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Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey: A Biography

Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey: A Biography

Written by Alberto Manguel

Narrated by Michael Prichard


Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey: A Biography

Written by Alberto Manguel

Narrated by Michael Prichard

ratings:
4/5 (110 ratings)
Length:
6 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Feb 5, 2008
ISBN:
9781400173938
Format:
Audiobook

Description

No one knows if there was a man named Homer, but there is little doubt that the epic poems assembled under his name form the cornerstone of Western literature. The Iliad and the Odyssey-with their incomparable tales of the Trojan War, Achilles, Ulysses and Penelope, the Cyclops, the beautiful Helen of Troy, and the petulant gods-are familiar to most people because they are so pervasive. They have fed our imaginations for over two and a half millennia, inspiring everyone from Plato to Virgil, Pope to Joyce, Dante to Wolfgang Petersen. In this graceful and sweeping addition to the Books that Changed the World series, Alberto Manguel traces the lineage of these epic poems. He considers their original purpose, either as allegory or record of history; surveys the challenges the pagan poems presented to the early Christian world; and traces their spread after the Reformation. Following Homer through the greatest literature ever created, Manguel's book above all delights in the poems themselves, the "primordial spring without which there would have been no culture."
Publisher:
Released:
Feb 5, 2008
ISBN:
9781400173938
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Born in Buenos Aires, Alberto Manguel is the internationally acclaimed, award-winning Canadian author, translator and editor.


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What people think about Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey

4.2
110 ratings / 145 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    Wilson's translation of the Odyssey is excellent, but the real value is her introductory material and notes, including the three maps of the world of The Odyssey and of the actual classical Greek world. As for the translation, my Greek is not adequate to comment but it reads very well, lively and yet true to the Homeric conventions. The pace is brisker than that of the archaic translations I have previously read, and more like contemporary English than some of the more modern. I even found myself sympathizing with different characters as I read. And I noticed some character development, in Telemachus, for example.
  • (5/5)
    A wonderful translation, easy to read and to understand. But thank goodness for the intro.Hard to believe but I've never read this before. And rather than get lost in the lengthy introduction, I jumped ahead and just began the tale itself. It was hard to put down and I sped right through it, but by the end I was thinking, "Boy, these people were weird", so thank goodness for that intro, which I started after finishing the main work. One of the first things mentioned is that no one in the ancient world, at any time, acted or spoke like these people. So that was one question answered.
  • (5/5)
    The Odyssey is well worth reading not only to experience a story that has so heavily influenced Western literature, but also because, as appalling of a hero as Odysseus may be, it's a fun story. In all its extravagance, it set the standard for epic adventures.I cannot recommend Emily Wilson's translation enough. It is beautiful and fluid. She maintains a poetic rhythm yet the language is modern and clear. It's worth the extra time to read it out loud so you can truly savor the language for both its flow and the way it captures the sentiments of the characters.For those with several Odysseys under their belt, I would still recommend this version, if for no other reason than to read her introduction. Her analysis of the story is brilliant.
  • (5/5)
    One of the single greatest books, EVER. Written.!!! !!! !!!

    #paganism_101
  • (4/5)
    I had attempted to read The Odyssey once before and failed miserably. Since then I've learned just how important the translator is when choosing to read ancient classics. I'm happy that I found a different translation to try which made this a much more enjoyable and engaging read. Given that the story comes from a time of oral tradition I decided to try out the audio book, which I think was the right idea but the wrong narrator for me. More on that below.For anyone who doesn't know, The Odyssey was written by Homer somewhere around 800 BC. The epic poem relates the story of Odysseus and his trials on his return journey home after the Trojan war. For such a simple premise, the scope is vast. It has a little bit of everything (magic, monsters, gods, suitors, shipwrecks, action) and touches on so many themes (violence and the aftermath of war, poverty, wealth, marriage and family, betrayal, yearning for ones home, hospitality) that is is easy to see why this poem is so important and how it has inspired many stories to this day. One of the best and worst parts about this version was the introduction to the poem. The intro goes into great detail about the controversies about the poem's origins and dives deeply into the poem's many themes. This was great for someone who already knows the story and wants to learn more before getting into Odysseus's tale. For those that don't like spoilers, it's best if you skip the introduction and read/listen to it after you're done with the poem. Fair warning for audio book listeners - the introduction is roughly 3.5 hours long and I was definitely getting impatient to hear the poem long before it was done.I listened to the audio book narrated by Claire Danes. This has really driven home that I need to listen to a sample of the narrator before choosing my audio books. Claire does an adequate job when reading the descriptive paragraphs but just didn't work for me when it came to dialog. All her characters, male and female, sounded the same and were a bit over done so it was a challenge to keep who was speaking apart. She is going on my avoid list for future audio books.
  • (3/5)
    This was a book I decided to tackle with audiobook and I thought it came across better listening to a narrator. Will give the Iliad go to.
  • (5/5)
    Very enjoyable. I also loved listening on a Playaway, because, as my friends know, being able to read a book and knit, or fold clothes, or sew, or work in the yard is just bliss.If you haven't read this since high school or college, give it a whirl. It's worth the time. I think listening would be much easier given the style.
  • (5/5)
    What a glorious story and a thoroughly enjoyable translation. My only quibble with the translation is using the term 'Greeks' instead of Hellenes (as the 'Greeks' called themselves) since in all otherand sometimes very compex names she kept to the original, e.g. Odysseus instead of Ulysses. Have to say that the final page was a bit disappointing, the story just ended quite abruptly without the intensity and build up of the other adventures. That aside, this 3000 + year old story was superb on so many levels, beautiful poetic language and description, an exciting adventure story, iconic moments like with Odysseus' dog, insights into very ancient societies' mores and values --thoroughly misogynistic by the way. From the various inconsistencies and differences in style -- like the final scene -- I think it is pretty obvious that there was not just one narrator (Homer), but various retellings in the oral tradition. Actually, while I ostensibly 'read' this book, I was more or less 'hearing' the story, reading the poetry slowly and aloud in my head. This book was a great experience.
  • (5/5)
    I won't say too much about the actual story. Everyone already knows that stuff from freshman English and general knowledge of myths and literary tropes. It has monsters and heroes and true love and coming of age and an awesome scene with a trick arrow shot and 3 guys against the world. Give it a try if you haven't looked at it since you were 15.

    I'm not sure I had ever read the whole Odyssey before. In any case, I now have heard the whole thing performed by Ian McKellen. I suppose Homer on audio book is about as close as I'll get to the original, unless someone can point me to someone who does the audio book in ancient Greek... McKellen's narration was great, but I bought the book to listen to while driving, and it put me to sleep. The story was really quite exciting, even if it did drag on a little when Odysseus was planning his suitor revenge. I guess we skipped that part in 9th grade English. But Gandalf's voice seemed to be more suited for bedtime stories than distracting me from traffic jams. I know what I'll be listening to when I can't get to sleep though.

    The translation, by Robert Fagles, was excellent. There were some places where I was like "that seems really colloquial" but then I was glad because it really was easy to understand. I would use this translation if I ever needed to read Homer for some reason.
  • (3/5)
    A soldier returns home ten years later than expected.2.5/4 (Okay).There are some really good parts near the end. Most of the book is tedious.
  • (5/5)
    This very accessible translation definitely stands up to the hype. My perpetual secondary interest in the Odyssey has been as a skeleton key to Joyce's Ulysses. In this respect the episodic correspondences are crystal clear. Homer's time warping between comic book action sequences and epic scale events are preserved. Doesnt shy from foregrounding slavery for what it was and underscores the question of how many should suffer/die for one great man's return home.
  • (4/5)
    I have only ever read a junior version of The Odyssey (in fourth grade) but am familiar with the story and the characters. I was inspired to read it now after finishing Madeline Miller's Circe. This version of the story is told in paragraphs, not verses, which probably worked better for me. The language is still in convoluted form and I had to pay close attention and reread some sentences to get them straight.
  • (5/5)
    Emily Wilson clearly demonstrates that translation of a classic can stand on its own as a work of art. It falls for me how an Ansel Adams photograph of a landscape stands on its own as a work of art. The readability makes the story follow along and seem lively even as far you know not only the outcome but the details. One measure of a classic is the pleasure found in revisiting it. That is certainly true with this engaging transition.Many questions are asked and addressed in the Odyssey: 1) can a warrior return home after war; 2) will it be the same home and will be be accepted as the same person; 3) how should the warrior shoulder the experiences of war and the challenges of returning home; 4) how does the warrior introduce the person he has become to his home? Each reader will have their own version of these questions and more and the answers will be kaleidoscopic which is what makes the reading and re reading interesting. Wilson's translation is a great one for a modern reader to be introduced to the Odyssey. The today at the end as to the depth and helps the reader to keep their feet.
  • (5/5)
    Emily Wilson's translation of The Odyssey is my third; I read Robert Fagles' and Stanley Lombardo's before this. You can't go wrong with any of them - Fagles' is lyrical but modern, Lombardo's is admirably plain-speaking and fast-paced, and Wilson's is swift, smart and exciting. But Wilson's is my favorite now, and the one I'd recommend to someone dipping in for the first time.Caroline convinced me to read Wilson's introduction, and I'm glad I did. It's a corker. She explains The Odyssey this way:"We encounter a surprising range of different characters and types of incident: giants and beggars, arrogant young men and vulnerable old slaves, a princess who does laundry and a dead warrior who misses the sunshine, gods, goddesses, and ghosts, brave deeds, love affairs, spells, dreams, songs, and stories. Odysseus himself seems to contain multitudes: he is a migrant, a pirate, a carpenter, a king, an athlete, a beggar, a husband, a lover, a father, a son, a fighter, a liar, a leader, and a thief. He is a man who cries, takes naps, and feels homesick, but he is also a man who has a special relationship with the goddess who transforms his appearance at will and ensures that his schemes succeed."As she says, this isn't the usual hero who saves the world or "at least changes it in some momentous way"; instead, "for this hero, mere survival is the most amazing feat of all". The story raises"important questions about the moral qualities of this liar, pirate, colonizer, deceiver, and thief, who is so often in disguise, absent or napping, while other people - those he owns, those he leads- suffer and die, and who directly kills so many people."This complexity is what continues to fascinate me, and has led me through three translations and re-reads.What is so outstanding about this translation?"The Odyssey is a poem, and it needs to have a predictable and distinctive rhythm that can be easily heard when the text is read out loud. The original is in six-footed lines (dactylic hexameters), the conventional meter for archaic Greek narrative verse. I used iambic pentameter, because it is the conventional meter for regular English narrative verse - the rhythm of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Keats, and plenty of more recent anglophone poets . . . my translation sings to its own regular and distinctive beat.My version is the same length as the original, with exactly the same number of lines. I chose to write within this difficult constraint because any translation without such limitations will tend to be longer than the original, and I wanted a narrative pace that could match its stride and Homer's nimble gallop."I can't speak to the original, but hers certainly has stride and nimble gallop. She also leans toward simplicity of language, "in a style that echoes the rhythms and phrasing of contemporary anglophone speech." She notes that "stylistic pomposity is entirely un-Homeric". Occasionally (rarely, really) this results in what to me is an odd word choice, e.g. carrying weapons in a "hamper" - really? But overall it succeeds beautifully.Some examples:At a light touch of whip, the horses flew,Swiftly they drew toward their journeys' end,on through fields of wheat, until the sunbegan to set and shadows filled the streets.Helen, on the events in Troy:The Trojan women keened in grief, but Iwas glad - by then I wanted to go home.I wished that Aphrodite had not made mego crazy, when she took me from my country,and made me leave my daughter and the bedI shared with my fine, handsome, clever husband.Circe confronting Odysseus:"Who are you?Where is your city? And who are your parents?I am amazed that you could drink my potionand yet not be bewitched. No other manhas drunk it and withstood the magic charm.But you are different. Your mind is notenchanted. You must be Odysseus,the man who can adapt to anything."Odysseus and Athena are natural partners. As she says,"To outwit youin all your tricks, a person or a godwould need to be an expert at deceit.You clever rascal! So duplicitous,so talented at lying! You love fictionand tricks so deeply, you refuse to stopeven in your own land. Yes, both of usare smart. No man can plan and talk like you,and I am known among the gods for insightand craftiness."He is such a liar! And it's so deeply engrained that he lies even when he doesn't need to. But his lies always carry a greater message: "His lies were like the truth/ and as she listened, she began to weep."If you haven't read The Odyssey before, you probably know the basics of the story by osmosis. But that's nothing like experiencing this ancient yet so modern story. Emily Wilson has brought an intelligence, rhythm and excitement to it that to me is the best yet. Have some fun reading an old classic; it's a treat.
  • (5/5)
    Over the last fifty years I've read four translations of 'The Odyssey': E V Rieu (Penguin Classics), Butcher & Lang (used and parodied by Joyce in 'Ulysses'; despised by Pound), T E Lawrence (critics are a bit sniffy, but I enjoyed it) and finally the only verse translation I've read, the other three are prose, by the American poet Robert Fagles (pronounced as in bagel). I was further delighted to find when listening to Adam Nicolson's book, 'The mighty dead: why Homer matters' (2014) that Fagles is his choice of an exemplary modern translation.Of course it could be growing familiarity with the tale over three quarters of my life that enhances the jouissance of re-reading, but Fagles is now my choice - every evening I looked forward to picking up the book. His use of verse enhances the emotion and action of the tale. You have to pay attention otherwise you may lose who is speaking or the thread of the tale's subtle structures of back story and/or current action, oftentimes twined. I was pleased when re-reading Robin Knox's introduction to find that some passages I'd enjoyed for their impact were highlighted by him, but also noted, to my chagrin, that I'd missed some as well - how could I have missed this and this? Of course that's the pleasure of the text - with each reading you find something new. This text repays close attention, at times difficult because the action urges the reader on - so I'll be going back for more - this really is a book to live with.The edition is enhanced with Robin Knox's introduction, as mentioned, maps, translation notes, genealogies, textual variants, suggestions for further reading and a pronunciation glossary - all very useful.
  • (3/5)
    A must read
  • (4/5)
    What else could you select while sailing the Med if not a previous voyage across a similar sea? I thought this was going to be a hard read, but it really wasn't. In part, I think, that is because there is a part of knowing the outline of the story and it's elements already. It is such a well known story that you can't really come it it without knowing something of it already. It's not told in real time, that is reserved for Odysseus' son, Telemachus' journey to try and find news of his father and his dealings with his mother's suitors. The tale of Odysseus' journey back form the Trojan wars is told in order, but in retrospect. It's an interesting way of combining the two strands of the tale, the traveller and those left behind. The impact the traveller's absence has on those left behind is well illustrated, and how things are difficult for both sides in that instance - it's not just the traveller that has to endure trials. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this.
  • (4/5)
    My first foray into ancient Greek myth and I loved it. This translation is very accessible and immersed me into Odysseus' journey of trials and tribulations. Loved it!
  • (3/5)
    I read The Iliad in Richmond Lattimore's translation and far preferred his style to that of Fagles. So while I found this sufficient to enable me to read the entire work at last, it did not move me as the first work did.
  • (4/5)
    {Review of E.V. Rieu's prose translation, Penguin Classics} Reading a prose version of The Odyssey is like having your learned friend read the poem silently to himself and occasionally pausing to explain to you what's going on. This is a very thorough translation of the action, but you won't grasp why Homer is called a master bard or find his genius. For all the translator's efforts this reads almost like a comic book version minus the pictures. That makes it simple to breeze through and there's no question you'll know the whole story by the end, but you'll not have been swept up by it as you would if you've any ear for poetry. Where reading the Iliad felt like rehashing a story I already knew, it was a different experience with The Odyssey. My knowledge of this one was more episodic, and getting the full story has finally sewn it together. While I'd recommend reading a poetic version if you can, the translator's introduction points out that The Odyssey can be likened to a novel and this is ably supported by its prose rendition. Techniques we view as modern can be found here in work that's 3,000 years old: different points of view, timeline jumps, foreshadowing etc. that could trick me into believing it's much more recent. I only regret the disproportionate page count once he gets to Ithaca, which I didn't find nearly as engaging as what came before. It's still easy to prefer this to the Iliad, but reading that first lends this one extra weight. It's the ending we didn't get, and this time it satisfies.
  • (5/5)
    I humbly declare this book to be the greatest literary work of mankind. If you don't learn Greek (worth it just to read this Meisterwerk, never mind the rest of the immortal trove of Greek literature) you can read it in so many translations that have become classics in their own use of the English language, Fagles and Murray, just to mention two. Oh, what the Hades, let's throw in a third, not just for its brilliant translation, but also owing to the exotic character behind it: no less than Lawrence of Arabia. The Homeric poems were sung in a less-enlightened time, in comparison with the later Greek tragedies, and with the later epics too. Apollonius' Argonautica was composed, post Greek Tragedy, and his audience would have been, no doubt, familiar with Euripides' Medea. Questions such as how justice and revenge affect societies were addressed by Aeschylus in the Oresteia; likewise, the reception of the anthropomorphic gods, and their pettiness, was raised by Euripides in Hippolytus and the Bacchae. Furthermore, the real nature and brutality of warfare was also raised in the Trojan Women. Throw in how one state views another state, and questions of racial identity, and you have The Persians by Aeschylus, and Medea by Euripides. Additionally, if you include Philoctetes by Sophocles, and the issue of how youth should conduct themselves is also raised. If you consider, too, Ajax by Sophocles, and you find that the bloodthirsty myths of an earlier age are filtered through questions that C5 Athenian society faced. What is better, the brute force of an unsophisticated Ajax, or the sophistry and rhetorical arguments of Odysseus in Ajax? By the time we arrive at Virgil, and The Aenied, brutal events such as the death of Priam by Neoptolemus in Aeneid Book II, are tempered with a more enlightened approach. Neoptolemus is condemned for killing Priam, and rightly so, as mercy is important, and exemplifies the Romanitas of 'Sparing the humble, and conquering the proud'. However, Aeneas doesn't show mercy in his killing of Turnus at the end of Book XII. If you're into Greek Literature, read the rest of this review on my blog.
  • (5/5)
    This translation is a must read for anyone interested in literature, classics, or history. The pace of the story is amazing with action and adventure mixed in with society and home life.
  • (4/5)
    A re-read of classic literature. In this sequel to the Iliad, Homer continues with the adventures of Odysseus in the Odyssey. Maybe it was the 4 years of Latin I took in high school but this never gets old.
  • (5/5)
    a wonderful New translation in meter, so it flows and reads like a song without overly flowery verse, and deep insight into what the Greek poets meant without distortion of a later morality and cultural lens. a joy to read.
  • (4/5)
    This feels like a book that needs two distinct reviews.

    First, Emily Wilson's translation, which is wonderful. Just as Heaney moved Beowulf from "worthy work" to a fun read, Wilson's made The Odyssey eminently readable, while keeping it a formally structured long poem and apparently sticking scrupulously to the pacing of the original Greek. I had started reading other translations of this work but never actually finished them, so I'm delighted that this one now exists. And the maps, introduction, footnotes and dramatis personae all helped me follow a work that's heavy on reference and allusion.

    But I have to say I didn't get on very well with the content. Some of it is delightful, from learning that Greeks have appreciated wine, olive oil and the sea for longer than much of the world's had written records, to all the descriptions that weren't about Odysseus himself. But there's a degree of repetitiveness to the language that grated--Wilson's introduction explains why it was so in a work written to be performed but it still took away from my experience of reading this as written text--a few too many passages that consist of just listing characters from other Greek myths to the point that they felt like the Torah's "begats", and by the end I found the character of Odysseus dislikable enough to not care about his fortunes.

    I'm still glad to have read this. I didn't get anywhere near the exposure to Greek mythology that US schools seem to give, so much of the story was either new to me or connected dots that I'd picked up scattershot from English literature referencing them. And I have to say that I'm re-reading the Torah this year, which seems to be of approximately the same age, and found The Odyssey so much more sophisticated and compelling as a work of literature. But I can't exactly say that I _like_ this story.
  • (4/5)
    Opmerkelijke, niet-chronologische structuur. Ook minder tragedisch-hero?sch dan Ilias, meer accent op waarden trouw, vriendeschap. Verschuiving tav Ilias: mensheld speelt hier de hoofdrol; Odysseus doorspartelt alle gevaren dankzij zijn formidabele karakter (groot hart, eerlijk maar ook vurig en wreedaardig), een man voor alle tijden; doorslaggevend: hij gelooft in eigen kunnen. Ook intelligent-listig (soms web van leugens), daarom in de Oudheid eerder als negatieve figuur gezien (corrupt en leugenachtig), pas met Renaissance gerehabiliteerd.Maar Odysseus is wel de enige onbesproken held, alle anderen (inclusief Telemachos en Penelope) worden in een dubieus daglicht gesteld. Tav Ilias komen vrouwen meer op voorgrond (maar niet altijd positief).Geen mythe, maar wel heldenverhaal, epos. De hoofdlijn is grondig vermengd met andere verhalen (dat van de cycloop is bij andere volkeren in 125 versies te vinden). Het centraal thema is de queeste, de zoektocht naar wat verloren is gegaan (vergelijking met Gilgamesj mogelijk: bezoek aan onderwereld, nihilistische visie op dood).
  • (4/5)
    Well, it seems a bit odd to be reviewing The Odyssey after all these centuries, but of course it's a great story. The new translation is excellent, very accessible and easy to read, although some of the colloquialisms did seem a bit odd in the context (I guess it's the balance between seeming realistic and being easy to read). The Appendices containing the stories of the dead in Hades were great, poetic as well as easy to read, and reminded me a bit of Alice Oswald's Memorial. I might even try rereading the Iliad with this new translation, as I found it a bit hard going the last time I read it (an older translation).
  • (3/5)
    I read this book as an assignment in school so ... it's was not necessary my like or my choice, but I think it was a goodread ( :) ), isn't it a classic after all? I get confused between the Illiad and the Odyssey - that's how concentrated I was but I have always thought and made a mental note to read it later in my life. It is later in my life now ... mmm
  • (5/5)
    Not for the faint of heart. But well worth the read.
  • (5/5)
    An epic tale of Odysseus as he makes he journey back home from the Trojan war. Lost at sea for 6 years trying to get home to his wife, he encounters many obstacles such as sirens, cyclopes, and sea creatures! This tale, has plenty of room for interpretation and meaning behind it which would make for a great book to share in a middle to high school class room. Not only is it entertaining but it give a slight historical account of the Trojan war. The students will be able to take an abundance of knowledge such as moral and ethical dilemmas as well as recognizing personal growth. I remember reading this book in middle school and I would recommend it to anyone who has the desire for adventure and the open mindedness and the willingness to learn that needs to be present during the story.