- Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 30 January 2003
- Poetry and Drama
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hint: if you ever read nietzche, you can pick up on his strong impression of this book with his frequents quotes of "poor, unhappy man!" and "it is not my lot in life to be" and "others"nietzche was a huge fan of greece philosohpy, long with other turn of century germans. dont do one without the other. titillating times these were, when groups of men would be eaten by lions in the forests of greece. mindblowing history lesson in these pages.
I recently read <i>The Iliad</i>, also in a translation by Fagles, and I was disappointed with<i> The Odyssey</i>. The stories that make up the book feature many of the gods and monsters familiar from Greek mythology, but it seems a far less majestic work, more a rattle-bag of tales published to cash in on the success of <i>The Iliad</i>! Still, it has Cyclops, Sirens, giant cannibals, horny Calypso and the lovely Scylla, so there is much to enjoy. Odysseus spends much of his time recounting his story to halls full of nobles who give him shelter at various points on his ten year journey. The nobles spend all their time drinking, feasting, playing games, standing on their dignity and raiding each other. The glory of <i>The Iliad</i>, is that is the kings and their retinues are fulfilling their real purpose, it is their intensity that makes the drama of the siege of Troy and makes that book so magnificent. The nobles at peace are an unattractive bunch. For me, the most interesting part was Odysseus' visit to the underworld, the Greeks believed in an afterlife and it gave them a very good reason to stay alive, the underworld isn't very pleasant.
Everything classic Greek literature should be.
Rereading this I can't believe I once found Homer boring. In my defense, I was a callow teen, and having a book assigned in school often tends to perversely make you hate it. But then I had a "Keats conversion experience." Keats famously wrote a poem in tribute to a translation of Homer by Chapman who, Keats wrote, opened to him "realms of gold." My Chapman was Fitzgerald, although in this reread I tried the Fagles translation and really enjoyed it. Obviously, the translation is key if you're not reading in the original Greek, and I recommend looking at several side by side to see which one best suits. A friend of mine who is a classicist says she prefers the <i>Illiad</i>--that she thinks it the more mature book. I love the <i>Illiad</i>, but I'd give <i>Odyssey</i> a slight edge. Even just reading general Greek mythology, Odysseus was always a favorite, because unlike figures such as Achilles or Heracles he succeeded on his wits, not muscle. It's true, on this reread, especially in contrast to say the <i>Illiad</i>'s Hector, I do see Odysseus' dark side. The man is a pirate and at times rash, hot-tempered, even vicious. But I do feel for his pining for home and <i>The Odyssey</i> is filled with such a wealth of incident--the Cyclops, Circe, Scylla and Charybdis, the Sirens--and especially Hades, the forerunner of Dante's Hell. And though my friend is right that the misogynist ancient Greek culture isn't where you go for strong heroines, I love Penelope; described as the "matchless queen of cunning," she's a worthy match for the crafty Odysseus. The series of recognition scenes on Ithaca are especially moving and memorable--I think my favorite and the most poignant being that of Odysseus' dog Argos. An epic poem about 2,700 years old, in the right translation it can nevertheless speak to me more eloquently than many a contemporary novel.
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