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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Odyssey
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84 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on 7 October 1997
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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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2010
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 1997
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
on 20 July 2010
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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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.

Out of all the stories spun off from "The Iliad," "The Odyssey" is probably the most famous. Perhaps this is because it's one of the least tragic, despite the high death count -- with some divine help from Athena and Hermes, Odysseus can actually get home to Ithaca, his wife and his now-adult son (who is not king, for some reason -- a puzzling detail that I never quite understood).

It's also more colorful and magical than other such stories -- instead of mundane human enemies, Odysseus' story is awash in magical, mythical creatures both fair and foul. There are gods, sorceresses, man-eating monsters and a six-headed creature over a whirlpool. In fact, the story doesn't truly settle back to the "ordinary" life until Odysseus finally gets back home, and has to deal with more human enemies: all the men who want to bonk his wife.

And Odysseus' determination to get home is literally legendary. He's already an endearing character, being a clever trickster-king and a formidable warrior -- but his love for Penelope and his unshakeable, unswerving determination add a depth and intensity to his personality. Telemachos comes across as kind of pouty and sulky at first, but becomes a sort of secondary hero when he learns that his father is not actually dead.

Robert Fagles' translation is a pretty good one -- he maintains the quality of oral poetry ("under her feet she fastened the supple sandals, ever-glowing gold, that wing her over the waves") while being very fluid and easy to read, without getting tangled up in rhyme or line length. There are some phrases that are awkward and anachronistic, but overall the experience is quite lovely.

"The Odyssey" is a timeless, enchanted epic, expanding on one of the most likable characters of the whole Trojan War -- and his magical, terrifying, decade-long adventures are still fascinating literature even today. A masterful must-read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 August 2014
Purchased to accompany a course of study, but still a "must" for students of mythology or Greek history, In it the reader follows the adventures of Odysseus on his way to the Trojan War and how he eventually found his way home after many trials and tribulations, it is also a "coming of age" story of his son, Telemachus, who over the course of the poem transitions from ineffectual youth to newly fledged adult mythical hero.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2014
I am reading this alongside Adam Nicolson's 'The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters' - an excellent combination. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 May 2013
As with The Iliad, most adults in the western world
know this one, albeit in broken pieces as individual
tales. Read it, trust me, you'll end up immersed in a
world of classical literature. There are enough books
out there in this genre to keep you going for the rest
of your now more interesting, and interested, lives.
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VINE VOICEon 29 April 2007
The Trojan War is over and one of our hero kings is lost. His son (Telemachus) travels to find any information about his father's fait. His wife (Penelope) must cunningly hold off suitors that are eating them out of house and home.

If he ever makes it home Odysseus will have to detect those servants loyal from those who are not. One absent king against rows of suitors; how will he give them their just deserts? We look to Bright Eyed Pallas Athena to help prophecy come true.

Interestingly all the tales of monsters and gods on the sea voyage was told by Odysseus. Notice that no on else survives to tell the tale. So we have to rely on Odysseus' word.

Many movies took sections of The Odyssey, and expanded them to make interesting stories those selves.

Not just the story but the way in which it is told will keep you up late at night reading.
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on 27 April 1997
Anyone who is intrigued by stories of action and adventure will love The Odyssey. Robert Fagles translation keeps the poetry of the original Greek while rendering the story of Odysseus wandering journey home from the Trojan war and his son Telemachus' desperate search for his father into modern English. The wholesale slaughter that reunited father and son do to the suitors who have attempted to steal Odysseus' wife in his absence is far more exciting than any video or made for TV movie. The language is beautiful and brutal at the same time. The plot is vivid and exciting. The moral judgement rendered by Homer on men acting in selfish exploitation of others is the reward for taking the journey home with Odysseus.
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