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The Iliad: the Odyssey (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 3 Apr 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 2 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Australia; Box edition (3 April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0147712556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0147712554
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 8.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,213,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Homer was probably born around 725BC on the Coast of Asia Minor, now the coast of Turkey, but then really a part of Greece. Homer was the first Greek writer whose work survives.

He was one of a long line of bards, or poets, who worked in the oral tradition. Homer and other bards of the time could recite, or chant, long epic poems. Both works attributed to Homer - The Iliad and The Odyssey - are over ten thousand lines long in the original. Homer must have had an amazing memory but was helped by the formulaic poetry style of the time.

In The Iliad Homer sang of death and glory, of a few days in the struggle between the Greeks and the Trojans. Mortal men played out their fate under the gaze of the gods. The Odyssey is the original collection of tall traveller's tales. Odysseus, on his way home from the Trojan War, encounters all kinds of marvels from one-eyed giants to witches and beautiful temptresses. His adventures are many and memorable before he gets back to Ithaca and his faithful wife Penelope.

We can never be certain that both these stories belonged to Homer. In fact 'Homer' may not be a real name but a kind of nickname meaning perhaps 'the hostage' or 'the blind one'. Whatever the truth of their origin, the two stories, developed around three thousand years ago, may well still be read in three thousand years' time.

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47 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Oct 2000
Format: Paperback
What attracted me to this version of the classic books was actually the cover. On bookshelves full of dry classic paperback (each with the obiligatory classic statue on the front cover), the books by Fagles used different textures of paper, begging you to pick them up. Plus the each page is made of paper of deliberately slightly different widths, to give it a "hand bound" quality. so, before you even start reading, you start falling in love with the book! I promptly called home and asked my girlfriend to check the price on amazon and she told me there was this "dual" version.No contest, I cam home and logged on here.
The translation has recieved polarised reactions. some accuse it of ruining the poetic nature of the works, others that it "brings it upto date, for a new generation" (you can imagine the hyperbole).
I would say its somewhere inbetween. I own another two versions, but this is the one I would read to simply enjoy the story, the drama and the characterisations. ok, if there are passages ou feel have been diluted in the translations, then dig out your other versions ( i assume the crtics ARE talking from experience!)
What makes THIS particular purchase so neat is that you get both books in a hard cover surround. (not just "one" paperback) so not only do you save money (surf on this site and see for yourself), but it looks drop dead gorgeous as well. ie the perfect gift! Highly recommended
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By James Murray on 27 Jun 2004
Format: Paperback
Studying for A-levels requires a lot of wider reading (i.e. reading beyond set texts) I chose to read The Iliad and The Odyssey.
You open either of the books and are instantly immersed in a mythical realm of escapism and fantasy. Reading at first can be a little difficult, the style in which the text is set out is that of poetry (I'm not sure of the poetic style) and so you may find yourself trying to read it like a nursery rhyme, but the key is to read it as if it was a normal book, one finds it reads with a flow after a while anyway.
The aesthetics of the set are very appreciable. The covers and case are attractive, at the edge of the books' pages they're cut in a ribbed manner - a unique to my library at least.
Overall wonderful stories, good for evening/relaxing reading, cheap (RRP of each book is £12). If you wish to escape to the 5th Century BC - and immerse yourself in wonders of the archaic world then read this: a truly memorable experience and a must-read for everyone.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By bernie VINE VOICE on 16 Jan 2008
Format: Paperback
The Iliad

With many books, translations are negligible, with two obvious exceptions, one is the Bible, and surprisingly the other is The Iliad.

For example:

"Rage--Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus' son Achilles,
Murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many souls,
great fighters' souls. But made their bodies carrion,
feasts for dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving towards its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles."
-Translated by Robert Fagles

"Sing, O Goddess, the anger of Achilles, son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a heroes did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures for so were the counsels of Zeus fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles first fell out with one another."
-Translated by Samuel Butler

Our story takes place in the ninth year of the ongoing war. We get some introduction to the first nine years but they are just a background to this tale of pride, sorrow and revenge. The story will also end abruptly before the end of the war.

We have the wide conflict between the Trojans and Achaeans over a matter of pride; the gods get to take sides and many times direct spears and shields.

Although the more focused conflict is the power struggle between two different types of power. That of Achilles, son of Peleus and the greatest individual warier and that of Agamemnon, lord of men, who's power comes form position.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 64 reviews
155 of 163 people found the following review helpful
Excellent 29 Dec 1999
By Guy J. Kelley - Published on
Format: Paperback
I don't know whether it is the font size, the appropriate spacing, or the translation, or even, the combination of all three. This was the most accessible, approachable, and engaging version I have ever read. I am no scholar of these works so I cannout vouch for the literary accuracy, but I suspect the main literary themes are left unadulterated: War is hell and gruesome; both sides suffer; stife breeds conflict even among allies; life is an odyssey with free will being buffetted by many uncontrollable forces (gods?); graciousness, courtesy, wit, wisdom, and personal responsibility are attributes that will help us through this journey. I highly recommend this version as well as this 2700 year old work of art. Literature doesn't get any better than this.
90 of 93 people found the following review helpful
The Best Translation of these Classic Epics Tales! 20 Jun 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I highly recommend this boxed hardcover set, because after reading Robert Fagles translation, you'll want to keep it as a part of your personal book re-read again and again. I have read many fine and not-so-fine translations of these works (including the admirable Robert Fitzgerald and the classic Richard Lattimore translations), but Robert Fagles' translations are by far the best I've seen. Fagles manages to bring the stories to life while still maintaining a sense of the poetic beauty of the original. I especially liked the Illiad. These translations are far from being dusty and archaic, but instead are very much "alive", capturing the excitement and beauty of these classic tales. If your first exposure to these classics was a very negative one, try again with Fagles (you'll be very glad you did!)... and if you're a great fan of Homer, you'll definitely want to read these wonderful new translations by Robert Fagles.
Also, the "introductions" by the well-respected classicist, Bernard Knox, are a great source of additional,up-to-date information about these works and the Homeric period of Ancient Greece.
83 of 86 people found the following review helpful
Simply wonderful 19 May 2000
By John McCormack - Published on
Format: Paperback
Simply wonderful
Robert Fagles is the finest translator of Homer I have ever read. I have loved classical history and classical myths since I was seven; Robert Fagles' translation makes me feel as if I am reading these stories for the very first time.
His poetical vision reawakens Homer; he makes the agony and glory of the Iliad and Odyssey a living, vibrant and above all human force. This is literature like a trumpet blast; these are words to wake the imagination and emotions.
Few moments are more moving in any literature, than when Hector speaks to his beloved wife Andromache for what will be the last time. As he turns to his baby son Astynax, the child cries in terror at the crested helmet masking his father's face. Hector pulls the helmet away and laughs, and hugs his son.
Hector will die that day. Andromache will end her days as a slave in a far country. Their son will be thrown to his death from the walls of burning Troy. All this the Greeks knew.
Achilles is the great Greek hero. He needs a worthy enemy to kill, a warrior of skill and courage and resolve. Homer carefully depicts the doomed Hector as the greatest Trojan solider, a man with deep regard for his peoples' welfare, who inspires fear from his enemies, a leader of renown and a man for all men to honour.
Yet Homer does more than this - he deliberately makes Hector human and every Greek who knew and loved the Iliad knew Hector to be human, to be a man like himself.
Enemies in our century are demonised. They are communists, they are capitalists, they are Arabs or Moslems or the great Satan America. They are very carefully portrayed as inhuman (and undeserving of any humanity?)
There is no sentimentality in the Iliad. It is brutal. Death upon death, the warriors fight for their honours and die alone and in pain. There is no afterlife here. A man lives on through his name only, and he buys his name with blood and fear. This is grim, not gratuitous - heroism is applauded but the sheer waste of war is laid bare.
Yet - the enemy are never less than human, they are not despised for being "different". Individuals are honoured or loathed, but emotions rest with individuals not races or nations.
I cannot convey in either spoken or written words just how much I recommend these translations to anyone, whether they are already familiar with the Iliad and Odyssey or are coming to Homer for the first time..............
65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
A most well prepared translation of an ancient work. 9 Nov 2003
By W. M. Robbins - Published on
Format: Hardcover
For nearly three thousand years the poems of Homer have thrilled listeners of every culture and epoch. Allusions to The Iliad and The Odyssey are so pervasive in our western culture that they are almost required reading for anyone who wishes to study western literature.
Briefly, The Iliad is the story of the ten year long Trojan War, which climaxes with the destruction of the city of Troy by the Greeks through the deception of the Trojan Horse, and The Odyssey is the telling of the many adventures of the Greek Chieftan Odysseus (also known as Ulysses) during his long journey home. Filled with tales of the heroes and gods of ancient Greece, the poems are noted for the masterful use of wonderfully illustrative similes and metaphors, which become all the more wonderful with the understanding that Homer is believed to have been blind!
Translations of Homer which try to adhere to the original poetic structure and be as literal as possible are immensely difficult to read by all but the most focused scholars. Other translations have completley deviated from any resemblance of poetry in an effort to be more accessible to the average reader. Here Mr. Fagles has achieved a translation which is not only easy to read and understand, but which retains the poetic lyricism of the original.
Homer's works should be on the bookshelf of anyone who is interested in the classics, and with this translation you don't have to be a University Professor to appreciate them.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Dramatic and readable 9 Mar 2002
By Joyce M. Sico - Published on
Format: Paperback
Robert Fagles has done an excellent job at giving life to this ancient 'song', an epic of war. If you read this translation aloud (which you should certainly do!!), you will see how he has tried to give it the feel of an oral tradition, as if a bard were truly singing it. If you want to read this for the excitement of it, and really get a feel for the life behind it, read this translation. There are some boring parts, but that's just how the Iliad is, and it has nothing to do with Fagles's translation.
However, if you are in a reading group of some sort where you all have different translations, you will quickly realize upon comparison that Fagles's translation, especially compared to the Lattimore, leaves something to be desired in terms of its literal-ness (is that a word?). For studying the particulars, I would suggest the Lattimore translation instead, which makes more of an effort to be true to the original Greek, and is still interesting, but less readable and intense than the Fagles translation.
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