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Old School Classics, Pre-1900 > The Odyssey - NO Spoilers

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message 1: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments This is our Old School Classic Group Read for August 2016.

Please use this thread for general, spoiler free discussion of The Odyssey by Homer

If you wish to discuss the plot in more detail, then please use the spoiler thread here

If you would like a free copy of the book, here are some links for online, kindle and audio versions:

Project Gutenberg (Samuel Butler translation from 1900)

Amazon UK and Amazon.com (S.H. Butcher and Andrew Lang translation, from 1879)

Amazon UK and Amazon.com (Alexander Pope translation, from 1725)

Librivox (collaborative reading, Samuel Butler translation, from 1900)

Librivox (solo reading, George Chapman translation, from 1616)


message 2: by Pink (last edited Jul 31, 2016 03:08PM) (new)

Pink | 6554 comments A note on translations -

There are many versions of The Odyssey, any of which are suitable for this group read. It comes down to personal preference and availability, especially if you're reading a free edition, which tend to be older translations.

Wikipedia has a page listing the English translations, link here, of which there are hundreds ranging from the 17th to the 21st century.

If you're unsure of which edition to choose, you are not alone, but the three most popular and lauded translations seem to be those of Richard Lattimore, Robert Fagles and Robert Fitzgerald. Although you may prefer a different version entirely. Amazon can be helpful in using the book preview feature, so that you can read a few pages of different texts, to get a feel of which one most suits you.

If anyone has read this before and has a favourite translation, then please share with us.

This will be my first time of reading The Odyssey and I'm very much looking forward to it. I hope you'll all join in and have fun with me along the way!


message 3: by Pink (last edited Jul 31, 2016 03:15PM) (new)

Pink | 6554 comments Reading timeframe -

We have no set timeframe for reading classics in our group. Some people will devour the book within a few days, some will take longer than the planned month of August. There is no pressure to keep up with a timescale that doesn't suit you, so everyone can read at their own pace. However, I thought I'd mention that The Odyssey is composed of 24 roughly equal sized books, of approximately 20 pages each (some are a little longer or shorter) so that would break up nicely into almost one book per day, for those of you wanting to read over the course of the month.


message 4: by Sue (new)

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Pink wrote: "Reading timeframe -

We have no set timeframe for reading classics in our group. Some people will devour the book within a few days, some will take longer than the planned month of August. There is..."


How perfect! I love short chapters. I tend to get through a book much quicker when chapters are short because I'll pick it up more often when I only have a few minutes. I might start this sooner than I planned since I can likely fit 20 pages a day in between reading Bleak House and Pride and Prejudice


message 5: by Matt (new)

Matt (mmullerm) | 830 comments I'm in on reading The Odyssey in August. I'm currently juggling Moby Dick, Bleak House, Lolita, and an audiobook fantasy novel, Half the World, and am also starting Pride and Prejudice in August with this group! Plus, I have Harry Potter and the Cursed Child arriving from B&N online tomorrow! Needless to say, I've got my work cut out for me.


message 6: by Kim (new)

Kim (khale256) I've never read The Odyssey before so I'm really excited to start it!


message 7: by James (new)

James (pepecamello) | 41 comments On translations:
I was looking into The Iliad translations since I was thinking of reading it first and then joining in The Odyssey discussion. I found this:
http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-t...
which mentions Lattimore, Fagles, and Pope who also have linked Odyssey translations above. Obviously, what is said about their Iliad translations might not translate (heh) to Odyssey translations but I thought it was insightful.


message 8: by Jon (last edited Aug 01, 2016 02:11AM) (new)

Jon (jonpill) | 122 comments My sister, who is a classical scholar, swears by the Fitzgerald translation which I have read and really liked. It's readable and straightforward, it is technically a verse translation but reads pretty much as prose. Plus the Vintage edition has a lovely cover.


message 9: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments I'm glad so many of us are looking forward to it! I also have my work cut out with other books I'm juggling, but I'm going to aim for reading slowly over the month. My Fagles edition The Odyssey by Homer has a 70 page introduction that I'm working through first. I have to admit that my book was chosen (as a gift) for its pretty cover, but I've previously read and enjoyed Fagles translations of The Three Theban Plays: Sophocles, so I'm hoping this will be a good edition for me. I'm not a fan of prose versions, or some of the Victorian translations where the language is a little too flowery for me, otherwise I think there are a good few options to choose from.


message 10: by Christine (new)

Christine | 1217 comments I've never read the complete Odyssey cover to cover. I've only read it in bits and pieces. I'd love to join in this group read this month, and I even have a copy sitting on my shelf, but I doubt I'll be able to fit it in. I'll be eager to read everyone's thoughts on it though!


message 11: by Sue (new)

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Matt wrote: "I'm in on reading The Odyssey in August. I'm currently juggling Moby Dick, Bleak House, Lolita, and an audiobook fantasy novel, Half the World, and am also starting Pride and Prejudice in August wi..."

Wow Matt! You have a lot going


message 12: by Sue (new)

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Jon wrote: "My sister, who is a classical scholar, swears by the Fitzgerald translation which I have read and really liked. It's readable and straightforward, it is technically a verse translation but reads pr..."

I'm glad you liked it Jon, since I'm already committed it. From what I listed to in a sample, it sure seemed poetic to me. I hope it remains that way because I did not want a prose edition


message 13: by siriusedward (last edited Aug 01, 2016 11:23AM) (new)

siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2058 comments I too am reading this for the first time.i liked the samples of both lattimore and fagles.
I am liking it so far...


message 14: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 129 comments I'd like to join too! I read it a couple of years ago, but I still have my notes so I'll be able to join in a hopefully lively discussion!


message 15: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments If anyone would like a quick glance at the different translations, here's the first few lines from some of the most popular editions.

Robert Fagles -

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.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bringing his comrades home.
But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove
the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all,
the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun
and the Sungod blotted out the day of their return.
Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
start from where you will sing for our time too.


Robert Fitzgerald -

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.
He saw the townlands
and learned the minds of many distant men,
and weathered many bitter nights and days
in his deep heart at sea, while he fought only
to save his life, to bring his shipmates home.
But not by will nor valor could he save them,
for their own recklessness destroyed them all
children and fools, they killed and feasted on
the cattle of Lord Helios, the Sun,
and he who moves all day through heaven
took from their eyes the dawn of their return.
Of these adventures, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
tell us in our time, lift the great song again.


Richard Lattimore -

Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven
far journeys, after he had sacked Troy's sacred citadel.
Many were they whose cities he saw, whose minds he learned of,
many the pains he suffered in his spirit on the wide sea,
struggling for his own life and the homecoming of his companions.
Even so he could not save his companions, hard though
he strove to; they were destroyed by their own wild recklessness,
fools, who devoured the oxen of Helios, the sun God,
and he took away the day of their homecoming. From some point
here, goddess, daughter of Zeus, speak, and begin our story.


Alexander Pope -

The man for wisdom's various arts renown'd,
Long exercised in woes, O Muse! resound;
Who, when his arms had wrought the destined fall
Of sacred Troy, and razed her heaven-built wall,
Wandering from clime to clime, observant stray'd,
Their manners noted, and their states survey'd,
On stormy seas unnumber'd toils he bore,
Safe with his friends to gain his natal shore:
Vain toils! their impious folly dared to prey
On herds devoted to the god of day;
The god vindictive doom'd them never more
(Ah, men unbless'd!) to touch that natal shore.
Oh, snatch some portion of these acts from fate,
Celestial Muse! and to our world relate.


E. V. Rieu -

Tell me, Muse, the story of that resourceful man who was driven to wander far and wide after he had sacked the holy citadel of Troy. He saw the cities of many peopleand he learnt their ways. He suffered great anguish on the high seas in his struggles to preserve his life and bring his comrades home. But he failed to save those comrades, inspite of all his efforts. It was their own transgression that brought them to their doom, for in their folly they devoured the oxen of Hyperion the Sun-god and he saw to (10) it that they would never return. Tell us this story, goddess daughter of Zeus, beginning at whatever point you will.

I find it fascinating seeing how different they all are!


message 16: by Katy, New School Classics (new)

Katy (kathy_h) | 9690 comments Mod
Not sure which translation I'll read yet. But I do need to decide & get started!!!


message 17: by Sue (new)

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Pink wrote: "If anyone would like a quick glance at the different translations, here's the first few lines from some of the most popular editions.

Robert Fagles -

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twi..."


It is fascinating!


message 18: by Phil (new)

Phil J | 627 comments I teach this book once a year, so I'm excited to see your thoughts. I teach out of the Mary Pope Osborne retelling Tales from the Odyssey, Part 1 and add in bits from the Fagles translation. I used to use the Fitzgerald translation (which is the one I read in college), but I switched to Fagles because it was a tiny bit more modern and my students understood it better.


message 19: by Steve (last edited Aug 01, 2016 11:10AM) (new)

Steve Finegan | 129 comments Here's another from my old Harvard Classics collection (The King James Bible version? :))

S. H. Butcher and A. Lang -

Tell me, Muse, of that man, so ready at need, who wandered far and wide, after he had sacked the sacred citadel of Troy, and many were the men whose towns he saw and whose mind he learnt, yea, and many the woes he suffered in his heart upon the deep, striving to win his own life and the return of his company. Nay, but even so he saved not his company, though he desired it sore. For through the blindness of their own hearts they perished, fools, who devoured the oxen of Helios Hyperion: but the god took from them their day of returning. Of these things, goddess, daughter of Zeus, whencesoever thou has heard thereof, declare thou even unto us.

I love Pope's translation, but I really enjoyed the audio version of Fagles' translation.


message 20: by Nathan (new)

Nathan | 421 comments I'll be reading the Fagles translation slowly over the course of the month. I have it in print and on audio read by Ian McKellan.

I'm so happy The Odyssey won this month. I've had it on my reading calendar as a plan for Aug '16 for almost a year. I'll also be reading The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood this month.


message 21: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments Thanks for posting another Steve :) I like Pope's translation too, but I find that I get swept away in the poetry and end up not really taking in the story, or understanding what I've just read.


message 22: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments Nathan, I might try The Penelopiad afterwards, so I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.


message 23: by Steve (new)

Steve Finegan | 129 comments Pink wrote: "Thanks for posting another Steve :) I like Pope's translation too, but I find that I get swept away in the poetry and end up not really taking in the story, or understanding what I've just read."

I know what you mean! I had to read Milton's Paradise Lost several times before I could get over being wowed by the poetry and engage with it as a narrative.


message 24: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 587 comments I have no idea which translations (other than I know they were different ones) that I read the first two times I read this.
Hoping to squeeze in a reread this month, but at the very least I plan on joining in the discussions because I love The Odyssey.


message 25: by siriusedward (last edited Aug 01, 2016 11:54AM) (new)

siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2058 comments I am reading Lattimore translation with occasional peaks into Fagles.


message 26: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 4084 comments Wow! That is so helpful, Pink. I am partial to the Fitzgerald version. Even now after many, many years since reading this, those phrases sing for me.

I can't reread this now, much as I'd like to, but geez, Nathan's idea of reading The Penelopiad this month, which is sitting here staring at me, is ever so tempting.


Michaela (Journey into Books) I've had this book in my TBR pile for a while and I'm excited to finally read it this month.


message 28: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments Kathleen wrote: " but geez, Nathan's idea of reading The Penelopiad this month, which is sitting here staring at me, is ever so tempting..."

You and Nathan clearly meant next month for The Penelopiad when I have more time ;)


message 29: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments I'm almost through the introduction, which was fascinating in itself. It discussed the troubles with translating, choosing a meter (no dactylic hexameter today) and staying faithful to the meaning. No easy feat! It also considered whether Homer was a real person, an oral or written poet and whether he composed The Iliad and The Odyssey himself, or if they were the work of multiple people over time. I've got some maps to look at now, then I get started with book 1.

Side note: as pretty as my book is, the deckled edges are really getting on my nerves already, they're just not easy to turn the page!


message 30: by Paula W (new)

Paula W | 553 comments I'm going with the Fagles translation because I plan to go back and forth between the book and the audio version. And the audio version is read by Ian McKellen whose voice is so very yummy. :)


message 31: by Ellen (last edited Aug 01, 2016 03:58PM) (new)

Ellen B I'm also going with Fagles (though I think I read Fitzgerald the first time). That introduction sounds fascinating; linguistics was my minor in college, so the portion dealing with the translation process is making me drool a bit.
I have never, until today, heard of the Penelopiad. Must investigate this after we finish this book.


message 32: by siriusedward (new)

siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2058 comments I thought if reading the introduction after the story... i think i will read the introduction from both Fagles and Lattimore... I am loving both translations...and i thought it would be a very difficult read.old classic and all that...but I am finding it readable and enjoyable...

Only, certain sentences like that of the dawn coming are repeated with each dawn...and some sentences(verses ?) are repeated twice..


message 33: by Phil (new)

Phil J | 627 comments Homer wrote with a lot of repitition- "rosy fingered Dawn," "the wine-dark sea," and I think translators have varied on whether to maintain that repitition or whether to alternate between different translations of the phrase. Alternating allows them to bring in different shades of meaning that are in the original Greek but lacking in the English phrases.


message 34: by Steve (new)

Steve Finegan | 129 comments Phil wrote: "Homer wrote with a lot of repitition- "rosy fingered Dawn," "the wine-dark sea," and I think translators have varied on whether to maintain that repitition or whether to alternate between different..."

My understanding is that phrases such as "rosy fingered Dawn" are mnemonic aids for oral storytelling that found their way into the classical texts of The Iliad and The Odyssey. They make sense when you consider that the ancient bards "sang" (told) these long epics from memory for generations, and continued to do so even after they were first written down. Back in the '80s, historian Michael Wood wrote and produced a BBC series called In Search of the Trojan War, which featured modern-day bards who still use these kinds of mnemonic devices to sing the old lays in places like Turkey and Ireland.


message 35: by Melanti (new)

Melanti | 2384 comments Pink wrote: "You and Nathan clearly meant next month for The Penelopiad when I have more time ;) .."

But it's so short! Only 200 pages!
I really enjoyed it. It's a great one to follow up The Odyssey with.

And, yes, I was also taught that the repetition served as a mnemonic device.

But also - this was originally an oral poem, with just a small chunk told each night. So the repetition of certain phrases wouldn't have been quite as obvious in small doses as it is reading large portions at once.


message 36: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments Ah that is short, but I don't plan on finishing The Odyssey until the end of August, so I'll have to see.

I'd always assumed the repetition was a device to make the poem easier to remember for oral poets, I think it's the style of epic poems. I'd hope that most translators try to retain this.


message 37: by Ellen (new)

Ellen B I've started the book and am renjoying it so far (have only read Book I yet.) I like the idea of reading one book a day, but the plot is so intriguing I might do more than one.


message 38: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 4084 comments siriusedward's comments on the spoiler thread about Penelope inspired me to pick up The Penelopiad. (Also probably the discussion about The Yellow Wallpaper and Selected Writings.) I was just going to take a peek at it. Might have been a mistake. Can't put it down now. I can already highly recommend it after you've read the Odyssey! Margaret Atwood=brilliant.


message 39: by Renee (new)

Renee | 864 comments I really can't wait to get into this one, but while reading the introduction in my book I started feeling like I should read The Iliad first, so I'm patiently waiting for my copy to arrive. Has anyone else read The Odyssey before reading The Iliad?


message 40: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments Yep I'm reading The Odyssey now and I haven't read The Iliad, I haven't encountered any problems doing it this way.


message 41: by Matt (new)

Matt (mmullerm) | 830 comments Yes I'm reading Odyssey without having read the Iliad and I don't think you'll have any issues.


message 42: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 129 comments The Odyssey and The Iliad read as very different poems so the order doesn't appear to matter all that much. Most of us have the basic story behind each. I actually found that reading Ovid's Metamorphoses gave me another view of the Trojan war and Odysseus' voyage. Not necessary, but an interesting illumination.


message 43: by Renee (new)

Renee | 864 comments Thank you all for your comments. Maybe I will give it a go soon because The Iliad isn't due to arrive until next week.


message 44: by Steve (last edited Aug 17, 2016 05:03PM) (new)

Steve Finegan | 129 comments Cleo wrote: "I actually found that reading Ovid's Metamorphoses gave me another view of the Trojan war and Odysseus' voyage. Not necessary, but an interesting illumination. ."

Ovid, and yet another view from Virgil in The Aeneid, Book II, from the Trojan side. It tells the story of the Trojan Horse.


message 45: by Cleo (last edited Aug 17, 2016 06:06PM) (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 129 comments Steve wrote: "Ovid, and yet another view from Virgil in The Aeneid, Book II, from the Trojan side. It tells the story of the Trojan Horse. ..."

I really must re-read The Aeneid. Originally, I read The Iliad, The Odyssey and The Aeneid all in succession and was exhausted when I finished, so I don't think I absorbed much of the latter. When I re-read The Odyssey I got SO much more out of it.


message 46: by Steve (new)

Steve Finegan | 129 comments Cleo wrote: "I really must re-read The Aeneid."

It's about time I re-read Ovid's Metamorphoses. Thanks for reminding me, Cleo.

"Everything changes, nothing perishes"


message 47: by Inkspill (last edited Jan 21, 2019 09:34AM) (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) | 298 comments Hope to start reading this in Feb - oh hang on, is that next week - ooops - well soonish :)


message 48: by MK (new)

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Inkspill wrote: "Hope to start reading this in Feb - oh hang on, is that next week - ooops - well soonish :)"


LOL !!!


message 49: by Katy, New School Classics (new)

Katy (kathy_h) | 9690 comments Mod
I have a copy of The Odyssey by Homer The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson. I'll start reading in February.


message 50: by MK (new)

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Yay! :)


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