The Odyssey

by Homer

Other authorsBernard Knox (Introduction), Robert Fagles (Translator), Grahame Baker (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 1998

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

London : The Folio Society, 1998.

Description

A new translation of the epic poem retells the story of Odysseus's ten-year voyage home to Ithaca after the Trojan War.

Media reviews

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User reviews

LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
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 Illiad--that she thinks it the more mature book. I love the Illiad, but I'd give Odyssey 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 Illiad'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 The Odyssey 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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LibraryThing member atimco
It's good to meet classics in person after being distant acquaintances who know one another just well enough to nod in passing. Now I can shake The Odyssey heartily by the hand when I meet it in other stories, hail-well-met. And meet it in other stories I will, this revered grandfather of the revenge story and the travelogue.

Besides being a classic, The Odyssey is a fascinating tale in its own right of strange wonders and awful dangers, of the faithful and the faithless, of wrongs committed and retribution meted out. Odysseus, Achaean hero of the Trojan War, has been ten years fighting at Troy and another ten making his way home. Imprisoned by a nymph, shipwrecked, lost, waylaid — Odysseus, beloved of some gods, is hated by others. Meanwhile at home in Ithaca, many have despaired of his coming, including his wife Penelope and son Telemachus, who now suffer at the hands of Penelope's suitors, leading men of the Achaeans who wish to possess her. Odysseus will never return, they say, as they sit in his house eating and drinking up all his wealth. Telemachus is just a young man and cannot prevent their ravages. The situation is indeed desperate, as Penelope, worn out with mourning Odysseus, begins to accept her fate to become another man's wife.

Once I got used to it, I loved the repetition of certain phrases and descriptions: "long-tried royal Odysseus," "discreet Telemachus," "heedful Penelope," "clear-eyed Athena," "the gods who hold the open sky," "rosy-fingered dawn," "on the food before them they laid hands," and more. It reminded me that I was hearing a poem (I listened on audiobook) and that it was originally memorized by the bard, not read off the page. The repetition is comforting. It was easy to fall into the rhythm of the story and the archaic language, surrendering to the storyteller's art.

I find the interplay between the gods and men so interesting. I don't know if The Odyssey is an accurate picture of ancient Greek theology and I don't want to draw too many conclusions from what was understood even at the time to be mythological. But I had a similar experience listening to The Iliad — the gods are great and powerful and all that, but they are so very involved in human affairs, almost as if they can't bear to be left out... why should Athena care so much whether Odysseus ever gets home? Why is it that human affairs so concern the councils of Olympus? I suppose the simple answer is that these stories were made up by humans and since the thing that interests us most is ourselves, we can't imagine gods who aren't likewise fascinated.

I listened to an older translation by George Herbert Palmer and I'm glad I did. My experience of The Iliad was marred by the fact that it was a modernized translation, the latest and greatest supposedly. But all that really means is that it was dumbed-down for lazy listeners, to the point where some of the heroic moments almost became comical in our modern parlance. No thank you! I'm no expert in translation, but this one presented no jarring moments of disconnect between the style and substance, and I thought it fitted the subject matter very well. The reader of this particular audiobook, Norman Dietz, has a low, smooth, calm voice that I quickly learned to like.

This is an excellent story that never slackens its pace or lets you stop caring what happens to its hero. Don't be intimidated by its status as a classic — all that means is that it's a good story that has stood the test of time, delighting its hearers both in ancient days and now. I recommend it!
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LibraryThing member steve.clason
I read the Odyssey in college (don't remember what translation) and even struggled through bits in Greek in a first-year language class, but I never got what the big deal was. I didn't like Odysseus--raised as I was in a cowboy ethos I took his celebrated cunning as a kind of weakness, believing that a true man delat directly and simply with everything.

Some decades later, I am much more sympathetic. Scarred, bruised and broken in places with a head often barely screwed on, I've come to value a little forethought more than I ever did when younger, and come to sympathize with Odysseus' tormented wanderings and to celebrate his eventual triumph profoundly.

Fagles' translation is true to the story, readable yet retaining the loftiness of spirit so crucial to the unfolding of the story. I'll be returning to this many times, I think.
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LibraryThing member elfortunawe
This was my first reading of The Odyssey— it wasn't what I expected. Having seen bits and pieces of various adaptations— especially the 1997 miniseries, I took a head full of images with me into the reading. But the real thing bears little resemblance. It is more various. The emphases are placed differently. It has a greater scope. In every way it surprised me. I now feel compelled to read the Iliad

Richard Lattimore has given the poem a very Anglo-Saxon character with the high flown language of his translation. It reminds me of Seamus Heany's Beowulf, only with less alliteration. I have no idea if this accurately represents the character of the original, but in itself it's praiseworthy.
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LibraryThing member edgeworth
It’s impossible to objectively judge a story like this. It was written three thousand years ago, in a world populated by people whose beliefs, values, attitudes, and outlook on the world were so fundamentally different from our own as to make them utterly alien. Furthermore, I was reading a story that had been translated through two different barriers: from Ancient Greek to English, and from poetry to prose.

It’s very verbose, very complex and very tedious. As I was reading, trying to penetrate the Greek names and long-winded sentences (look, I know what happens when someone gets drunk, you don’t need to feed me some meandering anecdote about a centaur that had too much wine) I was really only gaining a sort of vague outline of what was going on. And if that was the case I may as well have been reading the plot summary on Wikipedia.

Oh, right, an outline of the plot. You should know parts of it. Odysseus is trying to return home after going to the Trojan War, and it takes him twenty years because, well, he lives in dangerous times. It’s told in a convoluted, non-linear way that begins in media res and relies heavily on second-hand tellings and flashbacks, which is not at all endearing to a reader who is not enjoying himself in the first place.

All the stuff that’s really well-known and at least somewhat interesting - the cave of the Cyclops, the isle of Circe etc. - takes up about 20% of the book, while the rest is all concerned about whatever his wiener son Telemachus is doing back home, or what Odysseus himself does when he returns (two thirds of the way through the story).

Odysseus is a shitty leader who makes a lot of bad decisions, gets all his men killed and has his head shoved firmly up his own ass, constantly telling people how great he is at everything. He also has a pretty warped moral compass; for example, upon arriving home, after he bonds with Telemachus by slaughtering the 108 suitors who had been trying to woo his wife, he discovers that several of his housemaids had been having sex with the suitors during the TWENTY GODDAMN YEARS they’ve been there. I know, unthinkable, right? Odysseus is so infuriated by this that he orders them killed. As they are herded into a courtyard, weeping piteously, Telemachus speaks up, and for a minute I thought there was going to be some kind of sanity, but apparently young Telemachus, no doubt stroking his chin in deep thought, is concerned that the housemaids aren’t being punished enough, and orders for them to die in a slow and painful method. Then he and Odysseus cut a dude’s wang off and feed it to the dogs. You see what I mean when I talk about what different attitudes these people had.

So, to sum up, is the Odyssey an excellent tale for its time? Yes.
Is it an excellent tale for a modern reader? No - it hails from an incomprehensible culture, and our tastes are tailored to our own.
Is it worth studying for a student of literature? Yes - but do yourself a favour and google a synopsis.
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LibraryThing member BookWallah
Experienced an unplanned event while traveling? Or feel like you are living through an epic of misfortune that will not end? Or just having a really bad day? If you answered yes to any of these questions then rush to your shelves and re-read a chapter of Odysseus’ travails on his way home.

[Pause for you to finish reading chapter].

OK, deep breath, now your problems don’t seem so bad, do they? Recommended for all adventurers who need more perspective.
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LibraryThing member Bookmarque
It is difficult to read and review a book like this. To read because I can’t help but view it with my 21st century sensibilities in place and to review because I’m sure that I missed elements of importance because I don’t have a classical background. But since a lot of people will approach this book in exactly this way, I’ll try to organize my thoughts.

Let me get this out of the way – yes I was trying to fit each episode into O Brother, Where Art Thou? the whole time. Most don’t fit. Like…who exactly where the Hogwallops? And the ladies in the stream…were they Sirens or the girls who helped Odysseus when he washed up in the river on Ithaca? And just what was Baby-face Nelson supposed to represent? Ha! So I guess the Coens took a few liberties with their bong hits.

Oh and another thing I’ll get out of the way – ancient Greek men are insufferable. I’m aghast at how little they thought of women. The table in my dining room has more say over its destiny than a woman did in ancient Greece. They treat their dogs better. Penelope’s fate was so maddening because she had no say in it. The assholes eating her out of house and home had a perfect right to do so apparently, and neither she nor Telemachus could do a thing about it. And here I thought ancient Roman women got the short end of the stick…at least they got to eat in the same room as the men. Bah! Weak-minded humanity. Renders ½ its population as inert property while it slaughters the other. Men are weird.

Ok. That’s over now. I’m still mad about it, but what can I do? So the story itself went in a way I didn’t expect. Telemachus gets going first and we see him granted warm welcomes in the houses of both Nestor and Menelaus. The thing that really struck me here was how naive the ancient Greeks seemed to be. They accept strangers on the face of things and don’t even ask their names before giving gifts, new clothes, baths, money and ships with men and provisions to further their journeys. Weird. No wonder they found Odysseus highly tricky for a simple ploy like the horse at Troy. These days subterfuge is just an accepted part of any conflict and just daily life half the time. Anyway, we get some of Odysseus’s story from Nestor and Menelaus and not directly from Odysseus as I thought we would.

And the parts of the story I thought would be big deals and go on forever were treated with just a few lines and then – zip – they were done. The Sirens are a perfect example. That episode gets a lot of press and artwork devoted to it and it hardly lasts a minute with nothing of import happening at all. Again, not what I expected. There is, however, a lot of repetition of baths and anointing with olive oil and the rosy-fingered presence of dawn. Boy Homer ground that metaphor to death. The broad back of the sea or the fish-giving sea was another. But I guess it became more of a refrain for the bards who told this story again and again.

The wind-up took forever with lots of extraneous detail and elaborate lies to cover up Odysseus’s true identity. The whole time Odysseus was disguised as a beggar I was grinding my teeth with wanting to get to the ass-kicking. I mean, I don’t care what made up crap you tell everyone, just get on with it. Eventually, we get it, but like everything else he does, Odysseus takes his time. For a man who wanted to get home really fast, he spent a lot of time farting around…like spending all that time with Circe. Oh sure he really wanted to see Ithaca again. And it’s the same with the ass-kicking, he strings it out as long as possible. Finally everyone is dead and we think he and Penelope will just rush into each other’s arms and fade to black. Not so. More lamentations, disbelief and foot-dragging.

Anyway, it’s an interesting story and an enlightening one. I learned a lot about how the Greeks viewed their world and how helpless they really felt. So much shit just rolled downhill. Injustice heaped on injustice with a full complement of excuses. Cranky, childish and mercurial gods at the top, women and slaves on the bottom.
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LibraryThing member julie10reads
Just finished listening to the unabridged audiobook of The Odyssey, translated by Samuel Butler (no relation to Gerard Butler) and read in rich, rotund diction by John Lee. Who is, of course, English.

I don’t remember when I first heard the story of Odysseus’ journey home to Ithaca; seems as if I’ve always known it.

In my 20s,I heard and fell in love with Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria (which sounds inestimably more luscious in Italian than English:The Return of Ulysses to his Country) from the Met with baritone Richard Stilwell as the wily hero and mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade as Penelope. The joyful babbling of their ecstatic reunion duet brought out the humanity of the characters.
And I used to read Tales from the Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne to my youngest daughter. She is still the only one who shares my enthusiasm for this classic.

End of long intro…..

The Odyssey can be enjoyed on many levels. It’s a great yarn about a shrewd soldier/king making his perilous (and tardy!) way home after the Trojan War (by the way, it was Odysseus who thought up the Trojan horse). It’s also a wide-ranging allegory about the often perilous journey of life. It abounds in psychological and spiritual archetypes. There’s something for every kind of reader.

As for Odysseus himself, he seems to lie for the sake of lying, is boastful and reckless. His very name means “he who causes pain or makes others angry.” Early on in the story, having outwitted the cyclops Polyphemus, Odysseus and his men make their escape by boat. When he judges them to be out of danger, Odysseus does a “nyah-nyah” boasting chant to the cyclops who of course tears the top off a mountain and hurls it at the boat. This causes an enormous wake whose waves draw Odysseus’ boat back to shore! The sailors row like mad to get away from the shore. When they are at a safe distance, our wily hero starts up with the “nyah-nyah” chant again! His poor men beg him to stop.

In the Iliad, it was all manly soldiers fighting other manly soldiers to recover the prize trophy wife, Helen. Conservative, stylistic, a time already ancient when Homer sang of it . By contrast, the Odyssey looks to the future, reflecting a new culture currently stable enough to become introspective. Odysseus’ journey home is populated by women/goddesses and monsters. No all out war any more, army against army, face-to-face combat. Rather the enemy becomes singular, hidden in caves or in the bodies of beautiful women or “lotus-eaters”. While completely enjoyable on a literal level, the story is also leading the listener, as all good stories do, into the realm of the inner life. It seems to me that few could identify with Achilles or Hector or Helen. However, we are all Odysseus and Penelope and Telemachus in one way or another. Homecoming can be almost anything: love,death, faith, consciousness. Likewise waiting.

Back to the story…..

The women want to sleep with Odysseus and the monsters want to eat him. The monsters ultimately succeed in devouring his crew leaving the ageing soldier to finish the journey alone. Polyphemus, Calypso, Circe, Scylla and Charibdis, the eponymous Mentor, Poseidon, and Athena make this a mythological all-star story. But for me, none of them can rival Penelope in character and depth. She is the other half of the “wily” Odysseus and I think that we can extrapolate much about her from what is said about him. She is the modern “Helen”:the kidnapped trophy wife appropriate for the old militaristic nation becomes the faithful wife and mother who waits 20 years (!) for the return of her husband. It only requires one man, Paris, to steal Helen away (she seems to have been agreeable to the idea). Yet an invading mob of suitors cannot coerce Penelope into abandoning her absent husband. Helen’s is “the face that launched a thousand ships”; Penelope holds herself in readiness for one ship only. Her waiting is not in the least passive however. Her husband’s goal is to reach home; Penelope’s goal is to keep her property and marriage intact until Odysseus returns. This demands skill and cunning equal to her husband’s.

I felt entertained and enriched as I listened to The Odyssey on my drive to and from work (for about 2 weeks). Narrator John Lee brings a virile sound to Homer’s lines. You can almost hear him enjoying the story as he reads. I highly recommend this way of experiencing The Odyssey; it is an oral work designed to arouse the intellect through the sounds of precisely chosen words. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy it!

10 out of 10!
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LibraryThing member keylawk
At the very dawn of authentic history, some 1000 BC, the Greeks were chanting out the poems of Homer throughout the Aegean. And ever since. And the sooner anyone join in, continuously, the better.

Little of Homer is known, be he man or she woman. So often, Founders are shadowy, from dim beginnings great lights. By the time their import is comprehended, they themselves are gone. And perhaps all creative work is marked by many minds. Into the Odyssey much is infused. It is a mass of history, legend, myth, ideals, manners and modes and matured. Nothing, nothing about it, is primitive or undone.

Compared to the Iliad, the Odyssey is more even in style, conformed to plot, and harmonious in presentation of characters and events. [ix] Its unity is conspicuous. The plot assumes the ten-year Trojan War ended with the victors returning to Greece laden with plunder. All but one.

For another ten years, Odysseus (Ulysses to the Romans) wandered the seas and islands whose lord he had offended. Poseidon here plays like an instrument all the circumstances over which mind must struggle, elements and afflictions, forces living and natural. This theme of mind over matters is passed to us from the Greek genius.

The poem has a natural division into two parts. The first 12 books relate the homeward journey--at sea, among the islands and peoples, gods and phantoms. The 12 books of the second part give the report of the recovery by Odysseus of his kingdom, at home. The struggle entirely shifts from the enchanted to the human, from the voyager sea to the castle in Ithaca. The tension is now dramatic rather than incidental. This part has a sustained psychological power bearing on the final catastrophe--the slaughter of Penelope's suitors. A unifying theme of the work across both halves is eating -- unlike the Iliad which has constant fighting, the Odyssey is a series of banquets and occasions to dine.

Which leads me to this observation: The dominant forces in the poem are women. The men who appear are admirable in ways women admire: Odysseus, known for his wisdom and resourcefulness, and others -- Telemachus, Eumaeus, Antinotis, Laertes, and Eurymachus-- strong, loyal, bearing responsibility. But for the entire odyssey, Athena is the prime mover. The nymphs Calypso and Circe are most formidable, and Ino and Leucothea most resourceful. When Odysseus meets the dead in Hades, there are as many women as men.

In the Ithacan household, women are conspicuous and equal figures, and even the handmaid Melantho has a strong part. In short, woman is the equal comrade, respected, appreciated, looked to. The women of Homer's time did not live in isolation, nor in the thrall of a king. Harems were never characteristic to the Greeks. Helen sits in the hall with Menelaus, Arete in the hall with Alcinotis, and of course, Penelope has her run of the castle unattended, as is Nausica with her maids in the country. [xxiii] All are treated with dignity and major roles. Women have lost in the intervening ages what they once had.

As to style, similes are common, metaphors rare. [xxiv] The thing and that with which it is compared remain two, separate, as in life. There is a "child-like" quality in this story-telling. And, with this ancient tale, no "spoiler-alert" can be given: The Ending is Wonderful!

This iteration contains Questions and a Pronouncing Vocabulary.
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LibraryThing member clothingoptional
Don't read this book - listen to it. Epic poetry is meant to be recited...
LibraryThing member sjclance
Finally finished The Odyssey translated by Robert Fagles. Definitely more readable than Lattimore's translation of The Iliad. However, for me, readable does not equal better. Some passages were translated with phrases that were just too modern and made my flow of reading stop because it didn't quite fit. While I admit that Lattimore was difficult to read, I liked to be able to stop and think about a passage and wonder what it might mean and maybe even look up the background of a phrase. Different translations for different readers. If you have to get through the book and know what it is about go with Fagles. If you want to stop, think and research, go with Lattimore. Beyond all that, the story of The Iliad and The Odyssey are each enjoyable in their own way. The Iliad has grusome battles but these are lightened up with the way the Gods are portrayed. The Odyssey, with the travels of Odysseus, made you realize how many of these adventures you have already heard throughout the years. As an aside, while I was reading The Odyssey, I just happened to start reading Tom Jones by Fielding and read in the preface that The Odyssey was very much in Fielding's mind when he wrote Tom Jones.… (more)
LibraryThing member headless
This review is of the translation, not of Homer's great song. Fagles domesticates, flattens, Americanizes at every turn. To get a feeling of the high poetic sweep of the original Greek, compare this with Robert Fitzgerald's version, which really sings.
LibraryThing member jwhenderson
Sing to me of the man, Muses, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.

Here we are once again, with the poet imploring the Muse to sing her song about the adventures ensuing the the fall of Troy. Having just finished rereading The Iliad which told of the rage of Achilles and the Trojan War, I find The Odyssey a much more congenial book, seeimngly modern in structure and outlook, even as it tells of events before the beginning of history as we know it. It tells the journey of Odysseus on his way hhome from Troy, a journey that takes him ten years. Odysseus is a man who, according to none other than Zeus, "excels all men in wisdom," (1.79). Odysseus has offended Poseidon, the god of the seas, by blinding his son Polyphemus the Cyclops; and, Poseidon, in retaliation has driven Odysseus off-course and delayed his return home to Ithaca. Athena rouses the rest of the gods and takes up Odysseus case. It is thus that we find Athena going to Ithaca and, in the form of Mentes, helping Odysseus' son Telemachus as part of her plan. We also meet Penelope, the wise and patient wife of Odysseus, who has been fending off the suitors who have been pursuing her in Odysseus absence. Telemachus tells Athena: "And mother . . . she neither rejects a marriage she despises nor cn she bear to bring the courting to an end -- while they continue to bleed my household white."(1.289-91). The situation is untenable and calls for action. With Athena's assurance that his father is still alive, Telelmachus may take the necessary action. We find ourselves in a very different kind of poem than The Iliad, but one that promises suspense and excitement. Key themes that appear and will reappear as we continue include the idea of the heroic journey, both for Odysseus and Telemachus, and the growth of the character of Odysseus, who is described by Athena as he endures his captivity under Calypso's power:

But he, straining for no more than a glimpse
of hearth-smoke drifting up from his own land,
Odysseus longs to die . . .
(1.69-71)
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LibraryThing member donbuch1
A standard text for high school classrooms, the Fitzgerald translation, rewritten in prose form, provides an accessible version of Homer's The Odyssey. Without question, this page-turning adventure acts as a model for storytelling, as Homer likely captured in riveting manner the attention of his local audience wherever he traveled. Set up in media res, the gripping narrative takes readers through the wandering years of Odysseus, a Greek soldier-king, who had fought in the Trojan War. With hubris, the cocky hero manages to enrage Poseidon who punishes the mere mortal through a series of obstacles where he is unable to get back to his homeland of Ithaca to be with his wife and son. Even after reading the classic epic several times, I am always impressed by Homer's use of imagery as illustrated in the passage when Odysseus pokes the eye out of the baby cyclops Polyphemus: "Eyelid and lash were seared; the pierced ball hissed broiling, and the roots popped." Wow! This is enough for any student to lose an appetite before lunch break.… (more)
LibraryThing member Emlyn_Chand
Preview…If you’re looking for a crash course in ancient Greek mythology, there is perhaps no better choice of reading material than the exciting epic poem “The Odyssey.” The details of Odysseus’ heroic journey home from the Trojan War were kept alive through oral tradition for hundreds of years before Homer ever set pen to parchment—which means every detail works together to weave a fascinating and rhythmic tale.Athena, goddess of wisdom, is on Odysseus’ side. Unfortunately, Poseidon, god of the sea, wants for his destruction. Every time Athena helps him gain some ground, Poseidon finds a way to introduce new difficulties to our hero. Odysseus faces angry gods, lustful goddesses and princesses, tempting sirens, the deadly Scylla and the Charybdis, the haunted underworld, the cursed cattle of the sun, a hungry Cyclops and oh-so much more.When he finally returns home, more than 10 years after the war’s end, he finds that a group of hostile suitors have taken over his palace in Ithaca. They are all vying for his wife Penelope’s hand; ultimately whoever she chooses will be made the new ruler. The suitors also have secret designs to murder Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, thus removing their last remaining obstacle.Penelope, the faithful wife, has through a variety of tricks and stalls been able to put off choosing a groom thus far. Will Odysseus make it home in time to save his family and the kingdom? Even if you already know how the tale ends, it’s so exciting getting there that you won’t want to pass up the opportunity to give “The Odyssey” another look or to read it for the very first time.You may like this book if…you like Greek mythology; you enjoy epic adventure tales, you like stories written in verse; the thought of gods meddling in the lives of mortals appeals to you; you’re intrigued by fantastic elements; you’re looking for something different than much of contemporary literature; you like reading books for free online.You may not like this book if…you don’t like stories that couldn’t really happen; poetry annoys or confuses you; it bothers you that the male gods can take on lovers whenever they want but when Calypso wants the very same thing she isn’t allowed to have it; you don’t like how Penelope remains faithful for so many years but Odysseus engages in a string of love affairs.… (more)
LibraryThing member JaneAnneShaw
First-ever volume bought of Homer in translation (and along with Vergil's 'Eclogues'). The translation is old-fashioned, and altho' my favourite is Richmond Lattimore's peerless version I'm still fond of this one ~ the daddy of all those black Penguin Classics which now adorn my shelves!
LibraryThing member aoibhealfae


I never was a reader of classic in fact I had to read the cliff notes version before attempting one. Last year's reading through all those Jane Austen was a pain but weirdly enough this classics is really good. Initially I thought The Odyssey would be hard on me and I was right when I begin the reading with Samuel Butler's translation. I tried using Librivox's audiobook to keep me going but its confusing me since Pallas Athena became Minerva, Zeus became Jove and Odysseus became Ulysses, I end up being so disinterest with the descriptiveness that I turn to Fagles. Fagles saved me.

There's a huge differences between Fagles (1996), Butler's (1922) and Rieu's (1946) translations. I read through nearly half of Butler's, quarter of Rieu's and all of the Fagles and to be honest, if you saw Fagles version. Get them.

One of the reason that Fagles is most preferred is that when a professor recommend it, you get it. Other than that, Fagles is said to be closest to the poetic form from the original Ancient Greek and even I notice the poetic elements in the words rather than the excessive descriptive paragraphs of the same thing with Rieu and Butler's. Both translated Odyssey in novel style and most of the free source "The Odyssey" translation came from Butler, it made absolute sense why some people have differences in opinions on this epic.

Before I began, I actually read this book with the help of Ian McKellan's narration. I know I have been an anti-audiobook thing but I'm not being hypocrite, in fact I was still struggling with the audiobooks but I was absolutely fine with poems (and The Odyssey actually is a series of rhapsodies) since these things are not meant to be read. Its mean to be said out loud and for me, this is quite an exception. But I still have problems concentrating with the listening part because I often fall asleep or space out so thats why I read and listen at the same time.

With Ian McKellan's (aka Gandalf or Magneto if you don't know who that was) theatric experience, he effectively brought the classic into deathless dramatic epicness. Experiencing "The Odyssey" is nothing if you haven't listen to it being told by a bard who is ironically is who Ian McKellan is and listening to Sir Ian McKellan breathing the soul of Homer into Odyssey is possibly near orgasmic thing that I've ever had to listen to.

The Odyssey began with a prayer to the Muse as the narrator started giving a short summary of the story. It's mostly centered around the events surrounding the missing hero, Odysseus, King of Ithaca. 20 years since Odysseus went to Troy to fight the war for Helen of Argos (not Helen of Troy!), the hero never went home and everyone including his wife and son accepted that he's died. Years earlier prior to the even in the first book, hundreds of men came to Ithaca to court the King's widow, Queen Penelope as it seems to be a custom for a beautiful young widow to remarry after the death of their husband. But Penelope managed to avoid the remarriage by prolonging the courtship which ends with the suitors overstaying Penelope's palace for years and spend all of the palace's resources on their feasting.

In the first book, Athena became distraught over the plight of the great hero who is stuck in limbo and the fate of Odysseus's wife and son with their guests terrorizing their home. After she begged Zeus to command Calypso to let Odysseus go from her sensual snare, she disguised herself as Mentes, an old friend of Odysseus, to nudge the young prince to take action against the suitor's menace. With the guidance by the goddess, Telemachus finally set off to the seas to search for real news from his father. Meanwhile, Odysseus escaped Calypso's grasp finally heading towards his home but his journey was diverted and he was stranded again in Scheria due to Poseidon's being angry over what Odysseus had blinded his son, the cyclops Polyphemus during his earlier journey. In Scheria, he began to weave his tale and finally tell the Phaecians of his past and his journey back from Troy to Ithaca. The tales itself include his encounter with Circe, Polyphebus, Aeolus, The Cattle of the Sun and etc. The Phaecians took pity on him and send him back to Ithaca where he plotted doom against the suitors who defiled his house.

The story is being told in various multiple narration in the beginning (Athena, Telemachus, Penelope, Odysseus etc) that is why I get some readers would get lost and felt it is boring but if its being read out loud, the poetry in Odyssey is much more prevalent than some passive narration style. Because Fagles updated the translation to be nearer to the original, you'll get the feel of what Homer had initially tried to portray with his stories.

Since I do critical reading with The Odyssey, I do take note to the major recurrent theme of Xenia. A concept of hospitality by the Greek that embrace travelers into their home, mostly because they fear a god would disguise themselves as travellers and would punish them if they didn't treat their guests well. There are also signs from the gods or the hint by Odysseus cunning tongue or the forebodings. Some argue that The Odyssey is used to justify the role of some political ideologies that even I couldn't grasp it firmly. Besides I was thinking that The Odyssey's characterizations and conflicts are being overused in so many modern literature particularly famous archetypal ones.

Other than that, I do notice this book is actually a mild romance novel, particularly with Penelope who is constantly grieving about her husband from the start of the book. I can't say about Odysseus fidelity but frankly, some characters in this book is classic strong female archetype. Athena (obviously.. disguising as several guys, fighting in wars, a peacekeeper etc), Penelope (a loyal woman who acting skills and great patience is what kept her in that limbo and somehow did do something to escape her near inevitable fate of loveless forced marriage from a broken mutual love marriage), Calypso (a woman desperate in need of love and companionship so much that she offers everything kept a man who never love her) and Circe (basically a lonely girl who know how to defend herself against a bunch of men coming into her house and turn them into pigs which they are). Ironically, the female in this book have more character than a bunch of YA novels and hypes these days.

I had some misgivings about the story initially since Telemachus part of the book is really annoying. But it move well whenever Athena and Odysseus was around.

To anyone who is considering to take on the classic, for more immersive experience, I would recommend the combination of Fagles translation and Sir Ian McKellan's audiobook if you want to read the epic. It will take longer than a few days if you read them at night, but its well worth to see Ian McKellan curses and narrating female parts nicely.
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LibraryThing member KimMR
My knowledge of classical literature and mythology is sadly lacking. The main reason I decided to tackle The Odyssey is because I want to read Ulysses and I gather that a passing acquaintance with this work will make that experience more meaningful.

Listening to Ian McKellen reading the Robert Fagles' translation made me regret my lack of education in the classics. I have no way of assessing the merits of Fagles' work, but I would love be to be able to read this epic poem in the language in which it was written and not feel that I was missing most of its cultural, social and political context.

Given my lack of familiarity with Greek mythology, it was interesting to realise just how much of the story is imbedded in my consciousness, from Penelope unravelling her weaving to put off her suitors, to the story of the Sirens, to the Cyclops. This is but a small indicstion of the importance of this epic to Western history and literature.

Overall, I found The Odyssey more interesting for what it represents as a primary source of Western literature than for the characters or the plot. Odysseus is not exactly a hero for modern times: he may be a master tactician and warrior, but he's also a consummate liar, a rapist, a plunderer and a murderer. The other characters don't have a lot going for them either, at least not in contemporary terms. However, in spite of having an instinctive reaction against the Odysseus' behaviour and the horrific violence contained in the text, I still found it compulsive listening. I loved the non-linear structure and the rhythm of the language. In addition. I was fascinated by the involvement of the gods in the affairs of human beings: directing their actions, subverting their plans, punishing them and performing the odd makeover to assist them to achieve their ends.

Ian McKellen's narration was - unsurprisingly - excellent. However, the sound quality of the audiobook left a bit to be desired. At times it was blurry and the volume was variable. While I would have benefited from the introduction and endnotes in a good text edition of this work, listening to an epic poem almost certainly written to be read aloud was for me the best way of tackling it. At some point I'd like to read a well annotated edition in order to learn what my ignorance led me to miss.

How can I not give five stars to a literary work which is still being read and discussed thousands of years after it was written?
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LibraryThing member Greatrakes
I recently read The Iliad, also in a translation by Fagles, and I was disappointed with The Odyssey. 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 The Iliad! 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 The Iliad, 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.
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LibraryThing member Pondlife
I read The Iliad shortly before reading The Odyssey. I found The Odyssey by far the better book: it's structure is clever, starting in medius res, and then giving the hero a chance to fill in the gaps later.

It contains a lot of the classic episodes that are often retold in different settings: the sirens, the cyclops, scylla and charibdis, the beguiling woman who keeps the hero hostage.

The only bit that I felt dragged a bit was when Odysseus returned to Ithaca as a beggar and stayed with the swineherd. But other than that, it was a surprisingly good read for a classic that dates back to ancient Greece.
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LibraryThing member saturnloft
Though most people seem to prefer The Iliad to The Odyssey, I like the latter for its sheer fabulous inventiveness. The story is fairly simple, Odysseus is trying to make his way home to the Greek island of Ithaca after the Trojan war, but he's earned the ire of the god Poseidon so it's not going to be an easy task. Meanwhile, his wife Penelope is beset with a veritable infestation of suitors and she's running out of delaying tactics.

The poem divides itself between Odysseus's ordeals (exciting!) and the troubles back at home with his wife and son (not quite so exciting). Some of my favorite parts:
- the encounter with a certain cranky monoptic giant with a taste for human flesh
- the trip to the underworld and Odysseus's conversations with the recently deceased. (Apparently being dead kind of sucks.)
- the Scylla and Charybdis incident, in which a crevice-lurking multi-headed monstrosity and a nasty whirlpool double-team our hero and his ship. What's not to like?
- The sirens, Circe and her isle of enchanted pigs, and so on.. All good stuff.

PS: I had one small irritation while reading this. Robert Fagles deploys the phrase "dawn with her rose-red fingers" one too many times in this book. He used it quite a bit in The Iliad as well, but The Iliad has a different flow and therefore it doesn't seem quite as conspicuously repetitive. I know it's part of Homer's poetic style, but a bit more variation from the translator would have been appreciated.

One last thought: I felt very, very sorry for Odysseus's dog.
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LibraryThing member carterchristian1
I bought this book because my granddaughter was studying it her freshman year. In order to help her understand it I checked out a number of juvenile books, which frankly made it a lot easier to follow the story. It is interesting to learn some scholars believe the author was a woman.
LibraryThing member sjstuckey
Absolutely a classic and a must-read for anyone interested in pre-classical Greece.
LibraryThing member Sean191
What can I say? The Oddysey is one of the first thrillers, actions, adventure, love and horror stories all rolled into one. That being said, it's a great work, not just for being an ancestor of modern works, but for being a great work even in comparison. This particular version could have done without the editor's extended information in the back - or I suppose I could have done without it, rather than scholarly, it seemed pretentious.… (more)
LibraryThing member desultory
I've got the E V Rieu translation - a bit stodgy. It makes Homer sound like he went to an English public school. That can't be right.

Language

Original language

Greek (Ancient)

Other editions

The Odyssey by Homer (Paper Book)
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