20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2009
Let's assume that you already know the basics of the adventures of Odysseus, but want to get to grips with this great work of Greek literature in more depth. There are numerous translations available, so what are the benefits of this particular version? (Incidentally, don't forget that what this review is directed at is the translation - to review the epic in its original Greek would be somewhat presumptuous!)
Originally published in 1980, Walter Shewring's prose translation offers the educated reader a faithful but relatively easily readable journey through the many adventures of Odysseus, including his encounters with the enchantress Circe, the lure of the Sirens and his bloodthirsty escape from the cave of the Cyclops.
Some translations of the great classics are lumbering and cumbersome, but Shewring's work successfully retells Homer's ancient tale in tight but nevertheless thoughtful and inspiring language. A quick read it isn't, but it does pay the reader dividends for perseverance.
For a quick introduction to the major events in the life of Odysseus, you may wish to start off with Simon Armitage's verse adaptation of the Odyssey and then, having got your bearings, explore this landscape in greater depth.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
If you're looking for a fluent and stately translation of Homer's great poem then I would still recommend the Richmond Lattimore (The "Odyssey" of Homer (P.S.). But this is undoubtedly better than the very old Penguin translation which modernises Greek names in line with the British army (!).
For me, Lattimore comes closest to the feel of epic Greek with his rolling sentences and dignity. But if you're looking for something closer to a novelistic, rather than a poetic, retelling then this serves well.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 26 May 2009
Shewring's translation is a tour de force: modern, fluent and a seamless delight for the reader. This is publication of classics at its very best. Long may OUP continue to offer such pearls to the contemporary reader!
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 20 March 2005
I haven't read any other translations of 'The Odyssey', so don't have any grounds for comparison but, in terms of style alone, can heartily recommend Walter Shewring's effort. The language is clear and avoids the trap of being too archaic just because it is an old story (3000 years old, give or take). I read the odd classic and tend to take a deep breath before I start, preparing for the occasional hard slog. 'The Odyssey' was a surprisingly easy and enjoyable read.
The story itself is fairly familiar. Odysseus is delayed on his return home from Troy by the anger of the Gods. He faces many trials, such as the Sirens and the Cyclops before his is reunited with his son (Telemachus) and, ultimately, his wife. Before he can resume his old life, however, he must dispatch the suitors who have gathered to wed his wife, believing that he is dead. All the while he is being helped and hindered by the Gods. Before reading this, I hadn't realised that Odysseus' adventures are told as a flashback after his return to Ithica, and that they take up only about half of the book. The second half concerns the slaughter of the suitors and is slower moving, but still immensely enjoyable. The bloodthirstyness, and body count, rivals an average Schwarzenegger movie, as Odysseus fornicates and hacks his way round the Agean Sea. Not one for the children.
If you, like me, wanted to read 'The Odyssey' because of its status, but weren't really looking forward to it, then go for this translation. It captures the tone brilliantly, but is never over-stuffy or grandiose. I enjoyed it a lot and, like the blurb on the back, don't see how it could be better.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 14 September 2013
After much study of translations to buy, I chose the prose translation of Walter Shewring, by Oxford. There were choices between E V Rieu , Samuel Butler and Shewring. After comparing the three, I found this translation to be most poetic and accurate. The footnotes were very helpful.The story itself is great, one can learn a lot in dealing with the challenges Odysseus faced on his way. One feels a lot of admiration for the goddess of the gleaming of the eyes- "Pallas Athena".
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 2002
I started reading this book already knowing the outline of Odessus's voyge back home after the battle of Troy through film, articles and reading a condensed version of the tale. I'm very glad I do have some fore-knowledge of the story as some parts of the book are quite ambiguous and confusing. The rich narrative of the text sometimes bogs the action down and it is quite easy to forget what exactly is happening.
The action though, when it comes, is exciting and often quite blood thirsty. The plot devices are also ingenious and completly ruthless in some cases- Odyssus is the only one of his party to arrive home after all his soldiers meet grusome deaths at the hands of his mortal enemies.
Possibly one of the most interesting things about the story is the way modern litrature and culture have frequently mirrored or refered to Homer's plot ideas (if you can say there's a plot, The Odyssey is written as a true story). The classic story of someone trying to return home against enormous odds has been used over and over often with subtle or not so subtle usage of Homer's myth. The images within the book of the sirens and the cyclopes are famous in their own right and it's amusing to see how they all fit into place in the larger scheme.
The split narrative of the story is very interesting as the tale of the journey home is sometimes told in hindsight or fore warning making the structure of the story jump. This seems very unusual in a book pre-twentieth century let alone cica 700BC!
Some parts of the book are repetative, steeped in unecessary narrative and are confusing. The regular descriptions of food and sacrifices to the gods can become dull and will not appeal to those who read for leisure, however, the antiquity of the writing means that The Odyssey is not only a story but also a piece of historic evidence showing how the ancient Greeks lived and what they believed.
As one of the earliest tales written it deserves a high place in anybody's to-read list. In a top 100 of the most important books ever written it would score very highly (top ten) and this is due to the historical rarity of writings of the time and also because it is an interesting, and in many places, exciting story. It is just a pity that the pace of the narrative often plods slowly along and is therefore quite difficult to get through at times.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2006
I read this after reading the Oxford World's Classic version of the Illiad. While the Illiad has the more charismatic characters and the energy and excitement of epic battles, quarrelling gods and heroes like Achilles, Ajax and Hector, the Odyssey is I think the better read. The prose style of this version is especially effective and this is a ancient boys own adventure. Its probably not something you'll read in a day or so, but its worth the effort.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2013
This is the sequel to The Iliad written by Homer (Historians are not sure exactly on the author) in around 800bc; originally of course an ancient Greek poem - this is a modern prose version. Having recently read the Iliad and found it quite amazing I was looking forward to this book. Though one seems to learn some of the stories of Odysseus (Ulysses) by osmosis I can't in all honest say I knew much of the full story or the background; so I was reading it in some ways without prejudice of its history and so will review it as such.
The basics are that Odysseus is returning from the Trojan wars to his family: son Telemachus, wife Penelope, father Laertes and loyal staff. He needs to get back because his home is full of dishonourable suitors trying to marry his wife, eat his food and take his wealth. The gods get involved particularly Athene assisting him - while Zeus and others mix it up. There are those famous incidents including the Sirens luring him with song, Circe turning his mates into pigs, the escape from the Cyclops, visiting Hades (underworld), held captive(?) by the nymph Calypso for years, the drug like lotus-eaters. The trojan horse and the demise of Menelaus, which are missing from the Iliad are included in the Odyssey.
I really enjoyed the translation but unlike the Iliad's basic premise of war, I did find Odysseus's attitude to his companions on the trip home (they all die), his ex-loyal staff/maids (he hangs them all) and the suitors (he kills them all), the ease with which he is actually unfaithful to his wife, that much less `acceptable' - to me as a modern reader I really didn't like him very much. He was renowned as a wily hero yet also I didn't find him that clever. And though the gods disguise him etc the proportion of the story given over to him back on Ithaca without people recognising him (about half the book) did tend to reduce my enjoyment of the story. The story again mentions many present day Greek islands (several I've had a holiday on - so a nice connection there), the cultural insight of an ancient world is so up-front.
The background, maps and introduction included in this edition was very informative. Given the impact, history, cultural depth and being a world literature classic it would be churlish of me not to rate the book highly even though I did find it a bit dry towards the end, so 4 stars.
30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 27 June 2001
I was recommended this book, i had never even heard of it before!! Loads of people i spoke to all knew of it.
Whilst some boring train journeys i thought i would endeavour to start on a book that i was told would be hard going!
I have to say - it has been one of the most enjoyable books i have ever read - Odysseus travelled for years trying to get home to his family, and when he does return home he find that his family is being hounded by suitors, Odysseus doesnt reveal his true self after being transformed to a beggar by Athene. He waits and bides his time finding out who his true friends are...
Dont be put off by the long names or the thought of the book being Greek - its a heartwarming story of a return home and it will grip you from beginning to end.. I nearly missed a few train stations because of it!!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I have adopted Walter Shewring's splendid translation of "The Odyssey" many times in my undergraduate classes on Greek Civilisation and Women in Antiquity. Because Professor Shewring has rendered the epic into prose, it is especially accessible for students who may be unaccustomed to reading lengthy assignments of poetry, no matter how beautifully rendered, as is the Lattimore translation. Shewring's version, moreover, retains the excitement of the narrative as well as the poetic sense of the original, without dumbing down the language, as do some of the current ghastly Shakespeare-made-easy books (I name no names here).
One of the best aspects of this translation is Professor Shewring's use of Homer's recurrent themes and epithets. These not only demonstrate the oral tradition behind the epic, which was written down sometime in the seventh century BC, but they also illustrate ongoing Greek attitudes towards women, attitudes that changed little, as far as literary portrayals are concerned, from the Bronze age through Homer's Archaic era and the 5th-century BC Classical period until post-Alexandrian Greece of the 4th-century BC (Of the many inspired--and readable--scholarly books on Homer's women, I recommend Nancy Felson Rubin's "Regarding Penelope" for further study).
Students enjoy tracing the identifiable recurrent attributes in the portrayals of Homer's women, for instance, who entrap Odysseus, keeping him from his masculine pursuit of adventure for adventure's sake, and making him forget his homeland (an unforgivable lapse in ancient Greek and Roman thought): the nymph Calypso, and the enchantress, Circe. Both women, in this edition, are portrayed as having long braided hair (symbolic of entrapment in the ancient world), beautiful singing voices (used to enchant); Circe even has the powers of human speech, which Homer designates as unprecedented and bizarre in a woman; both Calypso and Circe move to and fro with golden shuttles before great looms (Like long braided hair, weaving represents entrapment, and the fact that they move to-and-fro with their shuttle/wands demonstrates their power; Professor Rubin has noted that even Faithful Penelope uses her loom as an instrument of trickery.). Finally, both Calypso and Circe are presented as "potniae theron", the powerful mistresses of beasts, women who, using magic potions, transform their lovers into both figurative [Calypso] and literal [Circe] pigs. Professor Shewring's rendition of "the nymph Calypso, a goddess of strange power and beauty" [who] "had kept [Odysseus] captive within her arching caverns" is especially evocative, and the latent sexuality of such Homeric passages has not been lost in translation.
This Oxford World Classics edition provides an enlightening Introduction by G.S. Kirk, which discusses the historical background of the epic, the "Homeric Question," whether the epic was written down by one author or many; or whether it harks back to bards of the bronze age (It is thought that the epithets, such as Queenly Calypso and Dawn of the Rosy Fingers, were intended to keep the "unlettered bard" on track during the long epic, which was originally sung and passed down through the generations until it was set in concrete, as it were, when the poem was committed to writing.). The Introduction, furthermore, discusses the geography of the Odyssey, and some of the differences in style between "The Odyssey" and "The Iliad".
One of the best features of this edition is the thorough Index and Glossary of Names, which not only identifies each character but also gives the page numbers where each character is to be found. As a practical issue, this feature alone makes the book especially suitable for written assignments on character analysis [The lack of an index--yes, I mean you, Penguin, in your various Plutarch's 'Lives'!--renders any book an exercise in frustration, as far as the classroom is concerned!]. The specific naming of chapters (e.g., "Odysseus Among the Ghosts") also makes the book 'student friendly.'
Oxford World Classics is to be congratulated by keeping Professor Shewring's splendid translation of Homer's "The Odyssey" in print. I could not recommend it more highly.