The Odyssey – Homer (Translated by Emily Wilson)

022 - The Odyssey

022 - The Odyssey

★★★★

I first read The Odyssey in August 2014 – so it’s been 5 years almost exactly since I last read it and, honestly, I think I enjoyed it so much more this time around. I don’t know if that’s because I listened to it as an audiobook this time around, the fact it was a different translation, or a combination of the two, but it moved it from a 3 star read to a 4/5 star read easily.

Most people are familiar with parts of The Odyssey – the stories of Circe, the Cyclops, Odysseus’ journey to the underworld – so it doesn’t seem worth rehashing over something that has been reviewed numerous times before in much better ways than I am capable of.

What I would like to discuss is the translation I read. Emily Wilson is the first female to translate The Odyssey in to English – and she didn’t just do that, she intended to keep the same rhythm as the “original” Greek verse so rewrote it in iambic pentameter. Not only that but she made it accessible. The foreword to this edition was enlightening, and discussed her translation process and choices and is actually something I’d highly recommend you read – before or after reading the main meat of the book. She points out in this section that many translations have made the book inaccessible due to their linguistic choices to give their version that “authentic” feel – something she says is absolute rubbish as the story has an oral tradition, and would have been adapted by each generation to fit in with the language of the day. If her goal was to bring The Odyssey to a new generation, I think she’s certainly going to achieve it with this translation.

Something else she’s done throughout this book is stripped away the former translators misogyny. This book is always going to be problematic in the way women are treated and represented, and while she has stayed true to the original story. Previous translations refer to the women who are enslaved to Odysseus and Penelope “sluts” or “prostitutes” – Wilson addresses them as slaves, and does seem to imply that a lot of their perceived wrongdoing against Odysseus is not entirely their fault, but a nature of their station. She explores Odysseus as a “complicated” man, which he most certainly is – and she doesn’t sugarcoat him or enhance his heroic deeds, which for me is appreciated.

She has stripped this story back to the roots, removing a lot of ingrained misogyny of translators along the way, leaving it to be told as simply and effectively as possible. I for one loved this translation.

The audiobook, read by Claire Danes, was also spectacular and something I would highly recommend. The story is, historically, orally told and hearing it rather than reading it was a very different experience and one I really enjoyed.

Review: The Metamorphoses – Ovid

metamorphoses

When looking for this book, I settled on the Penguin Clothbound edition as I had some Amazon credit and naturally when I signed up for the classical readalong, I had to have a pretty edition to read. I didn’t bother to look at the better translations, I just went for the book that would look prettiest on my shelf. I don’t care.

So, as I bought and read this for the classical readalong, I was naturally going to compare it to The Odyssey as I read it. Firstly, unlike The Odyssey this is a verse translation – though it was more free verse and, as someone who doesn’t find poetry the easiest thing to read, it seemed like some deconstructed sentences to me. I did however find myself easily falling in to the pattern of the writing and I became very easily lost in it for much longer than I thought I had been. I found the style of this much more like a short story collection, or maybe a poetry collection.

Also, unlike The Odyssey, this book ‘had me at hello’ .

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Review: The Odyssey – Homer

odyssey

As anyone who follows this blog will know, I’m challenging myself this August with the Classical Read Along, hosted by the very lovely Jean over at BookishThoughts on youtube. So the first half of the month is focusing on Greek literature, in this case Homer’s The Odyssey.

The edition I’m reviewing is the Penguin Clothbound Classics edition, translated by E. V. Rieu (revised by D. C. Rieu). Which is, of course, beautiful to look at (always a pro)!

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