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The Odyssey Hardcover – 27 Feb 1997

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; New edition edition (27 Feb. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670821624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670821624
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 4.2 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 809,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Wonderfully readable... Just the right blend of roughness and sophistication. (Ted Hughes) Robert Fagles is the best living translator of ancient Greek drama, lyric poetry, and epic into modern English. (Garry Wills, "The New Yorker") Mr. Fagles has been remarkably successful in finding a style that is of our time and yet timeless. (Richard Jenkyns, "The New York Times Book Review") --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

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.Robert Fagles (1933-2008) was Arthur W. Marks '19 Professor of Comparative Literature, Emeritus, at Princeton University. He was the recipient of the 1997 PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and a 1996 Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His translations include Sophocles's "Three Theban Plays," Aeschylus's "Oresteia" (nominated for a National Book Award), Homer's "Iliad" (winner of the 1991 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award by The Academy of American Poets), Homer's "Odyssey," and Virgil's "Aeneid." Bernard Knox (1914-2010) was Director Emeritus of Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. He taught at Yale University for many years. Among his numerous honors are awards from the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His works include "The Heroic Temper: Studies in Sophoclean Tragedy, Oedipus at Thebes: Sophocles' Tragic Hero and His Time "and "Essays Ancient and Modern "(awarded the 1989 PEN/Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award).

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 85 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Oct. 1997
Format: Hardcover
Since you ask me, you word-hungry Amazonians,
How I came solate in life to the end of a tale
That schoolchildren read in comic books,
A tale that is one of the sturdy legs
Of the table on which our culture rests
Since you ask, I will tell you, and gladly, too.
My journey started, though you grin in disbelief,
In ninth-grade Latin class, where "Ulysses"
Duped the cyclops by calling himself "Nemo."
Then a deep sleep fell over me,
And I knew no more Homer, not in Greek or Latin
Or English or even the strange tongue
Of the network miniseries, while Sun
Drove his blazing chariot round Earth
One hundred hundred times.
In this sleep I wandered the world of letters,
Homerless but unable to avoid the homeric:
Achilles' heel, the Sirens' song,
Calypso, the Trojan Horse, and swinemaking Circe--
Crouched like Scylla, aswirl like Charybdis,
Threatening cultural death to epic ignorance.
At last I found my literary Tiresias,
The New York Times Book Review.
I shook from this seer the name Fagles,
And so guided, I made my way home at last,
Through a translation that rings of a heroic time,
A time when men were stronger and grander than we,
When women were more beautiful,
And when, granted, sexual equality wanted
A few millennia's labor;
But even so, a rendering as modern
As anything DeLillo, new god of the underworld,
Or the infinitely jesting Wallace
Can lay before us.
The best, in fine, of both worlds, an epic worthy
Of the blind bard and of his heroes, his heroines,
And the deathless denizens of Olympus.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By The Jackal on 8 Nov. 2010
Format: Audio CD
This performance does justice neither to Ian McKellen, nor to the text; the reason? because it has been speeded up to reduce the time. Hence the notes made by other reviewers to the loss of the end of final consonants on some words. If you like speed reading, then this is for you - Penguin Audio squeeze Fagles unabridged translation into 11 hours. If on the other hand you want to enjoy listening to this great masterpiece at a more leisurely or regular reading pace then you might want to try the unabridged Naxos version read by Anton Lessor in 12 hours 45 mins - bear in mind also that Fagles' translation uses more words and lines than do rival translations, so if Anton Lessor were to be reading Fagles' translation then it would probably take in excess of 13 hours. Another alternative is Derek Jacobi's reading of an abridged version of the Odyssey.

However the most authoritative translations of Homer are by Richmond Lattimore - sadly not as far as I know available in audio format. These are still the preferred translation in universities on both sides of the Atlantic, still unrivalled after 50+ years!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 Mar. 1997
Format: Hardcover
Once again The Odyssey comes to life, in an athletic and supple new translation. While one might feel that a new translation could hardly change the book much, one should compare Fagles' translation to, say, William Bryant's. It is cleaner and fleeter of foot. One could also compare it to Alexander Pope's translation. Pope's meter and rhyming quatrains make it a slightly absurd and comic story.

But it is the story that truly carries through in each version. Odysseus' long trials at the hands of Poseidon are a cautionary tale of the dangers of hubris, as well as a testament to the power of perseverance. Odysseus' refusal to surrender, despite temptations and obstacles, is a powerful evocation of the power home and family have over a person. Even after twenty years apart, he yearns for Persephone, Ithaca, and his son. In this age of temporary marriages, constant relocations, and diminishing rootedness in community, such a tale comes as a shock, a glimpse of another way of living. Yet the shock awakens rather than pains, energizes rather than drains.

Also recommended: Omeros by Derek Walcott, The Iliad (trans. by Fagles), The Aeneid.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By F. Merritt on 20 July 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a real delight; the text is clear without sounding trivial, and Sir Ian reads with great energy and conviction.

My only concern - and I hesitate to say this about one of our greatest actors - is that he tends to let his voice fade away before the end of the last word in a phrase or sentence: so 'He was astonished' becomes 'He was astoni'. Only once or twice has this actually stopped me from understanding the text - you usually get enough of the word to guess - but I find it distracting, as if you can never quite relax into the experience, because you are always listening out for the next vanishing syllable.

I would still heartily recommend the CDs, but I would be interested to know if anyone else finds this a problem.
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By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 Jan. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Poor Odysseus. First he spent a decade fighting in a war he didn't want to go to in the first place. Then he spent ANOTHER decade trying to slog home.

And in one of many spinoffs of "The Iliad," the classical, archetypical trickster-hero spends the entire epic poem "The Odyssey" doing his absolute best to get home, despite the entire universe conspiring to stop him. Like the poem before it, it dances in odd chronological side-steps, with stories within stories, yet the presence of an intelligent and wily hero (just consider how he fools the Cyclops) keeps the story as fresh as ever. And Fagles' translation is a masterful piece of work.

It begins ten years after the end of the Trojan War. Odysseus has been missing ever since the war ended, and everybody assumes he's now dead. His son Telemachus is moping, and his wife Penelope has been fending off her ambitious suitors for several years. The goddess Athena, after interceding on Odysseus' behalf, begins guiding Telemachus to find news of his long-absent father.

Turns out Odysseus is actually alive, and has been the captive of the lovestruck sea-nymph Calypso for seven years. But when he finally gets away, he ends up shipwrecked on a far-off land (due to Poseidon being angry at him), and relates his bizarre story to the people who rescue him.

Among his adventures: his encounter with the Lotus-Eaters and a cruel man-eating Cyclops, the Laestrygonians, the sorceress Circe (who turns his men into pigs), the deadly Sirens, Scylla and Charibdis, and the wrath of a god when the crew eats sacred cattle. But even after all this weirdness and twenty years away, Odysseus is still determined to return home and reclaim his family and kingship.
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