The Paris Review

Growing Up with the Odyssey

Emily Wilson’s new translation of the Odyssey appears in our Summer issue. Here, she remembers performing in a child’s production of the Odyssey as a girl in Oxford, England.

From the Odyssey, adapted by Gillian Cross and illustrated by Neil Packer, published by Walker Books in 2013.

When I was a shy, awkward eight-year-old living in Oxford, England, I was moved to a new school. The transition was hard at first. I left behind a beloved best friend and traveled to a world where many things had to be learned all over again, starting with the daily routines (here we had to sit cross-legged on the rug for attendance, not upright on plastic chairs) and handwriting (my scratchy, illegible scrawl was no longer acceptable). I felt lost, as if in a foreign island or out at sea in a storm—although in fact, the school was only three blocks from my house.

But there were good things in this strange new world. It was a Church of England school, and the teachers made us sing cheerful songs about “sharing and caring.” We learned to make pot holders,

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