’s great discovery. By carefully transcribing hundreds of these Serbo-Croation poems, they discovered that—although a single poem may vary from person to person, place to place, or performance to performance—the variation took place within predictable boundaries.

The poet’s brains were full of stock-phrases (“when dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more”), common epithets (“much-enduring Odysseus”), and otherwise formulaic verses that allowed them to quickly put together their poems. Individual scenes, in turn, also followed stereotypical outlines—feasts, banquets, catalogues of forces, battles, athletic contests, etc. Of course, this is not to say that the poet was not original. Rather, it is to say that they are just as original as John Coltrane or Charlie Parker—individuals working within a tradition. These formulas and stereotypical scenes were the raw material with which the poet worked. They allowed him to compose material quickly enough to keep up the performance, and not break his rhythm.

But could poems as long as The Odyssey and The Iliad come wholly from an oral tradition? It seems improbable: it would take multiple days to recite, and the bard would have to pick up where he left off. But Milman and Parry, during their fieldwork, managed to put our fears at rest. They found a singer that could (and did) compose poems equal in length to Homer’s. (I actually read one. It’s called The Wedding of Smailagic Meho, and was recited by a poet named Avdo. It’s no Odyssey, but still entertaining.)

All this is impressive, but one question remained: how could the oral poems get on paper? Did an oral poet—Homer, presumably—learn to write, and copy it down? Not possible, says Alfred Lord, in his book The Singer of Tales. According to him, once a person becomes literate, the frame of mind required to learn the art of oral poetry cannot be achieved. A literate person thinks of language in an entirely different way as a non-literate one, and so the poems couldn’t have been written by a literate poet who had learned from his oral predecessors.

According to Lord, this left only one option: Homer must have been a master oral poet, and his poems must have been transcribed by someone else. (This is how the aforementioned poem by Avdo was taken down by the researchers.) At the time, this struck me as perfectly likely—indeed, almost certain. But the more I think about it, the less I can imagine an oral poet submitting himself to sit with a scribe, writing in the cumbersome Linear B script, for the dozens and dozens of hours it would have taken to transcribe these poems. It’s possible, but seems unlikely.

But according to Ruth Finnegan, Alfred Lord’s insistence that literacy destroys the capacity to improvise poems is mistaken. An anthropologist, Finnegan found many cases in Africa of semi-literate or fully literate people who remained capable of improvising poetry. So it’s at least equally possible that Homer was an oral poet who learned to read, and then decided to commit the poems to paper (or whatever they were writing on back then).

I submit this longwinded overview of the Homeric Question because, despite my usual arrogance, I cannot even imagine writing a ‘review’ for this poem. I feel like that would be equivalent to ‘reviewing’ one’s own father and mother. For me, and everyone alive in the Western world today, The Odyssey is flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood. Marvelously sophisticated, fantastically exciting, it is the alpha and omega of our tradition. From Homer we sprang, and unto Homer shall we return.

[Note: I'd also like to add that this time, my third or forth time through the poem, I decided to go through it via audiobook. Lucky for me, the Fagles translation (a nice one if you're looking for readability) is available as an audiobook, narrated by the great Sir Ian McKellen. It was a wonderful experience, not only because Sir Ian has such a beautiful voice (he's Gandalf, after all), but because hearing it read rather than reading it recreated, however dimly, the original experience of the poem: as a performance. I highly recommend it.]
Profile Image for Gabriel.
501 reviews707 followers
October 5, 2022
La Odisea me ha gustado muchísimo más que la Ilíada, ya que no se me hizo tan pesada. Sin embargo, considero que es necesario leer esta última primero para tener más contexto en este libro, ya que aparecen personajes del pasado y se deja en claro cuál fue el desenlace mismo de ellos. Es lo más recomendable.

La historia empieza in media res, cuando muchos de los eventos ya han sucedido y algunos ya están evolucionando (luego del desenlace de la Guerra de Troya, los problemas que se le han presentado a Ulises en su regreso a casa, Penélope y sus pretendientes, Telémaco en busca de su padre, etc). Trama y subtramas por varios lados; historias entre historias.

La Odisea utiliza tantos tópicos literarios que a mí me fascinan. Comenzando por la seducción, la tentación, la fidelidad/infidelidad, la soledad, la muerte, el anhelo, la astucia y sagacidad del protagonista para salir con vida de variadas situaciones, conspiraciones, venganza, el viaje del héroe con retorno a casa: y a su misma vez la importancia de la familia y el hogar. Pruebas, presagios y la lealtad puesta sobre la mesa.

Toda una aventura para Ulises; quien es un líder con defectos y virtudes, que luego de meter la pata es capaz de crear planes ingeniosos para salirse con la suya. Es quizás por eso que me fascinó el libro, ya que Ulises muy por el contrario a Aquiles utiliza la inteligencia. Es un héroe que aprende de sus errores anteriores, por lo que no los vuelve a cometer y ejecuta sus propósitos con mayor cuidado y paciencia; ya no tan a la ligera, por lo que no se deja llevar por impulsos emocionales que de nada le sirven.

Pasamos de isla en isla, recorremos tempestuosos mares y conocemos a la ninfa Calipso y Circe la hechicera. Con seres mitológicos como las criaturas marinas escila y caribdis, los gigantes, cícloples, sirenas y los tan temidos y omnipotentes dioses del Olimpo, aunque aquí solo tenemos como presencia absoluta a Atenea y en parte toman importancia Poseidón y Zeus.

Ha sido un largo viaje para Ulises ir a la batalla y regresar a su patria; en el que diez años le costó la guerra de Troya lejos de su familia y diez años más regresar con ellos por la ira de Poseidón. Veinte años y toda una verdadera odisea para el pobre.
Profile Image for J.G. Keely.
546 reviews10.2k followers
August 18, 2009
It's funny how many people feel intimidated by this book. Sure, it's thousands of years old, and certainly Greek culture has some peculiarities, but the book is remarkably, sometimes surprisingly modern, and most translations show the straightforward simplicity of the story.

Perhaps like The Seventh Seal, The Odyssey has gotten a reputation for being difficult because it has been embraced by intellectuals and worse, wanna-be intellectuals. But like Bergman's classic film, The Odyssey is focused on action, low humor, and vivid characters, not complex symbolism and pretension.

It shouldn't really surprise us how modern the story seems, from it's fast-paced action to its non-linear story: authors have taken cues from it for thousands of years, and continue to take inspiration from it today. Any story of small people, everyday heroes, and domestic life we read today is only a few steps removed from Odysseus' tale.

Unlike the Iliad, this book is not focused on grand ideas or a grand stage. The characters do not base their actions on heroic ideals but on their emotions, their pains and joys, their grumbling bellies. It is less concerned with the fate of nations than the state of the family and friendship.

Since the story turns on whims instead of heroic ideals, it is much less focused than the Iliad, meandering from here to there in a series of unconnected vignettes drawn from the mythic tradition. Like The Bible, it is a combination of stories, but without a philosophical focus.

There are numerous recurring themes that while not concluded, are certainly explored. The most obvious of these may be the tradition of keeping guests in Greece. The most honorable provide their guests with feasts, festivals, and gifts. This seems mostly the effect of a noblesse oblige among the ruling class.

Like the codes of war or the class system, it is a social structure which benefits their rulership. Like the palace of Versailles of Louis XIV, keeping someone as a guest was a way to keep an eye on them and to provide camaraderie and mutual reliance amongst the fractitious ruling class.

The second theme is that of 'metis', represented by Odysseus himself. Metis is the Greek term for cunning. It is a quick-witted cleverness that is sometimes considered charming and other times deceitful. Achilles tells Odysseys in the Iliad that he resents the clever man's entreaties, and those of any man who says one thing but thinks another.

Odysseus later mimics this sentiment as part of an elaborate lie to gain the trust of another man. Such are the winding ways of our hero. He misleads his son, his wife, his servants, and his despondent father after his return, careful not to overplay his hand in a dangerous situation, arriving as a stranger.

Each of these prevarications can be seen sometimes as cruel, but each deception has a reasoning behind it. He uses his stories to carefully prepare his listeners for his return, instead of springing it upon them unwarned. He ensures that he will be received upon the most profitable terms, though he also enjoys the game of it all.

These acts of sudden, cruel cleverness are not uncommon in epics and adventure tales. One tale of Viking raiders tells of how, after sailing into the Mediterranean, their ship reached one of the cities of the Roman Empire. Though just a small outpost, the Viking chief thought it was Rome itself, since its stone buildings towered over the farms of his homeland.

He hid in a coffin with a wealth of swords and had his soldiers bear him into the town, telling the inhabitants they wished to make burial rights for their dead king. When they were let in, the coffin was opened, the swords passed around, and the city sacked. What is curious is that while warriors like the Greeks or Vikings maintained a strict sense of honor and honesty, this kind of trick was not only common in their stories, but admired.

The honor of the battlefield does not extend to the Trojan Horse (Odysseus' idea) or to the tale of Sinon in the Aeneid. The rule seems to be that if the tricks played are grand and clever enough, they are allowed, while small, mean pranks and betrayals are not. Not all the soldiers agree what is outsmarting and what is dishonorable (Achilles puts Odysseus in the latter camp), but there is a give and take there.

What is most remarkable about Odysseus is not merely that he comes up with these tricks, but that he passes them off on proud, honorable men without incurring their wrath. Moreover, he does all this while having a famous reputation for being tricky. You'd think he'd get an intentional walk now and then.

Odysseus was not as strong a character as Achilles or Hector were in the Iliad, though this may be because he was a complex character who did not rely on the cliche characterizations of 'the noble warrior'. He is not a man with a bad temper, nor a good one. He is a competent and powerful warrior and leader, but those are not his defining characteristics, either.

Odysseus represents the Greek ideal of 'arete' as well as metis. Arete is the idea that a man who is truly great should excel in all things, not merely concentrate on one area of life. Even raging Achilles showed the depth of his arete in the Iliad when he served as host and master of the games. He was capable of nobility, sound judgment, and generosity, even if he didn't always put his best foot forward.

Odysseus is likewise skilled in both war and domesticity, in the sword and politics, and he's clever and wily to boot. In the end, there isn't much room left over for negative character traits, which is what makes him feel a bit flat. What makes people interesting as individuals is not their best traits, but their worst.

For Odysseus, this is his pride. After spending twenty years of his life away at war, leaving his wife and infant son behind, it's not surprising that he wants to return home with wealth and with his name on the lips of poets and minstrels.

Between his pride, his easy smile, and his quick wit, he is the model for the modern action hero. He is not merely some chivalric picture of goodness, nor simply mighty and overwhelming, but a conflicted man with a wry sense of humor and above all, a will to survive.

Don't read this book simply because it is old, influential, and considered great. Read it because it is exciting and approachable and thoughtful. Even without all the reputation, it can stand on its own.

I read the Fagles translation, which was enjoyable and often lovely, though some modern idioms did slip in here and there. The Knox intro rehashes a lot of the introduction to The Iliad, but it's still very useful.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews599 followers
June 21, 2019
Audiobook read by Claire Danes ..

I finished this Audiobook weeks ago - but the physical book - I’m throwing in the towel. I own the physical book - but I just couldn’t get myself to stay with it.

I liked listening to Claire Danes ... I was fully engaged at the time ...(she was helpful for me staying interested )...but I’m already forgetting everything...

I need to borrow another person’s brain!
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
656 reviews7,103 followers
August 27, 2016

I started this as I was told it is essential reading if I ever want to give a shot at reading Ulysses. I was a bit apprehensive and spent a long time deciding on which translation to choose. Finally it was Stephen's review that convinced me to go for the Robert Fagles' version. I have no way of judging how good a decision that was.

This translation, by Robert Fagles, is of the Greek text edited by David Monro and Thomas Allen, first published in 1908 by the Oxford University Press. This two-​volume edition is printed in a Greek type, complete with lower- and uppercase letters, breathings and accents, that is based on the elegant handwriting of Richard Porson, an early-​nineteenth-​century scholar of great brilliance, who was also an incurable alcoholic as well as a caustic wit. This was of course not the first font of Greek type; in fact, the first printed edition of Homer, issued in Florence in 1488, was composed in type that imitated contemporary Greek handwriting, with all its complicated ligatures and abbreviations. Early printers tried to make their books look like handwritten manuscripts because in scholarly circles printed books were regarded as vulgar and inferior products — cheap paperbacks, so to speak.

First up, I enjoyed the book, even the droll parts. It was fun to repeatedly read Odysseus's laments and Telemachus' airy threats about the marauding suitors.

But now that I have finished it, how do I attempt a review? What can I possibly say about an epic like this that has not been said before? To conclude by saying that it was wonderful would be a disservice. To analyse it would be too self-important and to summarize it would be laughable.

Nevertheless, I thought of giving a sort of moral summary of the story and then abandoned that. I then considered writing about the many comparisons it evoked it my mind about the Indian epics that I have grown up with, but I felt out of my depth since I have not even read the Iliad yet.

With all those attempts having failed, I am left with just repeating again that it was much more enjoyable than I expected. That is not to say that it was an epic adventure with no dull moments. No. The characters repeat themselves in dialogue and in attitude, all major dramatic points are revealed in advance as prophesy and every important story event is told again at various points by various characters.

Even though I avoided it as much as I can, I could not at times avoid contrasting my reading experience with that of the epics I have grown up with and I remember thinking to myself that in comparison this reads like a short story or a novella. Maybe this impression is because I am largely yet unaware of the large mythical structure on which the story is built. I intend to allay that deficiency soon.

The characters are unforgettable, the situations are legendary and I am truly happy that I finally got around to a full reading of this magnificent epic. It has opened up a new world.
Profile Image for Jonathan O'Neill.
174 reviews352 followers
August 12, 2022
5 ⭐

“… I would walk sail 500 [nautical] miles
and I would walk sail 500 more,
just to be the man who walked sailed a thousand [nautical] miles
to fall down slay the suitors at your door.”

- Odysseus the Proclaimer

I’ve been under the weather the last week or so, feeling about as upbeat as Uranus’ following his castration at the hands of his own Son Cronus; or as joyous as Pasiphae recovering her senses and grasping the full extent of her dalliance with the snow-white bull. Alas, I’m better now and am pleased to finally get a chance to “review” this beauty! In keeping with my self-enforced regulation on bringing an unparalleled level of sophistication and succinctness to my analyses of these illustrious cornerstones of Western Mythology, I’ll be covering the themes that stood out most prominently to me and strictly in the most intellectual and earnest fashion.

"Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest!"
The Guest-Host Code of Conduct is a constant throughout Homer’s poem and, when compared to the state of modern hospitality, it becomes clear that we’ve lost our way; By the river Styx, woe be us, we have lost our way! Not once do I recall a host ever offering to have me bathed, rubbed down with oil and dressed in a fine robe when I've deigned to visit their abode. What has come of us?! Has Zeus, being the God this most concerns, lost his zeal for the divine enforcement of the etiquette of hospitality? For the love of the Gods, lather me! And forget not to bestow upon me a parting gift!
In general, a host is most likely to be at fault in the interaction between guest and host if they don’t properly cater to any wayward soul that stumbles upon their palace but the opposite can also be seen in the 108 suitors who, in attempting to court the absent Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, in a brutish, non-ritualistic manner, take advantage of their host’s hospitality, consuming their reserves of food and wine and ravishing their female servants.
If the domestic settings of Homer's epics are at all reflective of Ancient Greek society in the time they were written, there is an interesting parallel regarding ritual propriety and even, to a lesser degree, filial piety with Chinese culture in the time of Confucius, several hundred years later.

”The fame of her great virtue will never die.
The immortal gods will lift a song for all mankind,
A glorious song in praise of self-possessed Penelope” - Agamemnon

Loyalty and faithfulness, in all their forms are a big one and nobody embodies these more than Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, the soul of loyalty! (Besides maybe Argos, the loyal dog) Despite Odysseus advising her to wed the man she likes as soon as she sees hair on, their son, Telemachus’ face, she holds out for 20 years despite 108 oily degenerates attempting to court her when it is presumed Odysseus dies at Troy. What a woman! Gents, find yourself a Penelope! Ladies, if the men in this book are anything to go by, I’m afraid you’ll probably have to settle for a Pepé Le Pew.
It’s probably worth noting that Hesiod, Homer's contemporary, states, in his Theogony of the Gods, that Odysseus sired 4 children on his 10-year journey home; 2 with Calypso and 2 with Circe. So, while Penelope was faithfully waiting for him at home, he was gettin’ down with 2 Nymph Goddesses (that we know of)! Ok, I’m being a little flippant here; at least one of these was totally against his will *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*. One notices a distinct lack of detail when Odysseus recounts his adventures to his wife.

”When a man cries, it’s the last thing he wants to do… He will do anything but cry. He will stop himself crying no matter how tragic it is. And he would do everything, and only when he’s completely defeated emotionally will he start to cry properly.” - Michael Caine
Michael Caine obviously never read ‘The Odyssey’ ‘cos while resilience/perseverance are another major theme of ‘The Odyssey’, there is also A LOT of grown ass men crying! There’s nothing wrong with that and, in context, I should mention that Caine made that comment in an acting masterclass BUT these are battle-hardened soldiers who are returning home from a 10-year war and have absolutely no qualms raping and pillaging as they go. I hardly think they are the super-sentimental types. I’m not talking a tear trickling down the cheek either; we’re talking platoons of soldiers in a communal sob session, wailing, shrieking, going full Timberlake-cry-me-a-river at the slightest provocation! However, once the tears have abated, our characters always push on, particularly Odysseus and “what good can come of grief?” appears a recurring rhetorical query and the message appears to be, dust yourself off and carry on!

Odysseus is not a great guy really, but his determination and ability to will himself on in the face of great odds is endearing, regardless of his shortcomings. He is the hero of the story and held in high esteem for possessing many of the typical Homeric heroes attributes: Strength, bravery, godly physique, and also diplomacy, tactfulness, cunning and deceitfulness (also seen as a positive attribute). I couldn’t help having a bit of a chuckle when Odysseus and a small number of his crew are stuck in, the Cyclops, Polyphemus’ cave and trying to deduce a means of escape. Homer is really trying to drive home Odysseus’ cunning— ”My wits kept weaving, weaving cunning schemes… till this plan struck my mind as best” and then:
Odysseus sheep
”Hey, hey, guys, GUYS! Hide yourselves beneath the sheep! Two sheep to a man; except me, I’ll take this large one. He’ll never see us! Oh, Gods be praised, I’m so cunning; a real clever sausage!”

Odysseus at his finest! A man endowed with the God’s own wisdom; foxy, ingenious!.... Anyone who thinks Homer didn’t have a sense of humour is kidding themselves.

Following a positive experience with Robert Fagles’ translation of ‘The Iliad’, I opted for the deluxe edition of his Odyssey translation for the ‘Penguin Classics’ line and, once again, I thought it was very readable. It’s a non-rhyming verse translation with varying line length. I think it succeeds in sounding traditional while also being absolutely accessible to the modern reader. Fagles mentions something along the lines of Homer’s works being quite fast paced and energetic and, without any knowledge of the original, it seems to me that he's succeeded in maintaining this high level of rapidity and excitement. There was only one example of, what I thought was, a poor translation when, at one point, Fagles uses the phrase ”cramping my style”. I’m being knit-picky but it doesn’t fit with the overall tone of the rest of the text and feels too modern. Bernard Knox’s introduction and notes are also, once again, fascinating and illuminating regarding the origins and the nature of the poem, particularly a discussion on the more prominent (read:existent) role of women in the Odyssey when compared with the sausage-fest that is the Iliad.

More than anything, for me, ‘The Odyssey’ is just a rollicking good adventure! If you’re perhaps someone who tried the Iliad and didn’t enjoy it (what is wrong with you?!) but really love Mythology retellings, you may very well still love this one which has an entirely different thematic focus and overall tone; less relentless war, more of combination of treachorous journey and domestic affair! I really can’t recommend it highly enough.
It's as glorious as the young dawn with her rose-red fingers!
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books3,720 followers
October 2, 2017
Book Review
4 out of 5 stars to The Odyssey, published around 800 BC and written by Homer. I was tasked with reading this epic work as part of an Advanced Placement English course in between my junior and senior years of high school. I loved literature back then as much as I do now, and my reading habits probably grew from everything my teachers encouraged us to read during the summer hiatus and mid-year breaks. We sampled literature from all over the world, and this Greek tome was one of the many we read. We only read certain sections, as it's over 500 pages long, but I finished it on my own over winter break that year. It often depends on the translation version you read, as it might make it better or worse for you. I don't recall which one the teacher selected, but it must have been good as I did my quarterly papers on both this book and Homer's other work, The Iliad. The Odyssey was an amazing tale of a journey through the famed Trojan Wars in ancient Greece. Meeting all the gods and goddesses, understanding the genealogy and family structure, the plots between all their shenanigans and games... for someone with my hobbies and interests, this was perfect. The only part I found a bit dull was when it truly went into war-time battle descriptions, as reading details about fighting is not typically something I enjoy. But the soap opera-like quality of these characters cum deity realities was just absorbing fun. The lyrics and the words fly off the pages. The images and the metaphors are pretty. And if you know enough about Greek history, you almost feel as if you're in the story.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.
Profile Image for Jennifer Welsh.
258 reviews220 followers
November 6, 2020
I’m not a scholar, so I can only offer my personal experience.

First, I want to say that I thought this would be a daunting task - an epic poem!? From Ancient Greece!? But, it was such an enjoyable and accessible read, I’m grateful to my goodreads friend who encouraged me to move forward.

Second, I highly recommend this version, published by Penguin, written in prose, and covered in a pretty design, by Coralie Bickford-Smith. Not only is it gorgeous on your shelf, it’s physically comfortable to read, with its perfect size and soothing ivory pages.

As for the story, it’s full of action and imagination, fun characters and fantastical creatures. I especially enjoyed Odysseus’ fanciful encounters and challenges with these creatures, with the underworld, and with the goddesses. I was disappointed by how little effort was put into his time with Calypso, and adored his time with Circe. (If you haven’t read Madeline Miller’s “Circe,” and you enjoy mythology, please do).

The story slowed for me when he returned home. Odysseus is portrayed as a character of wit, clever manipulation and disguise. Much of his return is dedicated to this display, and I found myself wondering why I had to read full, false accounts of his adventures as he told them while in disguise. According to some quick internet research, the purpose of these passages was to show his intelligence by how he wove truth into fiction, and so was able to inhabit a new identity. But, I found these - after experiencing his dramatic adventures, pointless, and so motivated to research their point.

Don’t worry. It gets better again, in my opinion. The ending is plenty dramatic, and completely satisfying.

Reading this made me want to reread Circe. I also picked up Atwood’s The Penelopiad. Following this thread has been very enjoyable.
Profile Image for Linda.
Author 2 books177 followers
March 7, 2022
Homer Therapy 102
“By hook or by crook, this peril too shall be something we remember.”

During covid lockdown, my husband and I decided to study Ancient Greece. Each night after dinner, we listened to a half an hour lecture or read from a classic text. It’s become a habit or rather a household ritual in which even our dog partakes. (She has a chair she sits in while we listen.) We studied history, philosophy, mythology, and when omicron threatened, we decided to re-read Homer. It has been magical, therapeutic even. On Saturday, we finished the Odyssey.

Living in such trying times makes me long for something of lasting quality. Emily Wilson’s exquisite translation of Odysseus’s tumultuous ten-year journey home from Troy helped me grapple with the precariousness of the human condition and our own mortality. We listened to Claire Danes read and simultaneously read along. Homer is meant to be heard, and Danes gives an outstanding performance. Our understanding of the text was enhanced by interspersing Elizabeth Vandiver’s excellent lectures throughout our reading. Our journey with Odysseus, Penelope, and Telemachus provided a needed uplift for us as it has for others over the past 2,500 years. Highly recommend.

Thanks to Bruce Katz for recommending Emily Wilson's translation.
Profile Image for [P].
145 reviews525 followers
August 12, 2015
My parents split when I was very young. The arrangement they made between them was that my brother and I would spend the weekends with our father, but would live, during the week, with my mother. One winter, when I was ten years old, it started to snow heavily and gave no indication of stopping any time soon. It was a Sunday morning and my brother and I were due to leave dad’s and return to what, for us, was home. The snow, however, had other ideas.

To go home we had to catch two buses. The first was running late, but, otherwise, the ride, although slow, was pretty uneventful. We arrived in the centre of Sheffield sometime around one o’clock. It was then that things started to go awry. At the stop where we would usually catch the next bus, which was to take us into Rotherham, there was one already waiting. It did not, however, give the appearance of preparing to go anywhere; the engine was off and the driver was stood outside, smoking a cigarette. Being ten years old I did not want to ask the driver what was happening but I heard another potential passenger enquire as to when we would be allowed to board. ‘You won’t’ said the driver. ‘All buses have been cancelled due to the snow. I’m returning to the depot.’

At this a strange kind of panic overcame me. My brother and I were halfway between my mother’s and my dad’s, with no phone and our fare the only money in our pockets. Typically, my brother wanted to wait it out. The buses would start running again soon, he said. But I knew that wasn’t the case. The snow had settled, and heavy spidery flakes were still bombing the city. Waiting would only make it harder to walk; and walking, I knew, was inevitable.

To return to dad’s was, relatively speaking, easier; it was closer and the route was straightforward; but, as when after the split, when we were asked which parent we wanted to live with, we instinctively felt drawn to our mother, despite the inevitable hardships. And so, our decision made, we set off through the snow in the direction of home, following the route the bus would have taken. Yet time and distance, we found, are deceptive. What had taken 25 minutes on a bus, would, we thought, only take us an hour. But the bus wasn’t a young child; it wasn’t cold and tired and scared. On the bus, home had always seemed close, just around the next corner; but as we mashed through the snow it seemed impossible, unreachable; it seemed, after a couple of hours, as though it no longer existed; nothing existed, except the snow, which is all we could see.

Two or three times my brother fell down, and I, almost without stopping, dragged him to his feet, shouting encouragement into the snow. At some point night fell too; and still the heavy spidery flakes came down, punctuating the darkness. By this stage I could not have said why I was doing what I was doing; instinct had kicked in; one foot followed the other, regardless. I remember coming to a distinctive spot, a part of the journey that, by bus, always felt significant, because it meant only another five or ten minutes until we reached home. But on foot, mashing through thick boot-clinging snow, that last leg, which was up hill, seemed monstrous.

Eventually we made it, of course. As we descended the hill on the other side we were met by my mother and her then boyfriend, who, we were told, could not bear to wait any longer and had started to walk to meet us on the way. And there it was: home; which is, I found, not a physical building, but the look in my mother’s eyes as she ran to greet us.

[Odysseus in the Cave of Polyphemus by Jacob Jordaens]

The point of this story is to illustrate how universal great literature is, for whenever I think back to that day, which is something that I do quite often, I am immediately reminded of The Odyssey, Homer’s immortal poem. My brother and I did not encounter any Sirens, or Lotus Eaters or Cyclops, but our walk through the snow was, in principle, a fight to get home, to overcome adversity and return to the familiar and comfortable. And, on the most basic level, this is just what The Odyssey is about. Following the war at Troy, as he sought to return to Ithica, to his wife and son, Odysseus had stumbled from one disastrous situation to the next, until the great warrior found himself entrapped on an island for seven years by Calypso, a Goddess. Eventually, with the help of Pallas Athena, he is allowed to leave; and so continues his famous, epic quest.

“Men are so quick to blame the gods: they say
that we devise their misery. But they
themselves- in their depravity- design
grief greater than the griefs that fate assigns.”

It may seem like an unusual thing to say about epic poetry, but there is a tremendous amount of dumb fun to be had when reading The Odyssey. The tricking of Polyphemus – who Odysseus gets drunk and subsequently blinds – is probably the most famous episode, but I also particularly enjoyed the beautiful witch Circe, who turns a number of the ship’s crew into pigs. To the modern reader, The Odyssey is a fantasy, having much in common with something like The Tempest or A Midsummer’s Night Dream or even fairytales; indeed, to highlight a more recent example, one can draw a number of parallels between Homer’s work and the Lord of the Rings saga. In this way, I would say that it has a broader appeal, is easier to digest, and certainly contains greater variety, than the brutal, relentless Iliad.

Despite the weird creatures, the faraway lands, the quest, and the prominence of a great hero, the heart of The Odyssey is conventional and domestic, in that it is concerned with values such as love and friendship and the importance of family. Again, this is in contrast to The Iliad, where honour and death and war are the focus. When Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, goes in search of news of his father he is given hospitality from a number of Odysseus’ friends, and their sons and daughters and wives, who are willing to do all they can to help him. Penelope, meanwhile, is, even after a number of years, and not knowing whether her husband is alive or dead, still resisting the suitors who have almost taken over her house. In fact, she even plays a trick on them, promising to take a new husband only after she has finished weaving a shroud, while unpicking it each night to make sure that she never does.

“Now from his breast into the eyes the ache
of longing mounted, and he wept at last,
his dear wife, clear and faithful, in his arms,
longed for as the sunwarmed earth is longed for by a swimmer
spent in rough water where his ship went down
under Poseidon’s blows, gale winds and tons of sea.
Few men can keep alive through a big serf
to crawl, clotted with brine, on kindly beaches
in joy, in joy, knowing the abyss behind:
and so she too rejoiced, her gaze upon her husband,
her white arms round him pressed as though forever.”

One thing I find refreshing about Greek myths, and by extension Homer’s work, is that women play such a strong role. It’s funny how hundreds of years later women would be seen as delicate, incapable creatures who need protecting by being locked up at home, and yet here their position, and personalities, are not dissimilar to the men’s. For example, Goddesses are worshipped and invoked just as much as God’s, and it is not the case that these Goddesses are concerned with flower arranging and children, they get their hands dirty, intervening and interacting with what is happening on earth, be that war or whatever. In fact, although The Odyssey is certainly Odysseus’ story [the clue is in the title], the second most important character is the grey-eyed Pallas Athena. Moreover, as noted earlier, Penelope, although upset that her husband is lost or dead, is no sap, while, conversely, the mighty Odysseus frequently bursts into tears.

If you have read any of my reviews you will likely know that, when approaching translated literature, choosing the best translation is, for me, of paramount importance; so much so that there are books that I haven’t enjoyed in one translation, and later really liked in another. The question of which translation one should read becomes particularly critical when one is concerned with poetry. Part of me, I must admit, is resistant to the idea of translated poetry altogether, because I just cannot see how it can possibly bear any great or significant resemblance to the original. Yet I think this is less of a danger with epic, narrative poetry; with something like The Odyssey, the translator has a story to tell, and as long as he or she tells it faithfully they have done at least half the job right.

For The Iliad I chose Robert Fagles’ critically acclaimed version. The reason for this is that I felt that his robust [you might uncharitably call it inelegant] style suited the material. I did, however, cringe frequently at some of his phrasing and word choices, which were far too modern for my taste. Therefore, for The Odyssey I went with Robert Fitzgerald, who, I believe, had a stronger ear for poetry and a more subtle touch. Yet, having said that, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Fitzgerald’s rendering to the first time reader of Homer’s work. I think the popularity of Fagles’ translations has much to do with how accessible they are; the truth is that most people don’t care about the use of modern language in an ancient Greek text; in fact, the average reader would likely prefer language that is recognisable to them.

In comparison, Firtzgerald’s rendering is more of a challenge. Don’t get me wrong, his work is still readable and is, for the most part, easy enough to get a handle on, but some of his choices are potentially alienating or disorientating. For example, character and place names are spelt in a way that most of us will not recognise [Calypso is Kalypso, Circe is Kirke, Ithica is Ithika etc]. In most cases, deciphering these is, as you call tell by my examples, not especially difficult, but occasionally the spellings are outright baffling. The worst I can recall is Sirens, which in Fitzgerald’s version is Seirenes. When one encounters something like this, one is, unfortunately, taken out of the text as you try and work out what or whom exactly we are dealing with.

However, as previously hinted, the strength of his version is that it stands up as poetry. I can’t, of course, say that it is the best or most successful version, not having read them all, but it is consistently smooth, beautiful and stirring. There’s one line in it, which is repeated throughout the text, about the dawn’s ‘finger tips of rose,’ that I was particularly taken with, and which, moreover, I have seen elsewhere translated in such disappointing and clunky ways.

[Odysseus and the Sirens by Herbert James Draper]

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the poem is the sophisticated structure. I expected that it would be episodic, and it is, but I did not anticipate a non-linear narrative. The Odyssey begins in media res, with a significant proportion of the action already in the past. As we enter the story, Odysseus has been missing for many years, the suitors are surrounding his house in an effort to take his wife, and his son is about to begin his own journey for news of his father. Therefore, for quite some time the main character is off-stage, so to speak. When he does appear, he spends much of his time recounting the details of his life following the war in Troy. So, we only have access to the most exciting, and the most famous, episodes as flashbacks.

What this highlights is the important role that oral story-telling plays in the text. Throughout, Odysseus and many other characters tell tales, be they fictional or true, as a way or bonding or sharing information or entertaining each other, in the same way that we do now. I have always found this interesting, this seemingly universal, immortal desire to give voice to, and share, stories with other people. It is something, as the rambling introductions to my reviews attest, that I feel compelled to do myself. At one stage, Athena turns Odysseus into a beggar, and the hero creates for him an entire history, fleshing out and breathing life into the character he is playing. So there you have it: a book that shouts loudly about home and family and so on, but which, in a more subtle fashion, is equally concerned with, as well as being itself an example of, the joy and importance of communication and human interaction.
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537 reviews502 followers
August 23, 2016
Where do you start with a book such as this? An epic tale that has been around for almost three thousand years. I have no idea. What I do know is that I read it and loved it. I had little foreknowledge of the story and I haven't looked into the meanings or history too deeply. Instead I've tried to appreciate the story on it's own merits, getting swept away like Odysseus on the sea. There were quiet contemplative events and dramatic battles, personal struggles and wider societal issues. Gods and heroes, kings and queens, nymphs and cyclops, a lot of deceptive weaving and a city full of ill fated suitors, what more could you want?
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