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Homer's Odyssesy: By EV Reiu, DCH Rieu & Peter Jones.
on 20 July 2011
This book is a joy to encounter. It is an English translation of Homer's (c.750BCE) ancient Greek Classic, often referred to as the second book in Western literature - the first being Homer's Illiad. It is the story of Odysseus' 20 year return journey back to the Greek island of Ithaca, from the Trojan War - the Trojan War campaign being the subject of the Illiad. It is believed to have originally been a poem describing events dating to around 1,200BCE. Homer appears to have written this story of oral tradition onto paper for the first time. Although Homer lived in the 8th century (BCE), which was the Iron Age in Greece, the Odyssesy continuously refers to weapons and armour being made of bronze, which again suggest an earlier time. However, although the core of the story may well be hundreds of years older thanHomer's time, nevertheless, certain curious contemporary practices appear to be recorded. In around 1,200 BCE, the habit for dealing with the dead was burial, in Homer's time it was cremation. Homer cites in the Odyssesy that dead people were 'cremated'. This means that oral traditions are not static but continue to develop all the time, around a much older core story.
The paperback (1991) edition contains 394 numbered pages and contains the following sections:
2) Introduction - Peter V Jones.
3) Brief Reading List - Peter V Jones.
4) The Odyssesy - Pages 1-394.
The original text of this translation was published in 1946, by EV Rieu, the co-founder of the Penguin Classics series (with Sir Allen Lane). The purpose of this series was to produce modern English version of literary classics that everyone could easily access. The Oydssey was the first published Penguin Classic, whilst the Illiad was the second. EV Rieu was an Oxford scholar. His son, DCH Rieu, also an Oxford scholar, has revised his father's text because he feels certain aspects could be improved. For instance, DCH Riev believes his father's rendition over elaborated in parts, added politenesses not present in the Greek original, and omitted the mention of the influence of Greek gods in the text - instead of 'a god put this idea in my mind,' EV Reiu says 'it occured to me'. DCH Rieu's revised text has a greater succintness, without losing the over-all appeal of his father's original. Following in his father's footsteps, DCH Rieu has assisted his father in the translation, although, of course, many decades later (the early 1990's).
Peter Jones, a Cambridge scholar, has produced what can only be described as the most 'blissful' of introductions! His understanding and knowledge of Homer's Odyssesy is a sheer joy to encounter. He expertly places Homer within a clear historical context, and then places his writing into a correct perspective. Jones interprets facts and offers guidance with a natural ease. He presents a very interesting over-view of the chronological order of events in the book, and explains key issues and makes very profound and insightful comments. It is one of those pieces of literature that the reader wishes would never end. This translation of a Greek Classic has the feel of a 'Classic' about it. A rendition that presents the beauty of Homer's Greek original, in contemporary English. A perfect book.